Screw the Parties! Vote Your Heart, Not With FUD

Indepedent-woters-on-the-rise

So far today, we have posts from Matt Souders and Sarah Baker as to why voting a certain party affiliation is a better idea for libertarians. They’re well reasoned, well backed up, and ultimately, I believe, short sighted.

I have a different idea: forget the letters next to the names. Forget “tactical” voting. If libertarians, as a movement, want to make real change, they need to vote independently, without any care for party affiliation. In some cases, they should even write in a vote for someone off the main ballots.

The Trojan Horse

As a libertarian, I’m used to being toyed with. Republicans want my vote to fix the economy. Democrats want my vote to address social issues (translation: “lol smoke weed erryday y’all”) and to keep us from going to war. And every time we’ve gone one way or the other, we’ve gotten burned.

The Tea Party was started largely as a protest against goverment overspending, and candidates were elected to office – including in a massive wave in 2010 – to address that. Unfortunately, once they got into office, spending didn’t go down appreciably in many cases. Instead, they spent all their time implementing what I derisively call “Jesus Laws”: socially conservative laws put in to please white, middle-aged and older Christian voters. If you hate abortion, you love the Tea Party, but otherwise, I’d argue they’ve done more harm than good.

Of course, the Tea Party burns today as a fight against the mainstream Republicans who have run the party for so long and who have contributed to so many of our problems, including our blown up debt. Men like John McCain and Peter King are anathema to these people for their desire to wage war for any reason and being “squishy” on spending. The ironic thing, from the perspective of the Tea Party, is that they keep invoking the name of Reagan, who was the catalyst for the big-spending Republican Party.

Democrats, of course, have always been the big spenders, but at least they will care about social liberties and not going to war, right? Not so fast. The same Barack Obama who was so anti-Iraq War in 2003, and who ran on being against it in 2008 – arguably winning on that front – has since engaged us in multiple illegal wars in Syria and Libya, and is engaging in illegal actions in Iraq once again as a fight against the Islamic State. Civil liberties? Hah, ask the conservative groups targeted by the IRS, and the reporters and whistleblowers being targeted by the government in the war on leaks. All of this from a man who campaigned against the very things he now stands for. For Pesci’s sake, it took Joe Biden’s diharrea of the mouth to get the President to come around on gay marriage.

The underlying point is that the people campaigning to reform the system often get co-opted by it, and being a part of a major party hurts that. The party simply doesn’t help outliers, and trying to take the party from within is going to prove to be a very hard road – one that could take a generation – for liberty-minded people on either side of the divide. Candidates become different people once they’ve been voted into office; their responsibility to their constituents largely ends at that point, as shown by the extraordinary retention rate in Congress. Once in office, the peoples’ use is finished, and they are summarily discarded.

The Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt of the Two Party System

We’ve heard it before: “A vote for X is a vote for Y”. This often comes about when libertarians – either in primaries, or in general elections where they’re petitioning candidates or running on a big-L Libertarian ticket – represent a threat to the status quo. Most recently was the case of Robert Sarvis, who many argue cost Ken Cuccinelli the governor’s mansion in Virginia by drawing 6.5% of the vote, well above Terry McAuliffe’s margin of victory.

This is a good thing, which is not something I say because I personally find Cuccinelli repulsive; that would be the case if Sarvis or anyone else took things to the other extreme and cost a Democrat an election. Anything that upsets the two-party apple cart is a positive development. The system needs a few shocks. If that means some weak candidates of either party have to get voted out, so be it.

One of the most common refrains we hear is that Republican or Democrat, it doesn’t matter because it’s just two heads of the same dragon. Outside influences – of all shapes and sizes – are like a knight fighting that dragon. The odds are against him, and it’s very likely he’ll be burnt to a crisp by their fire, but even dragons get tired from constantly fighting off outside threats. Also, the more third parties get involved, the more powerful their influence with the media. The best part of Robert Sarvis drawing “only” 6.5% of the vote in Virginia is that it caused a lot of writers to drop a lot of ink/pixels noting how upsetting a force his candidacy was. Even Gary Johnson’s largely Quixotic bid for the Presidency, which drew 1% of the vote, was good for bringing positive attention to libertarian causes. It’s a slow trudge, but the more attention it gets, the better.

Besides, the other half is just as bad, right? So what if a Terry McAuliffe wins an election? Or even Barack Obama or George W. Bush? Liberals who hated Bush likely wouldn’t have loved Gore, and conservatives who deplore Obama wouldn’t be happy with McCain or Romney, either. If they’re saying they’re simply marginally more happy, they’ve already lost. Eating crumbs off the table still leaves a person malnourished.

The Libertarian Party: Our Unreliable Ally

After all this, it’s obvious that we should all rally around the Libertarian Party as our cause celebre, as Sarah argues in her post, right? Not so fast. A closer look shows they’re unreliable at best, and outright using the party at worst. For the most part, the Libertarian Party has been a sort of rehabilitation centre for C-list Republicans, the equivalent of a baseball player being demoted to the minor leagues to work on his swing before being promoted back to the big time.

I need to preface this with an admission: I voted for Barack Obama in 2008. I’m not even ashamed of it. While I didn’t buy the “Hope and Change” nonsesne, I did at least concede at the time that he wasn’t Bush, and wasn’t a Republican. However, another major thing in his favour was that the Libertarians were putting forth an embarrassing ticket of Bob Barr and Wayne Allyn Root.

Bob Barr was elected to the House of Representatives as a Republican during the Newt Gingrich-led Republican Revolution. While in office, Barr was such a hard supporter of the War on Drugs that he was voted out of Congress… with support from the Libertarian Party he would eventually represent. He also supported the Defense of Marriage Act before he was against it, voted for the Patriot Act, and voted for the Iraq War. The LP went from destroying Barr’s career to building it back up again, only to watch him go back to being a Republican in 2011.

As for Root, I’ll let my colleague Doug Mataconis take this one. Root, by the way, rejoined the Republican Party in 2012.

The Libertarian Party is used to grifters. Even Ron Paul used the ticket in 1988 to run for President, before almost immediately switching back to the Republican Party after the 1988 election. When it’s not doing rehab, the Libertarian Party has a succinct problem with crackpots and kooks; Michael Badnarik, the 2004 candidate for President, is a 9/11 truther.

Individual Liberty at the Ballot Box

None of this is intended to persuade anyone to vote one way or the other. In fact, the whole point of this is to point out an obvious truth: our current system isn’t working, and those who allow themselves to be co-opted by larger forces almost always end up disappointed.

What I will call for, however, is a call to conscience. Individual votes are ultimately irrelevant so long as one is voting to their personal convictions, and a request for those who tactically vote – like those who would vote for Mitt Romney despite prefering Gary Johnson – to reconsider. If you think a candidate is a preferable candidate, vote for that candidate. If that candidate lost a primary, write him in. If you think Elmer Fudd is a better option, guess what? Write in Elmer Fudd! Why not? We know he supports the Second Amendment, at least.

The key is never to fall in line with big-party dogma, it’s to ensure that people are voting with their hearts, saying what they want, and in the process sending a very strong message that the status quo is not acceptable. If we can’t even show individual liberty in the ballot box, how can we hope to achieve it in the legislature?

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Take A Stand! Don’t Vote At All!

Today, my illustrious co-contributors have been making the case to you to vote. Sarah wants you to vote Libertarian, Matthew wants you to vote Republican, and Kevin doesn’t want you to vote Democrat, but drew the short straw and we made him argue it anyway.

Now I’m going to tell you why none of their arguments should make you vote for their parties.
Don't Vote!
First and foremost, the Democrats. Some might argue that if you vote Republican, you get big government AND social conservatism, but if you vote Democrat, you get big government and social liberalism. Frankly, it’s a lie. Democrats talk a good game about civil liberties, about ending the drug war, about being pro-choice, reining in the military-industrial complex, and ending foreign adventurism. Yet they change their tune as soon as they’re in power. Remember all those Bush-era domestic spying programs that Obama put a stop to? No, me neither. Remember when Obama closed Gitmo? No, me neither. Remember when Obama forced Congress to give him a declaration of War before bombing people? No, me neither. And it’s been his fellow Democrats defending his [in-]actions. Voting Democrat will never be beneficial to liberty.

As for the Republicans, one can make a very similar argument. Because if you vote Republican, you really do get big government and social conservatism. They talk a good game about small government and fiscal responsibility, but remember who was in office when TARP happened? Hint — it wasn’t Obama. Medicare Part D? No Child Left Behind? Yeah, not small government. Some might say the Republicans are the lesser of two evils, and that libertarians are more naturally allied with Republicans with Democrats, so you might as well pick them as your poison. There’s just one problem with allies when it comes to government: the alliance is forgotten the day after the election. Fusionism between libertarians and Republicans just isn’t going to work.

No, the reason not to vote Democrat or Republican is it truly has gotten very difficult to determine which of them is the lesser evil. And in our system of direct representation, does it really make sense to vote for someone who doesn’t represent you?

That leaves the argument that we should vote our conscience, and vote Libertarian. I’ll admit, of all three arguments, this is the one I’m most sympathetic to. After all, I would actually want to see Libertarians elected. I would trust a Libertarian candidate to represent my beliefs in Washington. And there’s one more argument for voting Libertarian, which Sarah overlooked: Since Libertarians never win, we don’t have to worry about being hypocrites when they then go to Washington and violate their campaign promises!

So why should you stay home? Why not “vote your conscience” and pull the lever for the Libertarian?

Because any vote, even one for the Libertarian, is an affirmation of the system.

But let’s face it. The system doesn’t work. And the reason it doesn’t work is that the system is rigged. The direct representation system with first-past-the-post voting is only stable with two parties. The two parties then exist to move as close to the center as possible and ensure that they don’t alienate voters. Parties don’t exist to cater to minority views.

But we’re libertarians. We’re not centrists. We are a minority view. Some suggest that we’re 15% of the electorate. But the other side of that 15% is 85%. We can NEVER expect the mainstream parties to represent our interests, no matter who we vote for, because the money is in the center, not at the edges.

The alternative is a parliamentary-style proportional representation system. If we truly are 15% of the electorate, we would be able to gain a sizable chunk of the legislative body and we would force the Republicans and Democrats to work with us to govern. In today’s system, they only work with us until the campaign ends.

No, you shouldn’t vote. Validating the system of direct representation with your vote is a losing strategy. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be active. I’m not saying you can’t make an impact. If I believed that, I wouldn’t be blogging. What I’m saying is that if you want to make a difference, focus everywhere except the ballot box. You actually have some likelihood of doing good that way.

Yes, There Are Reasons Why Libertarians Should Vote Democratic

vote-democratic-button-94172

It’s no secret that there are very few issues that Democrats and libertarians can align on. The modern Democratic party is awful once they have a position of power. The Democratic party is reflexively hostile to free enterprise, embraces crony capitalism, has a strong nanny state component, is awful on civil liberties, have proven themselves to be even worse on foreign policy than neocons, and have contributed the current state of affairs which has created a Federal government that is highly dysfunctional. If you’re looking for a policy alignment between Democrats and libertarians, you won’t find it outside of very few social issues.

Having said all that, there are still some reasons why libertarians should consider voting Democrat, although I won’t be taking my own advice.

The Republicans are running on nothing:

What are the Republicans running on this year? Where is this year’s Contract With America?  The GOP released something last month called the Principles for American Renewal, which are essentially talking points. The only concrete pledge the GOP is making is to try and pass a balanced budget amendment. Why should a party running on nothing but “Obama sucks” be rewarded with control of the Senate?

The GOP Contains The Most Useless Politician In America:

The Republican Party is home to the most useless politician in America. That man is none other than Senator Ted Cruz. A vote for the Republican Party is a vote for Ted Cruz and to allow him to increase his power. Ted Cruz released his own set of talking points in October which reads like a reactionary manifesto. If you want to reform the Republican Party, you have to defeat Ted Cruz. The only way to defeat Ted Cruz is for him to lose power, which can only happen if the GOP loses the midterms. Just an illustration of how powerful Ted Cruz is, last year he shutdown the government in order to promote himself. As long as Cruz is in a position of influence, he can sell conservatives and Republicans on false hopes that Obamacare will be repealed, gay marriage can be stopped, and everything will go back the way they used to be. A vote for Democrats will help marginalize Ted Cruz.

If Republicans Fail, Maybe They’ll Have To Change:

Doug Mataconis wrote a good article over at Outside The Beltway about a what might happen if Republicans don’t take the Senate. Mataconis argues that it would the beginnings of a no holds barred civil between the hard-right Ted Cruz/Tea Party wing of the GOP and the establishment and more moderate conservatives. Unlike many liberty Republicans, I don’t view Ted Cruz and the Tea Party as allies because they’re pursuing a hard-right, exclusionary agenda. Perhaps this would make Republicans acknowledge the need to reach out and broaden the party’s appeal to more than just old white males.

Long story short, libertarians should vote Democratic to force the Republican Party into the 21st century and punish it for its lack of an agenda. At least with Democrats, you know what you’re getting.

Why Libertarians Should Vote Republican

vote-republican

America is a bit of a rarity in modern politics in that it is a two party system with so little penetration by independent and minority party politicians that it is difficult to attract qualified candidates to any alternatives. Of the billions spent on electioneering in the U.S., mere millions go to Libertarian, Reform, Constitution, and Green Party candidates, let alone pure independents, unless they have the explicit backing of the Democrats or Republicans. In almost every state in the union, Libertarian candidates struggle to draw enough signatures on petitions to even appear on the ballot, and even when they do, they rarely pick up more than a few percent of the vote. In the face of such a rigged system, it is hard for Libertarians not to become bitter and frustrated with the process, abstaining from the vote, voting for Libertarian candidates in protest, or even using their vote as a weapon against the GOP for keeping them from the podium. I, myself, have felt such a desire myself on occasion. Although I am closing to core republicanism than most of the contributors here, I don’t consider myself a member of the party and have a number of issues where I lean more Libertarian. But here’s the thing that should stop us from walking out on the GOP – here is the reason we need to vote Republican, at least for now.

Voting Republican is Working

If you’ve been paying any attention to the Republican Party of late, you know that much is being said about a “Republican Civil War.” The media is no doubt eager to cover our internal squabbles, waiting in the hope that the party splinters, yielding a permanent liberal plurality in command of the Capital. While the headlines may be a bit overblown, they’re not based on outright fabrications, and here’s the thing – the battle of ideas within the GOP doesn’t just come from the Tea Party (the populist flank). Libertarians are making their mark on conservatism as surely as they ever have – and their impact is much more viable, politically, than that of the Tea Party. Libertarians are winning the argument on multiple key issues.

Foreign Policy

Prior to the Reagan presidency, Republicans were not the party advancing the theory of Communist containment, nor were they particularly inclined to use American military might very proactively. Reagan successfully fused American fears about Communism’s international reach with a doctrine of expanding American concepts of liberty and free trade for the betterment of our economy, but he also ushered in an era of Republican military aggression. It became “red meat” in the Reagan years for conservative candidates to promise a strong national defense. From Reagan to Bush to Dole, Bush Jr. and McCain, the GOP grew synonymous with hawkish calls for a defense based on strong offense. Libertarians have long questioned this use of our resources, but ask yourself this – when was the last time you heard a competitive Republican fighting for a national elected post whose campaign was centered on an aggressive foreign policy? Did Romney spend more of his time than I remember talking about his plans for nation building abroad? Are this year’s GOP senate candidates proposing an all-out offensive against ISIS? George W. Bush’s ‘State of the Union’ address in 2004, heading for election season, was roughly 60% national defense and the war on terror. Romney’s campaign was roughly 90% domestic policy. If you’re attempting to advance the Libertarian goal of speaking softly but carrying a big stick in reserve – or forcing the world at large to start spending some money solving their own problems – the GOP is right there with you now, at least at the national level.

Gay Marriage

The national party has not come around on this issue as of yet, but even ten years ago, the thought of a gay Republican group at CPAC would have been out of the question, and the fact that, since DOMA was struck down by the Supreme Court, the GOP no longer makes mention of Gay Marriage unless pressed to do so by the media, and then only reluctantly do its candidates offer a plea for traditional marriage should tell you something. If you believe that liberty should include the liberty for gay adults to make contracts of their free choosing but that churches should not be forced to participate – the GOP is right there with you in spirit, and voices like Rand Paul are yanking it in that direction in policy.

Ending the War on Drugs

I remember, when I was growing up, that it was local and state level GOP candidates leading the charge – playing on the “security” voters (married couples with children especially) with promises of laws meant to crack down on drug use. The national GOP has never made this a top priority outside of the Reagan administration, but continues to maintain a position against legalization of marijuana at this time. But for how long will that remain the case? The core GOP voting bloc – even evangelicals – rate the war on drugs as among their lowest priorities in exit polling nowadays and the GOP is not actively pursuing any meaningful legislation on the issue. Sooner or later, libertarian voices, now by far the most passionate advocates in any direction on drugs within conservative ranks, will win out here as well. When the libertarian position on drugs reaches Paul Ryan, and he starts executing decriminalization concepts and jail population reduction plans in his latest round of budget plans, you know your ideas have reached critical mass within the GOP.

Deficit Spending and Government Downsizing

W. Bush’s ‘Compassionate Conservatism’ (because we all know that libertarians have no compassion, right? /sarc) is now rightly seen by both the Tea Party and the libertarian flanks of the GOP as one of the greatest betrayals in the party’s history. They’re flat outnumbered on this and, if they get a majority in the legislature in 2014, they will be forced to consider actual cuts to government spending and actual tax hikes or face the wrath of the electorate in 2016. Not a libertarian will be rooting for higher taxes, but enough of the middle class is willing compromise now to get the government to reduce spending that it will be incumbent on the GOP to abandon their “no tax hikes ever!” pledge and forcus on reducing taxes on small businesses while increasing taxes on the very wealthy and simplifying the tax code for all. That is if they ever want to be seen as a party that can govern. But even if they fail in that regard in the next few years, they remain a libertarian’s best hope to some day see reason.

Civil Liberties

Here again, the Tea Party and libertarians see eye to eye and have outflanked the establishment wing of the GOP. The leading voices against NSA spying, the use of drones against Americans, the suspension of due process for those accused of sexual assault, the imposition of the IRS on political speech, etc – they’re all Republican. Liberals are united in their indifference to these things, at least in Washington. The McCain wing of the GOP continues to support such actions as the Patriot Act, but they are fast decline and will soon “age out” – both in the electorate and in Washington.

I’ll close by asking, honestly, is the existing Libertarian Party – unsupported as it is, a strong enough body to affect change on its own and bring about an era of increased liberty and prosperity? And which of the major parties is most likely to seek such a noble goal? Small “l” libertarian voices, to a much greater degree than Libertarian voices, are having their say – the system is working, albeit slowly. As the elderly conservative base begins to die, a whole generation of millennial voters who are, by their nature, DEEPLY skeptical of big government AND big business, are primed to come home to conservatism if it puts on a more libertarian face. If libertarian voters of today want to see such a new era, they must keep the current Republican Party afloat and work to change it from within. There won’t be a country left worth saving if the progressives currently running the Democrat Party are ushered in by libertarian support (direct or through abstaining).

I advise libertarians to stay the course – our system is designed to change slowly – be patient and the GOP is yours to inherit.

Vote Libertarian, Because Not All Politicians Are Smart, But All Politicians Can Count

libertarian-party-logo

Thus proclaims Arvin Vohra, Vice Chair of the Libertarian National Committee and a candidate for Maryland’s fourth congressional district. Vohra and I are in agreement that the only effective way to tell politicians they must shrink the size and scope of government is to vote for libertarian candidates (“small l” intended).

Not voting at all accomplishes nothing more than making one’s opinions irrelevant to the people who hold political power. Voting for the “less bad” of the two contenders is guaranteed to continue the policies of the last two administrations.

In contrast, consistently voting only for libertarian candidates pulls the two major parties toward more libertarian positions. That, standing alone, is reason to vote libertarian.

We know the strategy works because it is working! Twenty-five years ago, mainstream journalists rarely mentioned libertarians. Now, not a day goes by that the word is not featured in the headlines of big-name publications or crossing the lips of mainstream commentators.

Google the words “libertarian moment,” and witness how shrilly both the left and the right deny that one is occurring.

Their foot-stamping to the contrary, Republicans are fundraising for openly gay candidates. Donors are pressing the party to stay out of marriage altogether. Republican candidates are campaigning to make birth control available over the counter. The first U.S. Senator has come out in favor of marijuana legalization.

Thanks for these shifts goes in some degree to the people who consistently prove their motivation to visit the polls, while simultaneously refusing to cast votes for statist candidates in either party. More people today identify as independents than either Republicans or Democrats. Fifty-nine percent of voters self-identify as “fiscally conservative and socially liberal.” Even under conservative estimates, 15% of voters can be treated as consistently “libertarian” in their positions.

Libertarians (“small l”) have become a swing-voting block as powerful as the religious right.

The best use of that power is to end the conspiracy of false choice and emotional partisanship that operates to keep the two-party oligarchy in power.

The Republocrats have given us federalized schools; a morass of unfunded entitlements and dependency; wild inflation in the cost of education and healthcare; the Drug War, the highest incarceration rate in the world, militarized police, and asset forfeitures; welfare and cronyism for corporations, agribusiness and green energy; a national debt in the trillions; the surveillance state and the erosion of the fourth amendment; expensive, immoral, ineffective and deadly interventions overseas; and restrictions on political speech.

If the foregoing is not convincing enough, consider the following. When Republicans are in power, Democrats support balanced budgets, oppose unfunded spending and resist increases to the debt ceiling. As then-senator Barack Obama said in 2006:

This rising debt is a hidden domestic enemy, robbing our cities and States of critical investments in infrastructure like bridges, ports, and levees; robbing our families and our chil- dren of critical investments in edu- cation and health care reform; robbing our seniors of the retirement and health security they have counted on.

*     *     *

Increasing America’s debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that ‘‘the buck stops here.’’ Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better.

When the Republicans are in power, they simply trade positions. Republicans complain about spending and Democrats oppose balanced budgets.

Or consider this example from Robert Sarvis, Virginia’s libertarian candidate for U.S. Senate:

In 2008, when Republicans were the ones supporting the Export-Import Bank, candidate Barack Obama called it little more than corporate cronyism, but in 2014, it was Democrats lining up to support it. Virginia’s Democratic Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine introduced the reauthorization bill, and President Obama signed it.

Republicans are keeping the bank going until 2015 when they can figure out who is is in power, so they know which position to take.

How anyone keeps falling for this shtick is beyond me.

Spoilerism is a feature of third party voting, not a glitch. It communicates to mainstream politicians that we’re here, we vote, and if they want to beat their opponent, they need us to do it. The libertarian moment is nigh. Stay the course.

Why Capitalism? Why Not Capitalism?

Reason has an interview in their November issue,  with Jason Brennan, professor of philosophy at Georgetown, and author of the recent book “Why Not Capitalism”, published here in the piece “Why Capitalism?”.

From the blurb:

Most economists believe capitalism is a compromise with selfish human nature. As Adam Smith put it, “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.” Capitalism works better than socialism, according to this thinking, only because we are not kind and generous enough to make socialism work. If we were saints, we would be socialists.

In Why Not Capitalism?, Jason Brennan attacks this widely held belief, arguing that capitalism would remain the best system even if we were morally perfect. Even in an ideal world, private property and free markets would be the best way to promote mutual cooperation, social justice, harmony, and prosperity. Socialists seek to capture the moral high ground by showing that ideal socialism is morally superior to realistic capitalism. But, Brennan responds, ideal capitalism is superior to ideal socialism, and so capitalism beats socialism at every level.

Clearly, engagingly, and at times provocatively written, Why Not Capitalism? will cause readers of all political persuasions to re-evaluate where they stand vis-à-vis economic priorities and systems—as they exist now and as they might be improved in the future.

I am in the midst of reading the book now, and if I think it’s warranted, I’ll post a review of it later this week. However, the thesis of the piece is that capitalism works, because it is in concordance with human nature. All other economic systems are dependent on humans denying or modifying their nature.

While I agree that the basic thesis is correct; my personal belief is that it’s even more basic than that.

Why Capitalism?

Because capitalism is not a system which has to be promulgated, enacted, imposed, or enforced.

Capitalism doesn’t depend on any government,  group, or single individual, deliberately controlling or changing anything. It’s the natural result of voluntary and rational response to economic incentive and feedback. If things are left alone to work out as people will, the result is capitalism.

What capitalism ISN’T, is the gross parody promulgated by socialists and other leftists. In real world terms, this misconception of capitalism is closest to 18th-19th century imperialist mercantilism… Which isn’t surprising, given that mercantilism was in fact the dominant economic system when Marx and Engels were writing.

Capitalism is simply the end result of spontaneous self organization of autonomous rational actors, and their response to changing conditions, intelligence, incentive, and feedback; including market conditions, and pricing.

We had capitalism, tens of thousands of years before we even had governments, never mind the invention of the term.

Capitalism is the default mode of economic interaction.

It’s basically gravity.

The video interview of Professor Brennan:

Brad’s Beer Review: Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Urbock

This week, I decided to pick up a bottle of a beer that I’ve wanted to try for a long time and just never quite gotten around to buying. The Schlenkerla Rauchbier.
Rauchbier
Rauchbier is a somewhat little-known style in the US. Using malts dried over open hardwood flames rather than in a kiln, the malts pick up the smoke just like your favorite ribs. A couple hundred years ago, it’s likely that almost all beer had some level of smoke. Today, it’s the exception, rather than the rule.

It’s not that uncommon for some beers to use a bit of smoke. Alaskan Brewing Company is known primarily for their smoked porter, in fact [which is excellent]… The more traditional German Rauchbier, however, is its own style. In this case, the Rauchbier Urbock will be darker and stronger than the usual Rauchbier, as it’s a smoked bock.

On to the fun stuff!

Aroma: Smoky? Yes, it’s smoky. A typical German lager usually doesn’t have a strong natural aroma, so the smoke dominates this like hop aroma dominates an IPA. If this were a homebrew, I’d wonder what flaws that smoke was hiding, but in a beer of this pedigree, I don’t think I’ll find any. Smoke here is prominant, but not overdone.

Appearance: Pours a deep brown, off-white head. Too dark to determine if it’s clear.

Flavor: Clearly, the smoke comes through again here. Smoke is a prominent flavor in this beer. When the beer was first poured (from my admittedly too-cold fridge), the smoke was more dominant, but as the beer warms, a bit of grainy sweetness comes through underneath the smoke. With that warmth, the malt develops into a nice flavor backbone offsetting the smoke.

Mouthfeel: Smoked malt in a beer has a very similar quality to oaking a beer — it has a very distinct mouthfeel. It’s quite difficult to describe. There’s a part of me that wants to call it astringent, and yet another part that wants to call it oily. It’s like it’s puckering and coating the tongue all at once. It’s neither of those, but maybe that gives you an idea of what’s going on. Beyond that, the beer is full-bodied, as a German bock should be.

Overall Impression: This is a very good beer. The smoke melds well with the flavors as a bock, and it comes together in a very well-crafted total package. After I got my “review tastes” out of the way, I paired it with pepperoni pizza and its strong flavors stood up to the pizza without overshadowing the pizza.

Highly recommended.

A Few “Good” Men (With 2014 Endorsements)

2014

Editor’s Note: The views of this piece should not be construed as the views of the other contributors of The Liberty Papers or of the blog itself. TLP as a blog does not endorse any candidates or political parties. –Kevin

I don’t intend to make this a lengthy piece of sophistry. We are coming up on a crucial midterm election (well – as crucial as a battle can be between a group of incompetent buffoons who can’t settle on an ideology and a group of intentionally evil people who wish to end the American experiment and have hijacked a party which, at one time, was an important voice for the disadvantaged). You are going to hear people make a bunch of different arguments as to what strategy you should use when you vote. In fact, many of those arguments are about to be deployed in an upcoming point/counterpoint series this very blog will run on the question of how a libertarian should vote to advance the core values of the movement) – here are some of the classics that you hear every election cycle these days:

1) Vote for the person whose platform most closely matches your beliefs!

After watching politicians advance platforms that are often plagiarized from party leadership or put together by a campaign think tank and not the figurehead actually running for office, and then once elected, running from their platforms as fast as their legs will carry them, I’ve decided that voting on a platform is nonsense. Candidates will say anything to get elected – it’s human nature. And if you are prone to believing what they say on the stump, you’ll be a slave to sloganeering forever.

2) Vote for the “least bad” option!

Here’s a classic that is commonly used by libertarians and frustrated conservatives who’ve seen the GOP flee from the Constitution when it was expedient to do so. The argument goes: if you’re a liberal but dislike the direction of the democrat party, or a conservative but angry at the GOP or the Libertarian party for perceived sleights, you should vote for the candidate who will hurt you less. Liberals should vote democrat even if they dislike the blue position on abortion, say, and conservatives should vote GOP even if they think the Patriot Act was one of the worst bits of hackery that their party has ever mustered and wish to punish them for it, because the alternative is way, way worse. I call bollocks on this one too. Not that it’s completely untrue, but such behavior also perpetuates those same bad habits in your party of choice in the future. Libertarians and Constitutionalists have been told for the last 20 years that, even if you dislike the GOP on major issues or think they’re badly run, you have to keep voting GOP or the other guys will win…but when we keep voting GOP, they take it as a sign that what they’re doing works and they keep doing it – look who keeps running for the White House!

3) Vote for the people who are least connected to the Beltway!

There’s a strain of populism in play in both parties these days that’s driven by the very correct observation by middle class Americans that DC has ZERO interest in solving our problems or representing our wishes – that Capital Hill is dominated by a system of crony capitalism, crony government, and horse trading that has nothing to do with anything but maintaining privileges and influence for a select few. But rarely are purely-populist movements motivated by data and efficacy – they tend to be very emotional things; more governed by anger and retribution than by merit. Enter Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party. The thing is…in their zeal to select candidates that are not insiders, both parties have been picking horrendously unqualified candidates. I would strongly advise against voting simply to punish incumbents and reward people with no history in politics. The results don’t tend to be very good for anyone.

4) Vote for the guy who is least corrupt!

Not gonna say much about this, but it is common in electioneering to hear all about scandals and rumors of scandals. My (admittedly still limited) experience tells me that 90% of the smoke is not fire, and that corruption charges are usually based on wishful thinking, more than hard evidence. If there is good evidence, fine, factor that into your thinking, but you may also want to keep in mind that corruption isn’t always worse than incompetence, and that it frequently attaches itself to whoever is in charge, no matter how good their intentions were when they started.

5) If you don’t know much about the stakes, vote anyway!

Please don’t. I’m not saying I don’t want voter participation to be high, but if all you’re going on is The Daily Show or snippets in Yahoo! News or the political party next to a candidate’s name, stay home please. Or only vote for the things about which you have some knowledge (you can leave election slots blank on most ballots!).

6) Vote this way or DOOM!

And of course…if I’m to believe every campaign email I get, if I choose differently than the way they want me to choose, all hell will break loose instantly. Elections do have consequences, but I think we’re doomed already. Vote with your head, not your fear.

My recommendation? It’s hard to find a good man who would want to be a politician. It’s even harder to find a good man who is a good candidate and a skilled campaigner who wants the job. If you enter every election insisting that the candidate be the perfect fit, you’re going to hate every cycle. I recommend that you look for a few “good enough” men – men who are motivated by data, by history and by what works. Vote utilitarian – choose the candidate whose ideas have the best chance of actually being implemented and working; or at the very least, choose the people who you think will be most likely to quickly pick up a clue bat and hit themselves with it once they’re in office and have access to all of the information. Barack Obama was never that guy. Mitt Romney might not have been a true Constitutional conservative, but he was definitely a utilitarian, driven by a desire to solve problems. Better to select a man you dislike but respect for his acumen than a man you like but know is incompetent. The same scale can help you distill the current Senate and Gubernatorial races in some cases. I’ll throw out a few endorsements now, to clarify my meaning.

COL SEN / GOV: Both Beauprez and Gardner strike me as people who are less ideologically driven and more driven by common sense and evidence. You might disagree and I’m open to hearing counter-arguments, but both seem like “good enough” men as far as I’m concerned.

WI GOV: I’ve heard some bad things about Scott Walker from Wisconsin locals who are involved in conservative politics, but, corruption or no corruption, I believe Walker gets results and is focused on those results.

OK SEN: Alright – this race isn’t competitive, but I’ve actually exchanged multiple communications with Sen. Inhofe (I’m the guy that writes his congressmen and senators regularly if there’s something that needs to be said…I would encourage all of you to do this at least some of the time), and he never answers with a form letter unless it’s a basic request or issue statement you sent him. The man is seen as the Antichrist by the environmental left, but, whatever his faults might be, I believe him to be genuinely connected to his constituents.

NH SEN: My wife and I had a rather gnarly argument once over his last bid for the senate in Massachusetts. She’s a classical democrat from Boston (who is waking up a bit to the nastier, progressive side of the party that is taking over these days), and in the battle between Full-of Bull and Scott Brown – a man who can hardly be called a far-right conservative and would more accurately be termed a pragmatist – she voted for Chief PantsOnFire. Yeah – I took that personally, because my wife is full of common sense on just about everything, and you can’t possibly choose the radical with a history of deception and the total lack of relevant experience over a solid, pragmatic moderate based on rational thinking. The same applies now that he’s running against Jeanne Shaheen, who, while less offensive than Elizabeth Warren, is most certainly not coming across as motivated by an honest assessment of the facts on many key issues. Watch some of Shaheen’s debate performances and think about the things she says.

So that’s how I tend to process elections, and it’s how I would urge more of the readers here to respond as well.

My 0.02 – would love to hear yours!

“No Refusal” Laws: A Perversion of Well Intended Law And A Violation of Personal Liberty

Delaware-lawyer-fights-DUI-Checkpoint-arrests

I received a tip from a friend of mine who does a lot more Reddit browsing than I do that in Texas, this weekend is what’s called a “No Refusal” weekend in Tarrant County, Texas.

What is a “No Refusal” weekend? The tipped-off post, from Reddit user Korietsu (emphasis mine):

Just a warning to those traveling via I-35, 290, and 45. TxDPS and local LE are out in large numbers for No Refusal Weekend and using all of their tools at their disposal. TxDPS will be monitoring via Radar, Helicopter and Laser for all speeding infractions.

There are also sobriety checkpoints, and it is No Refusal Weekend. This means that you can have your blood drawn at mobile testing stations, as judges will be on hand to sign warrants 24/7 this weekend. Don’t drink and drive, and please, if you have been drinking, call a cab.

In short: if, at a sobriety checkpoint, officers feel that a driver is driving under the influence, they can order the suspect to submit to a breathalyzer or blood test. If the driver refuses the blood test, then the police may use a warrant to forcibly seize the blood. On-call judges expedite that process, ostensibly before the suspect can sober up. In addition, refusing the test subjects the suspect to additional penalties under implied consent laws.

The first reaction anyone would have is “come on, that can’t be legal, right?”, but the right to take blood is authorized in Texas law.

1. Texas Transportation Code Section 724.012. TAKING OF SPECIMEN. (a) One or more specimens of a person’s breath or blood may be taken if the person is arrested and at the request of a peace officer having reasonable grounds to believe the person: (1) while intoxicated was operating a motor vehicle in a public place, or a watercraft; or (2) was in violation of Section 106.041, Alcoholic Beverage Code. (b) A peace officer shall require the taking of a specimen of the person’s breath or blood under any of the following circumstances if the officer arrests the person for an offense under Chapter 49, Penal Code, involving the operation of a motor vehicle or a watercraft and the person refuses the officer’s request to submit to the taking of a specimen voluntarily: (1) the person was the operator of a motor vehicle or a watercraft involved in an accident that the officer reasonably believes occurred as a result of the offense and, at the time of the arrest, the officer reasonably believes that as a direct result of the accident: (A) any individual has died or will die; (B) an individual other than the person has suffered serious bodily injury; or (C) an individual other than the person has suffered bodily injury and been transported to a hospital or other medical facility for medical treatment; (2) the offense for which the officer arrests the person is an offense under Section 49.045, Penal Code; or (3) at the time of the arrest, the officer possesses or receives reliable information from a credible source that the person: (A) has been previously convicted of or placed on community supervision for an offense under Section 49.045, 49.07, or 49.08, Penal Code, or an offense under the laws of another state containing elements substantially similar to the elements of an offense under those sections; or (B) on two or more occasions, has been previously convicted of or placed on community supervision for an offense under Section 49.04, 49.05, 49.06, or 49.065, Penal Code, or an offense under the laws of another state containing elements substantially similar to the elements of an offense under those sections. (c) The peace officer shall designate the type of specimen to be taken.

In Tarrant County, Texas – which covers Dallas, Fort Worth and Arlington – nine no-refusal weekends are funded by various grants by the federal government, which Texas allows to be conducted county-wide. Normally, DUI checkpoints are illegal in Texas. DUI checkpoints themselves have been codified by the Supreme Court of the United States as being legal, per Michigan Dept. of State Police v. Sitz in 1990. Typically speaking, major holidays and major concerts are designated “No Refusal” weekends due to the higher rate of alcohol-related accidents.

I do not dispute the legality or the cause for DUI checkpoints. When motorists take to taxpayer-funded roadways, they acquiesce to the rules of the road, which include laws designated around an acceptable level of blood-alcohol content (BAC). I also am behind additional scrutiny on holiday weekends where drinking – and resulting accidents and fatalities – are increased. This is smart policing, it saves lives, and it’s not a violation of liberty due to the fact that they’re publicly owned roads. I’m not nearly as big of a fan of implied consent laws – which punish a person for simply exerting their Fourth Amendment rights against illegal search and seizure – but I believe that battle has been lost.

But the idea that the police can – on mere suspicion – force a person to be tied down, stick a needle in them, and take their blood, against their will is stomach churning. If we don’t have liberty to our own bodies from invasion by the state, unless we have been legally convicted of a crime, what liberty do we, as citizens, have? It is important to note that in this case, no crime has yet been even charged; the blood test is used to prove the crime, it is not taken after the fact. That is a gross violation of the Fourth Amendment, which starts to look shambolic when one considers the hits it’s taken over the years due to judicial overreach and milquetoast courts.

Typically, the probate judge’s role would be to supervise this process and ensure that the police have reasonable suspicion of a suspect. However, that process has been made ruthlessly efficient, with many warrants being granted over the phone within a matter of minutes, rendering the whole process meaningless. I would love to see how many warrant requests actually get turned down; I’m willing to bet the number is single digits at best. Who says the government doesn’t move quickly?

Of course, Texas – a state marked by a conservative, independent mindset that so hates government overreach that they frequently threaten to secede from the United States – is perfectly fine with invasions of a person’s individual liberty, even their bodies, when it suits the state’s desires. Texas calls for mandatory transvaginal sonograms for anyone seeking an abortion, despite other, less invasive methods of sonogram being available. They also lead the nation in state sponsored executions by an almost five to one margin. People in Texas seem to be perfectly fine with penetrating citizens with foreign objects when it suits something popular.

That is unacceptable. The American Civil Liberties Union has been fighting this for some time, as should anyone, even those who feel that anything that reduces the number of people driving drunk on the roads is a good thing. We can’t shread the Constitution because it’s popular.

Outside Looking In

mars-colony2

 

 

In 2003, on the occasion of the loss of space shuttle Columbia, I wrote an essay titled “Outside Looking In”. As it happens, I think it’s one of the best things I’ve ever written, and possibly the most important.

Yesterday, we lost Virgin Galactic’s spaceship two (and at least one of its two crew. The other is in critical condition). Within minutes, the cries to end all manned space travel had resurfaced in full force. People are already gnashing teeth and rending garments, and wailing, that space isn’t worth dying for. 

Given this, I thought it would be appropriate to post the original essay here.

Nothing has changed substantially since I wrote it, except that even the desperately backward and hindering shuttle program has ended… and that now, it’s actually more than 42 years since we last set foot on the moon.

I should be clear… I’m not upset the shuttle is gone…

I’m angry that the shuttle is gone, and there’s no replacement.

I’m angry that we’re dependent on another country to lift our astronauts into space.

I’m ANGRY that the shuttle was over 30 years old, and we poured resources and energy into the shuttle program for 40 years, with basically no real development of an alternate solution.

Except that’s not PRECISELY true.

There has been LOTS of development on alternate solutions, none of which have been allowed to succeed (and only two have even been allowed to proceed to where NASA was in 1960).

We’ve spent tens of billions on alternate solutions, both public sector and private. Unfortunately, NASA has spent the entire time actively suppressing, delaying, or killing anything that would compete with or replace the shuttle; all as part of the bureaucratic funding fight.

I know this first hand, having been involved in several of the SSTO projects in the 90s (I was free labor, as an engineering student and intern. I’m a pilot, an aviation and space nut, my primary degree is in Aerospace engineering, and I’ve been a member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics since I was 18).

Now, people, and I’m sure organizations and interest groups, are already trying to use this crash to attempt to ban private manned space travel.

… which really means that most of them are trying to end all manned space travel period; since it’s not like the public sector has done much to advance the state of human space travel since 1972.

It has been 45 years since we first landed on the moon, and 42 since Eugene Cernan (the last man to walk on the moon) stepped back into his landing module, and we left it.

I’m angry, because we have willingly, even eagerly, become a frigate navy nation.

it’s 2014… We should have spacelines. We should have private spacecraft available for purchase to anyone. We should be living on the moon, living on mars… we should be out in the stars.

Instead, we’re still countering the nattering of cowards and fools, who only want to look inward.

I’m angry… I’m more than angry, I’m disgusted.

 

Outside Looking In — Chris Byrne, 2003

We have spent the last 30 years collectively contemplating our belly buttons.

Let me explain what I mean by that (this is gonna take a while so get comfortable).

Throughout most of history, humanity as a race has been outward looking. We strode out through the world around us to learn, to achieve, and to conquer.

From the earliest days of humanity we have looked outside ourselves for meaning.

First we had medicine men and shamans who looked to the spirits.

Then we had priests who looked to the gods.

Then we had philosophers who looked to the nature of the universe, and sought to find mans place within it.

Finally there came that extraordinary breed of men to whom Isaac Newton belonged to. They called themselves the natural philosophers, we now call them scientists.

Each of these groups of people sought to divine meaning, reason, purpose, from that which surrounded us.

We were on the inside looking out in wonder, and eventually, with some small degree of understanding.

This point of view was reflected in our societies as well.

We explored, and built, and grew. We strove for bigger, more, faster, better.

The expression of this has often been called “pioneer spirit”.
It’s the challenge to go forth and do that which has not been done.
It’s the desire to climb the mountain “because it’s there”.

This spirit quickly had us wee humans spread across this globe, living in almost every corner, no matter how hostile it seemed to our rather thin and frail skins.

This is the spirit that Americans inherited from the British, the Spanish, and the Portuguese; who it seems, have managed somehow to lose it over the past two hundred and fifty years.

This is the spirit that pushed us from sea to sea, the spirit that flung us up into the sky, the spirit that exploded us out into space.

This is the spirit best voiced by John F. Kennedy when he said “We do these things not because they are easy, but because they are hard”.

Over the past 100 or so years this spirit became focused primarily on science and technology.

We stopped exploring, not because we ran out of places to explore, but because we did not have the technology to explore them. So we built it, and we built it fast.

It took only us 44 years to make the headlong rush from the Wright brothers, to sustained supersonic flight.

It was only another ten years before we managed to stick something far enough up there that it wouldn’t come right back down again.

Three and a half years later we finally opened up the door and left the home of our birth; when on April 12th 1961, Yuri Gagarin became the first man to see the earth, from the outside looking in.

Gene Roddenberry wouldn’t make the line famous for another 16 years, but Yuri Alekseyevich truly had, boldly gone where no man has gone before. One of us had finally made it off the rock.

Then, at 10:56 pm EDT , July 20, 1969 we managed the short hop to the next rock. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, had made it to the moon.

We only went back five more times over the next three years. 12 men spent a total of 170 hours on the moon, and left behind, not much really. A few scientific instruments, a few spacecraft bits and pieces, the worlds most expensive dune buggy, an American flag, and a plaque that reads:

“Here Man completed his first exploration of the Moon, December 1972 A.D. May the spirit of peace in which we came be reflected in the lives of all mankind.”

And with these words, spoken by cmdr. Eugene Cernan on December 11th 1972:

“America’s challenge of today has forged man’s destiny of tomorrow”

…we turned out the lights and went home.

Unfortunately there has been no tomorrow.

As I was saying, we have spent the last 30 years contemplating our belly buttons.

After World War II most of the world stopped looking forward, and started looking inward. There were too many social problems. There was too much poverty and hunger and disease. There was far too much pain screaming out at us from the horrors of the preceding 10 years.

The spirit of exploration that had pervaded humanity since it’s earliest days was completely gone from Europe by the 1960’s. It had never really existed in east Asia, where culture and philosophy had been directed inward for thousands of years.
It had not existed in the middle east since the days before the ottoman empire.

The only explorers left by the 60’s were America, and Russia, and Russia was only really doing it to compete with America.

People all over the world started questioning the values that had formed previous generations’ assumptions.

The generation born between the end of the depression, and just after the war, KNEW that there were more important things than exploration.

They KNEW that this desire for exploration was just another form of conquest and exploitation and imperialism just like the ones that had brought about the worst conflict in human history.

They KNEW that exploring space was waste of time and money that could be better spent on ending hunger, or disease, or racism.

And so we began to turn inward.

With books like “the catcher in the rye”, “On the Road”, “One Flew Over the Cuckoos nest”, we started looking more at ourselves, and our neighbors, and less at the outside world, and the outside universe.

It took until 1972, but with the war in Vietnam, Richard Nixon and Watergate, price controls, inflation, the CIA and FBI, the Israeli situation, the Irish situation, and every other god damned miserable thing going on in this god damned miserable world…

they KNEW that they weren’t going to spend another dime going to the moon ‘til we had fixed things down here on earth.

In the broader culture things started changing even more.

We encouraged people to take a good long look at themselves.

To find themselves.

To say I’m Ok You’re Ok.

To be fair, a hell of a lot of good came out of this.

For the first time we started seriously exploring the WHY behind a lot of mental and emotional problems.

We started leaving bad marriages behind, and we started trying to be happier.

We started doing something about racism, sexism and pollution.

…But as usual, we went too far.

We started confusing confidence with arrogance.

We decided that power was bad.

We made aggression and competition synonymous with evil.

We started subverting science to ideology, and we decided that ideology was after all, a science.

In our most extreme moments, we decided that boys were bad and girls were good.

That white was bad and black was good.

That both old and new were bad, and only NOW, ME, and US, was good.

We stopped moving forward.

We stopped looking outward.

Instead, we are spending all of our time looking sideways, up, down, in, and increasingly backward.

Maybe this wouldn’t be too bad if we weren’t so bad at it.

It would be a good thing, if we were able to do so without damaging ourselves, and without halting progress.

…But so far, we aren’t.

We haven’t been out of high orbit since 1972.

It only took us 66 years to go from being earthbound, to setting foot on another planet.

In the past 30 years we have have gone no farther, no faster, no higher.

We have stopped going where no man has gone before.

Charles Krauthammer wrote in the weekly standard that “we have put ourselves into a low earth orbit holding pattern”.

Putting it a little more directly, we’re circling the parking lot looking for a space, instead of getting out of the damned shopping mall, and actually going some place and doing something.

The most significant technologies of the last thirty years have been global telecommunications; exemplified in the internet, and biotechnology.

Both of these are essentially focused inward.

The internet has the potential to be the single greatest advance in mass communication since the printing press.

It allows for true interactive communication on a global scale, but it is essentially inward facing.

Why?

Because it exists to exchange information we already have.

The internet spreads knowledge around better than anything we’ve ever come up with and that’s great.

It’s the greatest enabler of science history has ever known because it allows the freer and easier exchange of ideas, but the net in and of itself does little to advance the state of human knowledge.

The internet is not like the microscope or the telescope or the space craft. Completely new things are not discovered or created by the internet, though they have without doubt been enabled by it.

BioTechnology is by very definition focused inward.

At it’s deepest level BioTech is the study of what makes us what we are. It promises to unlock near limitless potential for our biological beings.

It opens the door to the possibility of ending old age, disease, hunger, even death itself. It offers potential dangers equal to it’spotential wonders.

BioTech is probably the second most important field of technology ever devised, but exploration is still by far the most important.

As no nation can be great without looking beyond its borders, no race can be great without looking beyond its planet.

Whether there are other races out there, or we are alone; if as a race we are ever to progress beyond our current state of semi civilized savagery, to progress beyond a planet full of petty squabbles between nations, that just might incidentally kill us all; we need to venture off this planet in the largest scale possible.

We need to live on, not just visit other planets.

This is a concrete lesson of history.

We started out as individuals.

We fought and died as individuals until we formed villages, clans, and tribes

With villages we had a larger purpose and organization, and the fighting between individuals lessened.

For thousands of years villages, clans, and tribes killed each other until we formed city-states. Then the fighting between tribes lessened.

We began to form principalities and petty kingdoms, and they repeated the pattern, lessening the conflicts between cities.

Finally we formed nations, and eventually ended most organized conflict between smaller groups.

But we created the nation about 10,000 years ago, and we haven’t really come very far since. Half of Europe was STILL in the city state or principality phase 250 years ago.

Germany is now by far the largest and most important nation in Europe (no matter what France and England may say), but it only became a true nation in 1872.

The United Nations is, at best, an ineffective organization with more politics than solutions.

At worst, it is an organization used to spread the ugliest prejudices of humans, while decrying the actions needed to stop them, and masking it all under cynical self righteousness.

It is clear that until we become an extraplanetary race, we will never achieve anything resembling a free society of all human beings.

It is similarly clear that once we do become truly extraplanetary, such a society is, if not inevitable, at least more likely.

Many would say that we need to solve our problems here on earth first.

They believe that we can’t afford space exploration while people starve, and die of disease, and are denied basic human rights.

They say that it costs too much, that it’s dangerous, that it has little benefit to the vast majority of humanity that has barely enough to eat.

They are right in many ways…

…but if as a people we don’t get the hell off this rock…

…what will it matter?

It will be a case of belly button contemplating on a racial scale.

Yes, Space Tourism Is Worth Dying For

SpaceShipTwo-In-Glide

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. — Theodore Roosevelt, April 23, 1910.

In the wake of the tragic crash of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceshipTwo  and the death of one of the pilots, there are questions being asked about commercial space flight. There are some who want to end the space tourism industry before it even gets off the ground. It’s “too risky” and “it’s a boondoggle for millionaires” they’re saying.

One of the articles that has already come out in the wake of this tragedy (remember, never let a crisis go to waste) is from Wired Magazine’s Adam Rogers. He says we should end this program because “it’s just the world’s most expensive roller coaster.”

SpaceShipTwo—at least, the version that has the Virgin Galactic livery painted on its tail—is not a Federation starship. It’s not a vehicle for the exploration of frontiers. This would be true even if Virgin Galactic did more than barely brush up against the bottom of space. Virgin Galactic is building the world’s most expensive roller coaster, the aerospace version of Beluga caviar. It’s a thing for rich people to do: pay $250,000 to not feel the weight of the world.

People get rich; they spend money. Sometimes it’s vulgar, but it’s the system we all seem to accept. When it costs the lives of the workers building that system, we should stop accepting it.

If we accepted that silly notion, the Panama Canal, which opened up the U.S. West Coast and indeed the entire Pacific to what eventually became a more globalized economy would’ve never been built. After all, countless tens of thousands died to build it. How about flight? While developing and advancing the concept of manned flight, countless pioneers and inventors gave their lives and hurt themselves severely. Remember, flying commercially was once a privilege of the wealthy until after World War II. Even NASA’s Apollo program suffered loss of life. If we had stopped when “workers building that system” die, we would never progress technologically or in exploration.

But Rogers really makes his true objection known and it’s only somewhat towards Virgin Galactic, it’s towards the history of exploration, space travel, and economics.

Governments and businesses have always positioned space travel as a glorious journey. But that is a misdirect. It is branding. The Apollo program was the most technologically sophisticated propaganda front of the Cold War, a battle among superpowers for scientific bragging rights. Don’t get mad—that truth doesn’t diminish the brilliance of the achievement. It doesn’t mean that the engineers weren’t geniuses or the astronauts weren’t brave or skilled. But it does make problematic, at least a little, the idea that those astronauts were explorers opening up a new frontier.

Historically, frontiers have always been dicey. What the average Western European thought of as a frontier in the 1600s was someone else’s land. And the reasons for going toward frontiers have always been complicated by economics. Was Columbus brave? Sure, probably. But he was also looking for a trade route. Were the conquistadores intrepid? Yeah. But they were looking for gold and land. Do human beings have a drive to push past horizons, over mountains, into the unknown? Manifestly. But we always balance that drive and desire with its potential outcomes. We go when there’s something there.

Yes, that’s generally how things work. People seek to pursue better economic opportunities and go get “something”, whatever that is. This is a good thing.

The best case example is the California Gold Rush. Gold was discovered in the California territory in 1849 and people came there from all over the world to come look for gold. Now most people who went there did not find gold and many went home with only as much or even less than what they started with. However, an entire state and even an entire half of the United States was built as a result of it. Steamships expanded service to the West Coast, merchants built businesses to support the prospectors, farmers all over the Pacific region found new markets for their food. An entire state was carved out of the desert, to support and grow that state and that region, the Transcontinental Railroad was built, which opened up the entire West for settlement and development. This was all because people sought gold in 1849.

What Rogers thinks is that governments and central planning are the best ways to explore space, and don’t kid yourself crony capitalist projects like Elon Musk’s Space X (which survives solely due to subsidies and cronyism) in that same category. However, central planning will not take humanity into the stars. Government-run manned space programs such as the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station have the following things in common: over budget, unfufilled expectations, and behind schedule. If NASA was in charge of discovering the New World, they probably would’ve never left port.

What space tourism has the potential to do is to build the infrastructure to go back to the Moon and to Mars and more importantly go there to stay and colonize it. Space tourism is a funding source for companies to develop launch vehicles and orbital vehicles, which can lower the costs of launching a cargo payload into space. Eventually, the plan is to build orbital hotels and space stations to enable space cruises and longer stays in space. All of this infrastructure can become dual-purpose to sustain a Lunar and eventually a Martian colony. Not to mention, the dream of measuring transcontinental air travel in minutes instead of hours.

We as a species need to keep looking outward and more importantly, we need to get the hell off of this rock as Chris Byrne says in his excellent piece he wrote after the explosion of the Space Shuttle Columbia in 2003. We don’t need to go to Mars and back to the Moon just to plant a flag and bring home some rocks, we need to go back to stay. We need to go further into the Solar System after that and eventually leave our Solar System and colonize the stars. We need to become an extraplanetary society.

For this reason alone, space tourism and indeed the dream of exploring space is worth dying for. All throughout human history, humans have been willing to risk everything for new ideas and to build a new world. Sometimes and in fact all too often, this risk has cost lives for what many saw as frivolous pursuits. Risk is what makes new discoveries rewarding and we as a society have become too risk adverse.

To explore a new frontier and to build a better future for all of humanity is certainly worth dying for and space tourism, which can lead to the opening of space to the masses, is certainly worth the risks.

 

Denver Post Editorial Board Responds to Pot Halloween Candy Paranoia With Common Sense

Supposedly, Colorado parents have a ‘unique challenge’ this Halloween. You see, because enough Colorado voters were bamboozled into legalizing pot for recreational purposes in 2012 (in addition to the already legal for medicinal purposes), now parents have to worry about cannabis laced candy in their trick-or-treat bags. There have even been products made available to test questionable candy of the presence of THC.

The editorial board of The Denver Post’s response? Perhaps parents should be checking their little goblin’s candy anyway.

[T]his year should be no different for parents, who should always employ common sense on Halloween. Throw out any unwrapped candy and inspect all packaging before letting your kids gorge on treats.

If the package looks suspicious, tampered with, torn, unwrapped or in unfamiliar packaging, throw out the candy. That should be the same message every year.

Wow, how hard was that? The board also points out that these ‘edibles’ aren’t cheap. The example they use: a package of 10 pot laced gummy bears retails for about $27 before taxes. Who is really going to be that motivated to spend that much money to get strange children high? I suppose it only takes one to start a new wave of ‘Reefer Madness’ circa 2014*.

My bold prediction: there won’t be even one reported case of a child receiving pot laced candy in Colorado.

*Maybe a bit conspiratorial on my part but who would be more motivated to give children pot laced candy, those who are in favor of its legalization or those opposed?

How Critics of #GamerGate Are Silencing the Voices of Women

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Either #GamerGate is about ethics in journalism or it is about harassing women. Thus proclaims Taylor Wofford in a recent article for Newsweek. Operating under this presumed dichotomy, Newsweek surveys the tweets and finds that:

[U]sers tweeting the hashtag #GamerGate direct negative tweets at critics of the gaming world more than they do at the journalists whose coverage they supposedly want scrutinized.

Therefore, concludes Wofford: “GamerGaters care[] less about ethics and more about harassing women.”

In Wofford’s mind, “direct[ing] negative tweets at critics of the gaming world” necessarily equates with “harassing women.” This erroneous equation arbitrarily homogenizes women, assumes that agreement with social justice critiques of the gaming world are an essential element of being female, and silences the voices of all women who disagree with those criticisms.

What Wofford and so many others fail to recognize is the existence of Secret Third Option C: #GamerGate is not about journalistic integrity or about harassing women, but is a backlash against social justice fascism. In a wonderful article, I encourage everyone to read, Cathy Young, writing for Reason summed it up as follows:

This is an anti-authoritarian rebellion, not an antiwoman backlash.

Yet Wofford and his ilk do not even recognize this as a possible motivation. Or perhaps they do, but treat it as the equivalent of “harassing women,” an assumption that only works if one presumes all women march lockstep with the likes of Anita Sarkeesian.

I don’t.

I don’t have a problem with violence against fictitious women as props in video games. I don’t have a problem with fictional women being sexualized as background scenery in video games. If I did have a problem, I just wouldn’t buy the games (or, since I am not a gamer, the books and movies). I think other people should be free to buy what appeals to them, including games with background violence and sexualization of female characters that don’t even actually exist in the real world. I do not think that because women are capable of other roles, they must never be portrayed as damsels-in-distress. I do not think that portraying women (or men) as objects of sexual desire implies they lack other value.

What does rub me the wrong way are people who want to sanitize the world, who want to dictate how we are allowed to interact with each other, and what sort of fantasy lives we are permitted to augment with fictional books, movies and video games; who want to remove all the darker fringes and seedy nooks from our mental landscapes and herd us all into a more civilized and domesticated imaginative realm; where every fictional woman must be treated as representative of all real women and heresies against the enlightened orthodoxy are not permitted.

Since this is how I feel, it seems logical to me that a not insignificant number of #GamerGaters might also feel this way. Since I am not misogynist or interested in “keeping women in line,” it seems logical to me that a not insignificant number of #GamerGaters could be motivated by a desire to push back against social justice crusading without disliking women in general or wanting to “harass” them.

When critics deny these alternative motivations exist, or insist that they necessarily equate with misogyny, they are in effect silencing my voice and the voices of all women who feel as I do. When the critics insist that hatred of one woman or one group of women equates with hatred of all women generally, they treat us as a homogenous class without distinction or individuality.

They should know better.

Ebola: Saving Life As We Know It, But Not You Specifically

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As the first U.S. citizen remains forcibly quarantined over Ebola fears, now seems a good time to revisit the role of government in our lives. Some so-called “conservatives” seem to have undergone a sudden evolution to the position that it is the government’s job to keep us perfectly safe from all risk.

One cannot help but wonder, is this their new position on guns as well?

One person has died in the U.S. from Ebola.

We lose 32,000 times that many every year to guns. Is there no cost too high, no civil liberty that cannot yield, in the quest to defeat that risk?

What about cars?

In 2012, 92 people died every day in automobile accidents. How many civil liberties can be ceded to protect us from death-by-car?

Anyone who thinks there is no cost too high to pay to keep Ebola from tarnishing the pristine lands of America is a statist in sheep’s clothing.

The government’s job is to preserve Life As We Know It. To do that, it does not need to save you, specifically. And it certainly does not so direly need to save you, specifically, that it should declare marshal law and shut down global travel.

In the years since 1976, the U.S. has lost between 3,000 to 49,000 people per year to influenza. By my math, that means we could lose another 48,999 people to Ebola this year and still not suffer much impact to Life As We Know It.

But you know what would impact Life As We Know It?

Massive losses in wealth due to travel bans, “aversion behavior,” quarantines and fear.

For example, Michael J. Casey, writing for the Wall Street Journal reports an interesting study about the effects on the global economy of a flu pandemic:

One study led by U.K economists that modeled the global economic fallout from a hypothetical influenza pandemic predicted only a 0.5% GDP loss from the base effect of the disease itself but up to 8% due to policies intended to mitigate its spread, such as school closures.

Think about it. Tourism to and from Africa ceases. Tourism between the U.S. and the rest of the world slows. Hotel rooms sit empty. Restaurants close early. No one rides the bus or takes taxicabs. A lot of people who would otherwise be working—and spending—are quarantined for weeks at a time. Equity indexes fall. Shares in travel firms dive alongside companies heavily invested in Africa. International financial institutions with interests in the region take a hit. The prices of iron ore and oil rise.

Your job might cease to exist. Your retirement account might be wiped out. The value of your house might plummet.

Is there still no price too high to pay when it is clearer that it will be you who must pay it?

However distasteful it might seem, the government must weigh the lives saved against the cost (in both dollars and civil liberties sacrificed) of saving them. Just like the Federal Reserve has a conflicting dual mandate to maximize employment and keep prices stable, the government has a conflicting dual mandate when it comes to Ebola—to protect us from Ebola and to protect the worldwide economy and our civil liberties from collateral damage in the fight to stop Ebola.

Take heart, gentle lambs.

Just because it is not the government’s job to spare no cost keeping you safe, does not mean you cannot make it your own priority. Disabuse yourself of the notion that only the government exercises any control over the big stuff, the important stuff, the dangerous stuff. You are free, all on your own, to spare no expense keeping yourself safe. Wash your hands more and touch your face less. Drive your car instead of using public transportation. Start prepping.

Stay home from work, like you think all those returning aid workers should.

Well go ahead.

You first.

TLP Roundtable — Should We Require The Labeling Of GMOs?

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Welcome to the first of a new weekly feature here at The Liberty Papers, the TLP Roundtable where the contributors give their opinions on a topic that’s generating a lot of discussion.

This week’s topic is mandatory GMO labeling. Colorado and Oregon have ballot measures on Tuesday asking the voters of their states whether or not they believe food companies should label their GMO ingredients. Supporters of the measures believe that GMOs are harmful to the environment and humans while opponents believe that GMOs have been proven safe.

The contributors found themselves overwhelmingly against mandatory GMO labeling. One of our newest contributors, Joseph Santaniello, wrote a piece opposing Oregon’s ballot measure on this issue, Measure 92.

Chris Byrne:

“I have no problem with it voluntarily but am against it as a regulatory mandate…. and I’m against it in general as a lover of science and truth; because anti-GMO hysteria is pandering to the stupid, the ignorant, the anti-science, and to those who would manipulate them for their own personal agenda and benefit”

Chris wrote a piece on this topic on his personal blog a year ago, that he wants you to read.

Tom Knighton:

“While I generally approve of laws that empower consumers, and I don’t see this as creating an undue burden on businesses, I also believe that laws should actually accomplish something of benefit to society. Despite countless memes floating around social media, there’s no compelling argument that GMO foods are any less safe than non-GMO foods. With that in mind, I can’t support a law that does nothing but fuels a ridiculous hysteria.”

Christopher Bowen:

“Being a liberal libertarian on a site that uses the Gadsden Flag as its avatar, I’m used to pissing people off, and now it’s time for the tree huggers to get in line. There is virtually no compelling evidence that genetically modified food is even an inconvenience – let alone a threat – to people. Yes, it can be peoples’ preference to not consume any food with GMOs; that’s their right. But forcing it on other people, codifying untested science into law, and not giving me the ability to make my own educated decision is beyond the pale.

With that in mind, “let the market decide” is not necessarily the right move, either. By the time the “market” has education, there could potentially be a public health scare. Only a strict constitutionalist would argue that the government does not have the right to regulate food, if only to make sure that what we buy is indeed what we’re getting.

I have an alternative solution, and it serves as a test: instead of mandatory GMO labeling, if we really want the government that involved, let’s instead have it so that “organic” is a distinctly enforceable label, with layers of testing, peer-review and regulation before a company can put “organic” on its food. Most of the liberals I talk to want nothing to do with that for various reasons, but that just goes to show that people are generally OK with government overreach as long as it’s something they agree with.”

Matthew Souders:

“Although I think the fear of GMOs is both overwrought and scientifically baseless at present – I am not wholly persuaded that GMOs are and always will be 100% safe. I don’t think the GMO label is necessary, but I think people have a right to know how their food was prepared and asking companies to provide a label is not an undue burden with any real cost (they already have to have labels…this just adds to what needs to be on the label). As such…if people want to be stupid and fearful, that’s their business…and if it turns out that GMOs become dangerous someday, we’ll be in a better position to respond.”

Sarah Baker:

“If the market demand exists for information, the manufacturer will voluntarily provide it. As an example, baking soda is nowadays often marked “aluminum free.” But all baking soda has always been aluminum free. Baking powder sometimes has aluminum. Manufacturers got tired of explaining that their baking soda—along with everyone else’s—was sans aluminum, and started putting that information right there on the package. A market demand for the information arose, and manufacturers responded by voluntarily altering the packaging to provide the desired information.

If the market demand does not exist, then such a law merely amounts to forcing an expense on the manufacturer, which will be passed on to consumers who do not want or need the information. I would let the market take care of this issue entirely. Those manufacturers who wish to attract the niche market of non-GMO consumers are free to do so. The rest can field phone calls, emails or web traffic, like poor old Arm & Hammer who keeps having to explain that a product made of 100% sodium bicarbonate has no percentage points left over for aluminum.”

Brad Warbany:

“I’m tempted to be against it. Considering how much my wife spends at Whole Paycheck on organics, I can only imagine our grocery bill would increase substantially if she started buying non-GMO!

But more seriously, I’m in favor of labeling, and against mandatory labeling. Mandatory labeling is only appropriate when something contains a known health risk. At this time, there is no significant evidence that GMO foods are more risky than non-GMO foods, and until/unless this changes, it should be handled by voluntary market action.”

Kevin Boyd:

“I have to concur with all of my fellow contributors that there is no sound scientific basis to believe that GMOs are unsafe. I also agree with most of my fellow contributors that there is no justification to require the labeling of GMOs on foods. I also agree with Joseph in his piece that these labeling schemes are crony capitalism to benefit Big Organic. I also agree with Chris Byrne’s blog post on this topic.

There are already voluntary non-GMO labeling schemes out there to cater to the consumers who demand non-GMO foods. If these products are not widely available, it’s not because of a conspiracy by Monsanto, but because there is a lack of demand for them. As to Chris Bowen’s point about government regulation of organics, I would argue that we already have it with the current USDA Organics program, which expressly forbid GMOs. Whether or not the program is any good or effective is certainly up for debate.”

What do you think about GMO labeling? Is it something that should be required by the government, something left to the private sector, or there’s no need for it? Let us know in the comments!

 

Tesla Whines About Protectionist Legislation for Auto Dealers While Using Government Largesse to Compete

Last week, I wrote about rent seeking auto dealers lobbying for protection from competition with manufacturers utilizing direct-to-consumer sales models. I mentioned direct-to-consumer manufacturer Tesla by name, and suggested such legislation would prevent consumers from enjoying the savings that might otherwise be realized from Tesla’s efforts to “eliminate the middle-man.”

I should have taken the opportunity to address Tesla’s own abundant receipt of government largesse.

And to be clear, “government” largesse is always paid for by the taxpayers.

In a piece entitled “If Tesla Would Stop Selling Cars, We’d All Save Some Money,” Forbes contributor Patrick Michaels details all the ways Tesla benefits from government handouts. Michaels concludes that taxpayers shell out $10,000 for every car Tesla sells.

Michaels starts with a claim that purchasers of Tesla vehicles receive a $7500 “taxback bonus that every buyer gets and every taxpayer pays.” Since the tax credit appears to be non-refundable, I would not count it as a cost to other taxpayers, as Michaels does.

But the federal tax credit is only the tip of the crony capitalist iceberg for Tesla.

There are also generous state subsidies paid by taxpayers to the wealthy people who buy Tesla’s expensive vehicles. Purchasers in Illinois, for example, can receive a $4,000 rebate from that state’s “Alternate Fuels Fund,” a $3,000 rebate to offset the cost of electric charging stations, and reduced registration fees. California likewise offers a long list of rebates and subsidies to buyers of electric vehicles.

One of the hidden costs to consumers comes in the form of the increased price tag on cars sold by manufacturers who do not qualify for California’s mandated emissions credits, which they instead have to buy from Tesla, allowing it to earn a profit despite selling cars at a massive loss. As Michaels explains:

Tesla didn’t generate a profit by selling sexy cars, but rather by selling sleazy emissions “credits,” mandated by the state of California’s electric vehicle requirements. The competition, like Honda, doesn’t have a mass market plug-in to meet the mandate and therefore must buy the credits from Tesla, the only company that does. The bill for last quarter was $68 million. Absent this shakedown of potential car buyers, Tesla would have lost $57 million, or $11,400 per car. As the company sold 5,000 cars in the quarter, though, $13,600 per car was paid by other manufacturers, who are going to pass at least some of that cost on to buyers of their products. Folks in the new car market are likely paying a bit more than simply the direct tax subsidy.

Slate’s Scott Woolley details another way in which Tesla has cost taxpayers money. In 2009, Tesla received a $465 million Department of Energy loan that allowed it to weather a financial maelstrom. Unlike Solyndra (and Abound Solar and Fisker Automotive and The Vehicle Production Group LLC), Tesla managed to repay the loan in 2013. According to Michaels, it did so by reporting its first ever quarterly profit (earned from the sale of the emissions credits), which sent its stock soaring and enabled it to borrow $150 million from Goldman Sachs, and then issuing a billion in new stock and long-term debt.

But Tesla paid the U.S. taxpayers back at a rate far below what venture capitalists would have earned on the same loan. As an example, Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk also made a loan to Tesla. Musk got a 10% interest rate and options to convert the debt to stock, which he did, resulting in a 3,500% rate of return on his investment.

In contrast, the U.S. taxpayer received a 2.6% rate of return.

In other words, in our crony capitalist system, taxpayers take the loss on bad loans like the one to Solyndra, but do not enjoy commensurate reward on good loans like the one to Tesla.

But there is still more. Tesla cannot keep earning emissions credits, which allow it to earn a profit despite selling its cars at a loss, unless it can keep selling those cars. Josh Harkinson, writing for Mother Jones, writes that:

Its first-quarter profit, a modest $11 million, hinged on the $68 million it earned selling clean-air credits under a California program that requires automakers to either produce a given number of zero-emission vehicles or satisfy the mandate in some other way. For the second quarter, Tesla announced a $26 million profit (based on one method of accounting), but again the profit hinged on $51 million in ZEV credits; by year’s end, these credit sales could net Tesla a whopping $250 million.

Tesla’s ability to continue selling the cars that earn the credits is in question. The market for $80,000 cars has a limited number of buyers. Tesla must expand its customer base with a more affordable product.

One way to achieve that would be to cut the vehicle’s range. But subsidies, credits and fuel savings notwithstanding, consumers have little taste for lower ranges—even at a much lower price. Another way for Tesla to lower the cost of its vehicles is to cut the cost of its batteries without sacrificing the range. As Harkinson observes:

That, however, may again depend on massive subsidies—in this case funding to battery researchers and manufacturers by the governments of Japan and China. Over the past five years, Japan’s New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization, a public-private partnership founded in 1980, has pumped roughly $400 million into developing advanced battery technologies. Tesla’s Panasonic cells also might be pricier if not for subsidies the company received to expand its battery plants in Kasai and Osaka.

When Republican Gov. Rick Snyder signed the bill reaffirming Michigan’s protectionist legislation for traditional automobile franchise dealers, auto blog Jalopnik reported GM’s position as follows:

“Competition is always healthy,” GM spokeswoman Heather Rosenker tells Jalopnik. “But it needs to be on a level playing field.”

In the context of the substantial aid Tesla receives from federal, state and foreign governments, it is easier to have some sympathy for the plight of traditional manufacturers—and their dealers.

Ultimately, that sympathy shines a spotlight on the problems created when government starts “tinkering” in the market. Inevitably, that initial, well-intentioned tinkering necessitates ever more intrusive secondary tinkering aimed at remediating the unintended side effects of its initial foray into the market.

Consider health care. Inflation in the cost of U.S. health care began to outpace the general rate of inflation when the government began subsidizing health care costs. Nobel laureate economist Milton Friedman has estimated that real per capita health spending is twice what it would be in the absence of third party payments, and that Medicare and Medicaid are responsible for 43% of that increase. The remaining portion can be blamed in large part on the third party payments from mandated employer health care coverage, further separating patients from the cost of their care and eliminating the market forces that would otherwise keep costs down. Add to the foregoing the government-enforced monopolies on health care education, leading to 22% fewer medical schools in the United States now than one hundred years ago, despite a 300% increase in population, and attendant provider shortage. All that well-intentioned tinkering created a whole host of ugly, unintended side effects, necessitating more tinkering. The federal government responded with the Affordable Care Act and its accompanying thousands of pages of new regulations.

Everywhere the pattern repeats. The cost of higher education outpaces general inflation precisely because the government wants to help people pay for it. The unintended side effect is increasing numbers of graduates with useless degrees and few job prospects, necessitating further tinkering in the form of loan relief, jobs programs and minimum wage hikes. The Federal Reserve suppresses interest rates to artificial lows in the well-intended effort to speed recovery from the bust of the dot-com bubble. The unintended (in this case, it may actually have been intended, at least by Paul Krugman) side effect is a new bubble in housing. When that bubble bursts, the government must step in to bail people and banks out of their bad investments, create new bureaucracies and new regulations making it harder for people to qualify for loans (in contrast to previous tinkering designed to make it easier).

Lather, rinse, repeat.

I am not a radical free-marketer because I dislike poor people or have a special love for corporations. I am a radical free marketer because I know no amount of tinkering ever produces results as beneficial as what the market produces, naturally and efficiently, all on its own.

Oregon’s GMO Labeling Measure Is Cronyism For Big Organic

 

 

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Recently, I was sent a post that Free and Equal, a pro-Liberty organization that many Student libertarians take part working with,  stating that Labeling is important, and the “Evil corporations” are pouring money into preventing GMO-Labeling. They felt the need to explain themselves by saying that, it’s okay to donate money, but where it comes from is the problem. That Big Organic is just trying to help people, and GMO’s areevil. So the GMO Shill King decided to take time to tear this apart and explain the issue with libertarians supporting woo-filled amendments, which are tied to special interests.
While, it is public knowledge that No on measure 92 has raised almost double the money the Yes side has, and yes Monsanto, Dupont, and Syngenta have been some of the key donors to the No side, and Big Organic has funneled majority of the Funds into the the Yes side. Saying one side is evil and doesn’t want you to know, is not the correct argument, so let’s examine the text of Measure 92.
The first three really can be covered together, since they are exceptionally misleading. Polls have not consistently showed anything they very between 40-70%, not very accurate and consistent if you ask me, and are these people actually informed on the measure themselves, or the Science behind Genetic Modification?  Two, well what evidence do they have of health reasons, economic does not exist since GE’d foods are exceptionally cheaper than there “Certified Organic” counter-part, and what culture in the world says they need Food labeling — If you ask me that is exceptionally hyperbolic? Number Three is even more so misleading, when you bring Codex Alimentarius into this, an organization that holds no bearing in court but hopes to set international trade standards to help efficient trading in the globalized world, it is important to realize that even the “Book of Food” has said GMO’s have no evidence to claim they pose any health concerns, and that is why it should be left up to the countries. Every major NGO or Institute of science in a given country has spoken fiercely against these countries that require arbitrary labeling or an outright ban on Genetic Engineering, these bans have been political to support popular opinion rather than based on fact.

 

So, numbers 4-7 are screaming blatant lies. The FDA actually requires some of the strictest testing in the world on genetically altered foods, they also require several outside sources that are independent or in academia to peer review not only the studies the government does, but as well as the ones the corporations use say their product is safe. Saying there have not been studies done is an outright lie, unless these 1700+ Studies simply do not count. These studies have been in an international catalog for a long while now. So why do we keep hearing that they have not been tested, and we are the “guinea pigs”? When people include “mixing plant and animal” genes in a measure on a ballot, the only reference point that have was the Flavr Savr Tomato in 1996, this tomato had an anti-freezing gene added to it from a fish, it was labeled as such openly by the company, and it failed taste tests by consumers, after approved for sale, but left an allergen warning for those allergic to fish on it, and was pulled from shelves in early 1997. Other than that one instance no one has added anything that cannot naturally occur in nature to our food supply.
Number 6 on this measure actually has no evidence to support it whatsoever, not a single government scientist that has undergone any peer review of his studies to support this claim, has ever been able to show even a theory to support this claim. This is because it simply is not the case and people touting this as reasoning; do not understand how genetic engineering works. Number 7 is another that is simply not true, hundreds of tests are done independently anytime a new product wants to come to market, it is not illegal to independently test a given product, actually it has been encouraged.
Number 9, This is not about Kosher and Halal meats and food products; this is really just another random claim that actually does not exist. These are part of a completely separate issue and tying them to a genetic engineering bill is quite silly. It is not like someone is going to eat a piece of corn that was slathered in pork fat without them knowing. Genetic engineering does not work like that.

 

10 and 11 are like half-truth “findings”. They take things largely out of context, and use them to support a biased end. As a pro-market libertarian, using government to create barriers of entry is a wholly dishonest thing in itself. When using untrue statements to make that end possible and scare tactics to make the public panic to gain support is a bothersome thing indeed. Codex Alimentarius standards, which were adopted to the WTO, are the labeling requirements for international trade.  How it works is actually quite simple. If a country requires more than COO labeling, such as GM and Pesticide labeling, they send a sample off for independent study to determine if the Label the company is using is accurate. Then not only is the label the company used sent, but the independent verification as well. So when you hear it is a “voluntary” thing, it really is, you can voluntarily label and trade with nations that require labeling or not, it is not forced. The reason Big Organic and Big Biotech did not oppose these new additions is simple, Big Organic knows that very few countries require labeling on natural pesticides, mutagenically altered foods, or hybridization techniques, so in other words are safe from labeling other than COO. While the rest of the companies who use RNA interfered or Transgenicially altered foods can: A. avoid trade, B. Label them and independently prove they meet the countries said Threshold, or C. trade with countries without arbitrary labeling requirements.  The economic value of these products are unchanged on an international scale, so these findings are inherently false.

 

Numbers 16 and 17, The environmental harm findings of this measure are another exceptionally misleading piece as well.  It talks about soy being genetically engineered and then immediately following throws this crazy number at you “527 million pounds of additional herbicide” applied to the nations farmland, but it does not distinguish between organic farming and conventional, furthering the misinformation that only genetically engineered or conventionally grown foods use Herbicide. Herbicide resistance crops also result in low-tillage or no tillage, which has been noted to be actually more sustainable, and helps farmers from turning to the more environmentally dangerous herbicides. What Herbicide resistance actually does is it causes the plant to degrade the herbicide used and render it harmless. These two types are RoundupReady(Glyphosphate) and LibertyLink(Glufosinate), The transgenic alterations to these crops allows for farmers to choose when they need to spray, and gives the ability to control weeds through the whole season, and they have virtually no herbicide present in the take, which is an amazing feat of science.  Another misrepresentation of the problem is in regards to drinking water,  several studies have shown that what Glyphosphate and Glufosinate have replaced have actually helped resolve the issues of drinking water, since the lethal concentration of both is so incredibly high, compared to pyrethrins/rotenone(Used in Organic Farming) and Atrazine(what was used before Herbicide resistance crops), what little that doesn’t get absorbed into the soil and degraded into something harmless, what is present in the drinking water is virtually non-existent after undergoing water treatment. The argument could have been made that use near waterways, and damage possible to aquatic life from the run off could have been made, but restrictions are in place on levels that can be used near waterways on conventional farming, but not on organic.

It is hard to disagree with environmental issues, but by saying it is only half of the equation is the problem, and the other half is okay, is being intellectually dishonest.  When I see organizations that support freedom, transparency, and equality under the law, and only address half the spectrum to gain supporters, and disenfranchise the rest of a movement that has fought long and hard for real science and real transparency in government, only to be co-opted and used to support their brand of cronyism it is disheartening to say the least.

 

Section 3 is where the Cronyism begins, instead of the hyperbole and scare tactics used in the findings; this is why so much money has been poured into Measure 92. If you read this part of the measure you see that Big Organic exempts themselves from the regulations they want to place. We see this happen all the time, in politics yet here it is okay, but not in other areas? So how are they exempting themselves, well they do it subtly,  “Raw Food” was an issue in 2011, when Big Organic fought to science to sell almonds with cyanide in them, lethal doses of cyanide mind you.  The argument was when you were selling “Raw Almonds” pre-2011 you were actually selling almonds that have undergone RNA interference, this process actually suppressed the almonds production of cyanide, which made it safe for you to eat after a process of blanching or steaming the almond, to remove any extra bacteria(generally salmonella). When Big Organic won, they agreed to use PPO(propylene oxide) to coat and fumigate, which neutralize the cyanide. Since PPO is something that can be considered “Organic” since essentially ALL things are organic — remember back too high school chemistry. This allowed them to sell raw almonds, coated with poison, to consumers, and since this is organic it is not subject to any of the safety regulations for labeling or health concerns, or really anything.

I proposed this too my friends and followers on Facebook “Which would you prefer a Raw Organic Almond, which underwent Fumigation and is coated with an Herbicide known as PPO, to neutralize the Cyanide in Raw Almonds or a Genetically Modified Almond, which underwent RNA Interference to suppress the Cyanide, and does not need to undergo fumigation, but is steamed or blanched.” The answer was pretty straightforward “Organic obviously, because they care about people, and not profit, GMO’s are bad” with the few responses of my fellow science lovers “is this a serious question, The GMO obviously.” This showed me that a lot of misinformation is out there, people who do not understand how science works, they learn from sources like Food Babe, who have absolutely no credibility in the science community and are paid to spread scare tactics. Measure 92 is literally a proponent of the same thing.

Where the real concern is though, is 4.b.
(b) Methods of fusing cells beyond the taxonomic family that overcame natural physiological, reproductive, or recombination barriers, and that are not techniques used in traditional breeding and selection such as conjugation, transduction, and hybridization.

For purposes of this definition: “In vitro nucleic acid techniques” include, but are not limited to, recombinant DNA or RNA techniques that use vector systems; techniques involving the direct introduction into the organisms of hereditary materials prepared outside the organisms such as biolistics, microinjection, macro-injection, chemoporation, electroporation, microencapsulation, and liposome fusion.

This is Big Organic’s lovely exemption. This is the whole motive behind this ballot measure. It only targets half of the GMO’s and not the ones that are considered Organic. This is targeting Biotech companies, like the IRS targetednconservative and liberty groups, and it unacceptable.  While even Pure-Organic(no pesticides natural or synthetic, or CMS alterations) activists are against Big Organic on the issue.  When you read for the purpose of this definition, it misses literally ¾ of the geneticially modified foods.  When you have it so precisely defined, and leave out CMS altered seeds, which fall under “hybridization” Since they are cisgenically altered, and are considered cell cusion. The difference between Cisgenic and Transgenic is simple; Cisgenic means of the same species, Transgenic covers different biological families. Internationally hybridization is considered Genetic Engineering, and must follow the same guidelines for labeling. So why intentially leave it out on Measure 92, the motive is clear, it gives Big Organic an unfair advantage in the market, and allows for them to continue to spread lies about pesticides and GMO’s, when they themselves genetically modify in labs, just like the companies they are wanting to force to Label.
The definition is purposefully missing Mutagenisis(Process of using Radiation to force mutations in cell structure) which has zero guidelines or regulation in the United States, and no safety procedures before going to market, Cisgenics,  cell fusion hybridization, and several others. Which have no regulations, or testing before going to market, which this Measure blames on Biotech such as Monsanto, Syngenta, Dupont, and Dow Chemical, when in reality, the proponents of Measure 92 are the ones who are the culprits of these problems.
I have heard the argument of the “Right to Know” side, which there is a valid argument for. I absolutely think people should be able to know what is in their food. This measure does not do that, what it does is Unfair and Bias targeting of certain industries while exempting others from safety and health regulations. It continues the bias that “Evil Corporations” are poisoning you, but these billion corporations “are looking out for the people”. If we were to label, it would have to include all sides, and include pesticide toxicity and thresholds. While I would prefer private companies do this, If that is not an option then we must limit the cronyism attached to it, by not strictly attaching it to Biotechnology, but Big Ag as a whole.  Simply because the misinformation leading to ill-informed voting on a measure that does not protect them, or change anything, but aims to add more costs to the opposition, while leaving loopholes for the proponents is bad for the market, bad for America, and bad for consumers. The reason Big Organic exempts themselves from GMO labeling everytime legislation is proposed, is because well, if you read “Certified Organic” and “This product has undergone the process of Mutagenisis where it was put in radioactive enviroments to force mutations.” You would question what you were buying.

What measure 92 is doing is furthering the hyperbole, and destroying the market. There are plenty of reasons to not like Monsanto, or any other Big Ag group, this is not one of them, the motivation behind them funding “No on Measure 92” is them fighting an unfair market regulation, and hyperbole, any business would fight lies and giving another company and unfair advantage. If we want to attack the “Evil Corporations” let’s go to congress and fight agriculture subsidies,  and crony politics used to get them, on both sides of this measure.

When “Free and Equal” says “Big Money is not just an amount, but who is behind it.” When challenged about Big Organic pouring money into this measure as well.  The response is appalling, it essentially says “Big money is fine as long as it is the Cronies I support, not the ones you support” then add “For their own pocket and not the people” is very intellectually dishonest if you read the actual ballot measure. At least Free and Equal disclosed that they are sponsored by a proponent of Measure 92, but still if they support real freedom and equality under the law, they would still be actively against measure 92, since it goes against everything an organization that pushes government transparency and equality under the Law. I have been in this movement for over a decade, and am scared when I see it coopted by people who think “Big money is bad, crony capitalism is bad, but unless it looks like it is for people then it is good”  Which is essentially what Free and Equal said here.
They are exactly right though, it is important to examine the motive behind Big Money, because Measure 92, the money behind it, is very much against the consumer, against the market, and against half the industry. This measure is something conservatives, libertarians, and progressives can come together on the one thing we all agree on, crony capitalism is what is wrong with this Country, and we need to fight to end that. This measure shows exactly the problem with fear-mongering and scare tactics can do, and how easy it is to push something like this onto people with clear motives to target a certain group and create new barriers of entry and extra cost to the consumer.

If you believe in labeling or not, you should vote NO on Measure 92, because it isn’t a labeling bill, it is a targeted bill, and exempts Big Organic, if you want labeling lets work together and create a real labeling bill that is fair to the whole market—That’s only if you think it is a right to know what is in your food.

Can Florida Ban Beer Growlers?

Damon Root, at Reason, on Florida’s ban on 64-oz beer growlers. The law is being challenged by a retail company called The Crafted Keg, which is a “growler bar*”.

To survive judicial review under existing Supreme Court precedent, economic regulations such as Florida’s growler ban must pass what’s known as the rational-basis test. In effect, this test tells the courts that they may strike down a contested law only if it lacks any conceivable connection to a legitimate government interest.
Green Flash Growler of 30th St. Pale Ale
To be sure, that is a highly deferential approach to government regulation. But the Florida growler ban is so moronic it fails to satisfy even the generous terms of the rational-basis test.

After all, what possible legitimate state interest could this ban serve? It certainly cannot be part of some regulatory scheme designed to limit beer consumption and thereby curb public intoxication or drunk driving. That sort of scheme would only be rational if the state also banned six packs, kegs, and other large-size offerings. The fact that customers may purchase 72-ounces of beer via six pack but not a 64-ounce growler of the same beer highlights the fundamental irrationality of this preposterous regulation.

When I was at Purdue, there was a ban on kegs in fraternity houses out of concern that the end of the night might result in a “finish off the keg” mentality and lead to excessive drinking. This is due to the typical hand-pump tap used to maintain pressure, which severely oxidizes the beer and causes it to go stale extremely quickly. Often a beer would taste terrible by the next night when using a hand pump. (This is not an issue on keg systems dispensed with CO2 or “beer gas”.) Instead, without kegs, we were forced to drink excessively via other means.

One can make an argument that a growler suffers the same issue. Growlers are really meant to be single-serving containers, or at most maybe split over two nights. The beer will go stale quickly if allowed to sit. Growlers aren’t filled with the same care to minimize oxidation as bottles or cans, and many growlers have trouble maintaining CO2 over more than a few days due to poor seals. Thus, you often drink a growler as quickly after purchasing it as you can to avoid it going stale or flat.

In addition, many growlers are “special release” beers, often higher in alcohol than typical. I often don’t like growlers for this exact reason. My wife doesn’t drink beer, and I tend to have trouble putting away 64 ounces of 8%+ double IPA in an evening on my own and getting up at the crack of dawn to feed children the next morning. For that reason, I actually love the 32-ounce growler as a format. It’s quite uncommon in the industry, however.

Six packs don’t have these issues. 22-oz bombers don’t have these issues. And kegs are clearly not intended for a single-serving. They’re either purchased for groups (using a hand pump tap) or for personal kegerators using CO2.

One 12-oz bottle from a 72-oz six pack won’t get you drunk, and the other 5 bottles can be easily stored for weeks or months. Drinking an entire 64 oz growler will get you drunk. And with the difficulty in storing a growler at all — much less a growler that’s already had a pint or two poured out of it, make it highly likely that it will be consumed in a single sitting.

Thus, while I don’t agree with the growler ban, I can see it passing a rational basis test.

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Quote of the Day: #Ferguson Edition

Here’s a great observation for Lucy Steigerwald writing from Rare:

Whether the shooting of Brown by Wilson was justified or not, it’s important to remember that there were good reasons people distrusted the Ferguson police’s narrative of events.

Police did everything wrong after Brown was killed. They left his body in the street, they refused to answer questions or identify the officer. They used military tech to answer the protests that resulted. They repeatedly teargassed crowds, arresting peaceful protesters and members of the media.

Officer Darren Wilson shouldn’t be punished for the impression that people — especially minorities — have of the police. If he doesn’t deserve prosecution, he shouldn’t be prosecuted. Whether he deserves harsh, little, or no punishment is still up for debate.

Read the whole thing. The entire article is worth quoting but I thought I would just wet your beak.

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