Saturday, June 25, 2005

My idea for a libertarian billboard

Here's my idea for a libertarian billboard. Hammer of Truth is running a contest (maybe it's more like an online brainstorming session) for a libertarian billboard that could be put up in Washington, D.C.

UPDATE: For comments, see the original blog post here.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Is this what it's going to take?

Remember this:

Is this what it's going to take? Some brave defender of freedom standing in front of bulldozers about to demolish his house in New London, Connecticut?

By the way, the guy in this picture (the original) is awesome.

Goverporation, Inc.

So when a local government is bulldozing houses for a wealthy development, it's a local issue, and the rich and powerful may bulldoze what they please. But if a local government is allowing terminally-ill patients to ease their suffering by smoking medical marijuana, it's a federal issue, and DEA agents can raid marijuana dispensaries. Right.

Isn't the federal government supposed to protect the liberty of we the people, not the privileges of they the corporations?

Sandra Day O'Connor nailed it in her dissent:
"The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms."
She also dissented in the Raich case:
"[The decision] stifles an express choice by some states, concerned for the lives and liberties of their people, to regulate medical marijuana differently."
Radley Balko is correct in saying that this was "worst Supreme Court term for the cause of liberty in a very long time."

UPDATE: For comments, see the original blog post here.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

How the federal government keeps Africa poor and America polluted

One word: subsidies.

This article, from Reason, explains how American agricultural subsidies severely hurt sub-Saharan African economies. An excerpt:
U.S. agriculture policy undermines U.S. efforts to alleviate poverty because it drives down global agricultural prices, which in turn cost developing countries hundreds of millions of dollars in lost export earnings. The losses associated with cotton subsidies alone exceed the value of U.S. aid programs to the countries concerned.
And consider this:
The aid is ineffective because of the appalling way in which Africa is governed. In recent decades, of each dollar given to Africa in aid, 80 cents were stolen by corrupt leaders and transferred back into Western bank accounts.
So by eliminating pork-barrel farm subsidies, we can help Africa more than any government-to-government aid ever will. With subsidies, we're basically saying, "Okay, we like our society the way it is. We don't want to let anybody else join the party." So our subsidies keep worldwide agricultural prices artificially low, and the hardworking African farmer trying to help his country build a self-sufficient economy gets hammered down by big American corporations receiving fat-cat subsidies via "our" reprsentatives on Capitol Hill.

If we really want to "make poverty history," we have to kill all subsidies, now. I don't care how many "family farmers" will be put out of business in America. The fact is many more families are dying in Africa because of these subsidies.

Subsidies also make more environmentally-friendly energy not financially-feasible in America. From an MSNBC article on the success of ethanol produced from sugar cane in Brazil:
In the United States, the sugar-cane industry has had little incentive to diversify into ethanol production because import quotas support U.S. sugar prices far above world levels...

...Most U.S.-produced ethanol is now made from ground corn in a process that has been faulted as inefficient. Corn yields less sugar per acre than sugar cane, and the refining uses substantial amounts of energy. To keep ethanol competitive with gasoline, major refiners such as Archer Daniels Midland Co. have relied since the 1970s on a tax subsidy, now 51 cents a gallon.
Yeah, that makes sense. Let's use import quotas to keep sugar prices artificially high and therefore stop sugar cane growers from producing ethanol efficiently, but then give subsidies to corporations who make ethanol inefficiently. To make matters worse, the federal government has high tariffs against imported ethanol:
The United States imposes a stiff tariff on imported ethanol. But over the past 12 months, 160 million gallons of the Brazilian product still entered the country. The U.S. agribusiness giant Cargill Inc., the third-largest U.S. ethanol refiner, announced plans last year to refine Brazilian ethanol in El Salvador and export it to the United States duty-free under provisions of the Caribbean Basin Initiative.

To be fair, the Brazilian ethanol industry (big surprise) hasn't done this all on its own:
In the 1990s, some distillers went bankrupt and many refiners and sugar-cane farmers fell on hard times. But the government stuck by its commitment to alternative fuels, purchasing unsold stocks of ethanol and showering tax breaks on cabdrivers who used ethanol.
But imagine if the U.S. wouldn't have had all of those subsidies, tariffs, and other forms of economic protectionism in place since the 1970s. If there were a truly free market in sugar (and its products), the Brazilian industry wouldn't have needed so much government help and there probably would be a thriving sugar cane-based ethanol industry in America.

Instead, we're more relient than ever on foreign oil, and we're fighting a War in Iraq to secure future oil sources fight terrorism.

Sustainable development is the all the rage right now. Well, capitalism has led us increasingly toward more sustainable industries. That's how capitalism works. If a business isn't sustainable, then it goes out of business. Think about subsidies; all they do (by definition) is prop up failing businesses. How can that ever be good? If we prop up our own failing, polluting industries with subsidies, we prevent other, more sustainable industries from developing.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Why a radical platform will never work

Opponents of LP platform reform have pointed out that if candidates for school board are stupid enought to discuss their ideas for ending the War on Drugs or their opposition to income taxes, they deserve to not get elected. They should know better and they should focus only on the relevant issues.

Okay, that's fine.

But the problem with this argument is that with the LP’s radical platform, the candidates don’t get to determine which issues become important.

See, there's a new piece of technology called the "internet." Well, with this “internet,” people can now go “online” and find out how almost anyone who cares about politics feels about almost any issue, either directly or by association.

So, a candidate can limit their output to the relevant issues, but voters can get their input from sources other than the candidate’s output. Now, everything is fair game, and candidates don’t get to set the agenda. Anybody that calls themself a Libertarian is automatically associated with the dogmatic platform and pledge of the LP, whether they want the voters to know it or not.

That's why a radical platform will never work.

UPDATE: For comments, see the original blog post here.

LP platform reform is necessary

If anyone doubts that the LP platform stops the party from growing and being more successful, read this string of comments from a Fark link regarding a protest made by a member of the Free State Project. More information about the protest here.
Basically, a lot of the commenters on Fark seem sympathetic to libertarianism but are turned off by the anarchic positions of the party.

How much more obvious can the demand for a moderate LP platform be?

UPDATE: For comments, see the original blog post here.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

A model candidate

Barack Obama might be the most popular national politician in the U.S. today. He is a model candidate, and I think anybody that is going to run for an elected office should study his campaign and how he runs his office (including his website, which is very nice).

He's going to be on Oprah this Thursday, and I'm sure this is just one small part of an upcoming media blitz that will be enormously successful. The promotional clips for the show use the teaser, "Will he run for president?" It's not the first time the question has been raised.

His stance on issues isn't the worst. Some of his positions jive with libertarian [moderate] principles, while others definitely don't:
  • opposes mandatory minimum sentences
  • is against the death penalty
  • is pro-choice
  • supports banning some guns
  • supports school vouchers
  • thinks health care is a "right" but doesn't want to nationalize the system
  • isn't really a free trader
I'm not saying he's going to be president in 2008 (or 2012 or 2016), but he will be successful. If he chooses to, I think he can be a senator for as long as he wants. As long as he doesn't have some scandal, who's going to beat him (much less run against him)?

Imagine if libertarians had such a candidate. Instead, we have people like this.

Monday, June 13, 2005

The LP's infamous pledge

I wonder if the two dominant political parties in America have pledges to stop any non-purists from (gasp!) joining their party....Nope. Hmmmm...I wonder why they're so successful?
Well, they're not "principled," though. So what if they keep winning all the elections and using their ever-increasing power to destroy liberty. Libertarians, thank you very much, would rather keep their principles. You see, for them, principles are more important than liberty.
Wait a minute...

UPDATE: For comments, see the original blog post here.

Tuesday, June 7, 2005

A dangerous combination

The recent Supreme Court ruling looks downright scary when you consider the "snitch-or-go-to-jail" legislation that Congress is currently mulling over.

Is your terminally-ill grandmother with glaucoma currently using medical marijuana? Go undercover and rat her out, or else!

Is your friend with AIDS using medical marijuana to keep his appetite up? You better wear a wire for us the next time you visit!

You helped a medical marijuana organization make some Xerox copies of their price list? You better tell us where we can arrest them, or we'll arrest you!


What Would Janice Do?

Janice Rogers Brown, that is. How would she have voted in this recent medical marijuana case?

Given the age of some of the Supreme Court justices, I wonder how long it will take before she gets nominated for the Supreme Court?

Here are some of her positions.

I think she would have sided with Thomas.

Let's regulate the interstate commerce clause itself

I'd write something about the recent Supreme Court case ruling, in which the federal government's drug laws now officially trump contradicting state laws, but Radley Balko's got pretty much every thing I'd want to say covered (plus a lot more).

In my view, this ruling is just another in a long line of federal government abuses of the infamous interstate commerce clause of the Constitution.

I think the only solution might be to have a Constitutional amendment that strictly defines what *does* and what *does not* constitute "interstate commerce."

Sunday, June 5, 2005

Paying for driving by the mile

Apparently, Britain is considering implementing a pay-per-mile system to pay for their roads.

Most libertarians hate this idea, but I actually like it.

Yes, I know, there are huge privacy concerns here. But they also very obvious concerns. It's not like the government is going to install a GPS receiver in anyone's car and charge them taxes (with a monthly bill?) without them noticing.

Plus, the system could should be engineered to not even keep track of the data. Why not just dynamically check against a database of all roads every time your odometer ticks up another mile to see which type of road you're on? If you're on a freeway, your total fare is incremented by x. If you're on some main drag, your fare is incremented by y. Some residential road--add z.

In other words, there's no need to save your position data. The system would just need to instantaneously grab the position data to figure out how much to increment your total driving bill.

Some people might say that such a system effectively reduces freedom because now people will limit their driving and feel less mobile knowing that every extra mile they drive will cost them.

And that's bad because??? It's not exactly like there's an energy surplus right now. And traffic's fun to sit in!

But besides the practical advantages to implementing such a system, the best reason is that it makes the automotive transportation market much more free market. You pay for what you use; no more, no less. If I never use a road, I never pay for it. If I drive on roads a lot, I have to pay for it.

The overall cost of automotive transportation is currently buried in oil industry subsidies, pork barrel road projects, gas taxes, licensing fees, and probably many other things. So while the average person thinks they're paying 10 cents per mile (assuming 20 mpg and $2.00/gallon gas), they're really paying much more. Now they'll finally see that.

And this will have several big benefits. First, it will level the playing field for things like buses, light rail, subways, and personal rapid transit, all of which might be profitable for private companies to run (instead of governments) if automotive transportation weren't de facto subsidized, as it is now. Second, it may pave the way (no pun intended...well, maybe) for the future privatization of roads...up until now one of the more kooky and unrealistic goals of libertarianism.

Yes, pay-per-mile systems for automotive transportation have an inherent potential for privacy abuses. But so do (and did) a bunch of new technologies. Cellular phone conversations used to be able to be picked up by off-the-shelf police scanners. The internet, while one of the greatest technological innovations of all time, is ripe with privacy concerns. But nobody is suggesting we abolish the internet.

We shouldn't just shy away from new ideas like this one because they carry privacy concerns. We should embrace new technologies and use things like the Constitution (remember that document?) to ensure that our privacy is protected. Laws can be used to protect our liberties, too.

I heard about this story from The Agitator.

For comments, see the original blog post here.

Wednesday, June 1, 2005

James Sensenbrenner has got to go

Senator Palpatine James Sensenbrenner (R, WI) has got to go. Among the legislation he has championed:
In addition, in 2004 he supported a couple bills that would "prohibit the courts" from reviewing certain bills.
  • A bill "prohibiting the courts from reviewing a provision of the 1996 "Defense of Marriage Act" that allows states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriage licenses issued in other states or jurisdictions." (HR 3313 (Roll Call 410))
  • A bill "preventing most federal courts from hearing cases challenging the constitutionality of the Pledge of Allegiance." (HR 2028 (Roll Call 467)
Any way you slice it, Sensenbrenner, who is at least decent on most economic/trade issues (he supports legislation stopping the FCC from requiring digital TV tuners in all TVs, for example, and has won numerous awards for his economic conservatism), has an unquenchable thirst for robbing Americans of social freedoms. That, and his blatant hatred of the separation of powers make for a scary combination for someone so powerful.

Interestingly, it looks like this fascism is somewhat newfound. In 2004, Sensenbrenner won a
"Defender of the Constitution Award" in 2004 from the Conservative Political Action Conference (a conference that many libertarian organizations attended). He's even criticized the Patriot Act, although that crticism came in 2003.

Whatever the reason behind this frightening change of heart against liberty, I say it's time to send him packing.
He's up for reelection in 2006. Please, people of Wisconsin's Fifth District, vote this power-hungry legislator out of office for the sake of us all.

Lou Dobbs

I got tired of Lou Dobbs' xenophobic rants a while ago, but was rereminded about how backwards his logic is by Reason's Hit and Run.

An even better rebuff of Dobbs' arguments is linked from that Hit and Run post, here.
Dobbs (and tech workers disillusioned by the bursting of the dot-com bubble) might fondly wish that highly educated professionals in Asia would be kind enough to lobotomize themselves and go back to farming for the sake of inflating U.S. programmers' wages.
Spot on.