Archive for category: Libertarianism

We’ve Got An Uphill Battle Here….

11 Aug
August 11, 2012

Most of the time I understand that my views are far outside of the mainstream. For FSM’s sake, I’m a wookie-suited libertarian atheist who revels in the geek/nerd culture. Still, there are sometimes when that fact I’m outside the mainstream gets slapped across my face. Hard.

From Reason.com comes this article: “Gallup: Majority of Americans Think TSA is Effective.”

For all the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) horror stories that pop up in local papers, then Drudge, then (often) Reason, turns out according to Gallup, that group of much-maligned gropers are doing okay. Or rather, 54 percent of poll respondees say that the TSA is doing a “good or excellent” job. However, a paltry 13 percent (barely more than the 12 percent who said “poor”) actually think the TSA is “excellent.”

WTF? Only 13% of respondents said the TSA was doing a poor job? After all the horror stories (some with video) that have been blasted across the blogs and news sites? Exactly how do these poll respondents think that TSA is effective? It’s probably like this:

The government promised that with the TSA in place, the planes wouldn’t be taken over by terrorists and crashed into buildings anymore. No planes have been taken over by terrorists and crashed into buildings. Except for lone wackos who crash their own planes into buildings. Or the terrorists that are stopped by the passengers themselves.

Since September 11, Americans have an instinctual understanding that they can no longer be passive observers during a terrorist attack on a plane. If that rare occurrence happens, then they are dead unless they fight. Unfortunately that knowledge hasn’t seemed to seep into their thinking minds. They are fully content with the theater security that is the TSA. There might be some grumbling from the conservatives on how the Israelis do it better (which is a bullshit argument when you compare Israeli and American flight volumes). There might be grumbling from liberals on lost liberties (which needs to be more than grumbling). Yet all of them are just fine with the government “securing” the airplanes.

So, if I hate the TSA, what would I do to make the airplanes safer? First, privatize airport security and make the airports and airlines directly responsible for them, as in civil liability. Private security would be forced to find that crossroad between cost, effectiveness, and intrusiveness. It would also make it easier for airports and airlines to switch companies if the current provider is not doing a good job. (Yay free markets.) Second, allow us to start carrying our weapons back onto the planes. I mean everyone. Pilots, stewardesses, passengers. Let us have our guns, knives, stun guns, batons. I don’t care if you ask that only CCW holders carry onto the planes. Just enforce the same laws that govern us on the ground. Those laws seem to work pretty well on the ground, they should work just fine in an aluminum tube flying at 30,000 feet.

Friday Quote – 8/3/12

03 Aug
August 3, 2012

“A citizen may not be required to offer ‘good and substantial reason’ why he should be permitted to exercise his rights. The right’s existence is all the reason he needs.”

U.S. District Court Judge Benson E. Legg, Wollard v. Sheridan, 2012.

This quote originally came to my attention back in March when the decision was handed down. The case surrounds the state of Maryland requiring a “good and substantial” reason before it would even consider issuing a person a concealed weapons permit.

This is one of the best legal statements that I’ve seen. Moreover, although it is relating directly to a RKBA case, it perfectly encapsulates the basic theory behind many of the libertarian positions. As human beings, we have natural rights. We do not require permission from the state to exercise those rights. When (if) the population starts retaking the freedoms surrendered by previous generations, this idea must be central. We don’t need permission from the state for our activities – the state needs permission from us for theirs.

What Needs To Be Done To Shrink The Size & Role of the Federal Government

31 Jul
July 31, 2012

One of the podcasts I regularly listen to is the Economist’s Audio Highlights. (Free iTunes version here.)The most recent Editor’s Highlights (July 28) starts off with a discussion of how Obama and Romney are starting to touch on what should be the central issue of this campaign – what should be the size and role of government in America. The Economist makes the good point that currently the American government taxes like a small government nation and spends like a large government nation. I know, we feel we have an incredibly high tax burden, and in some cases we do (e.g., corporate taxes). The Economist rightly points out that some of the gap between what the government collects and it spends has to come from increased revenues.

I strongly disagree that increased revenue means higher taxes. The Laffer Curve explains that increased tax rates will lead to decreased revenue. If we must raise revenues, then it should be by reforming the tax code. The current tax system is no longer geared to accomplishing its primary objective – raising funds for the operation of the government. Instead, it’s more geared to social engineering of the populace and rent-seeking by special interests. Personally, I would really like to see the income tax replaced with a consumption tax, kind of like the FairTax. The only people who have a right to know my income is my employer and me, not the government. (Although in my case, the government does have a right to know because they employ me.) My issue with the FairTax proponents is that they are so ready to replace the income tax, they aren’t focusing on the necessary groundwork to do it. Before we can replace the income tax, the Sixteenth Amendment must be repealed. Otherwise, we will end up like Great Britain with an income tax and a consumption tax. With that limitation, a flat tax with no exceptions would be the most preferable.

For all of you who are screaming at your monitor that we don’t have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem – YES I KNOW THAT! The question becomes are we willing to tackle the big four drivers of government spending: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Defense? Usually the same people who scream for limited government or reforming the taxation methodology are afraid to touch one of these four drivers. Yet, if we are ever going to get to a smaller government, all four must be addressed.

  1. Social Security – Why are we asking our young and poor to subsidize our old and rich? Don’t tell me that you believe that you’ve been saving into a special account that’s due to you upon retirement. I have one of those too, and it’s called an IRA. My retirement planning does not take any “Social Security” income into account, because I can’t expect it by the time I retire. The “Social Security” system is broken and broke. It’s currently paying out more in benefits than it’s receiving in taxes. If we want a social safety net for elderly and disabled persons, then we can implement means testing and treat them like any other social welfare program. Quit making it a separate payroll tax and just roll it into the regular taxes. If nothing else, that should make it easier on employers.

  2. Medicare – If you want to know why healthcare is so damn expensive in America, this is a big reason. Medicare pumped out $523 billion in 2012, and it accounts for approximately 20% of all healthcare spending. Anytime the government subsidizes a product, prices go up. The more subsidies, the higher the price. (Go look at college tuitions since the introduction of government-backed grants and student loans.) Medicare’s dollar cost and portion of healthcare spending can only go up as the Baby Boomers start enrolling into the program in droves. The CBO and GAO both have stated that the program is unsustainable in its current form. If we want to provide some sort of help to seniors for their medical costs, it would be better to pay a sliding voucher (higher for low income, lower for higher income) to pay for a private health insurance plan.

  3. Medicaid – As Medicare forces healthcare prices up, Medicaid will continue to explode. Worse, because Medicaid’s price structure makes it unprofitable for a private practitioner to take on those patients, more and more private doctors are refusing to see Medicaid patients. This forces Medicaid patients to rely on the more expensive hospital emergency rooms as their primary healthcare providers. Call it a death spiral of costs. Personally, I’m more in favor of reforming Medicare and making the healthcare more market driven (letting insurance companies sell across state lines, make high-deductible plans more favorable, etc.) and using block grants to the states to handle Medicare spending. Each state faces different Medicaid challenges. Let them solve it as they see fit.

  4. Defense – There’s a difference between defense spending and military spending. I’m all for having a strong military to protect the United States. I’ll admit to having a fondness for all toys military, from small arms to aircraft carriers. Here’s the problem, we are spending too much on non-mission essential and non-working equipment, personnel, and real property. We have too many bases that are open because of politics rather than mission need. The procurement system practically begs for corruption and graft. Like all government agencies, DOD has too many empire builders that hold on to their little fiefdoms despite whether those personnel could be re-purposed or released. Unless these are remedied, defense spending will continue spiraling out of control, just like the other big drivers.

Reforming the tax system and controlling the big drivers of federal spending are the two big steps that must be accomplished before we can even hope to shrink the size and role of government.

Friday Quote – 7/20/12

20 Jul
July 20, 2012

Freedom has cost too much blood and agony to be relinquished at the cheap price of rhetoric.

Thomas Sowell, Ph.D. Economics

Whether you agree or disagree about how the current military conflicts protect our freedom, there have been times when our nation has been forced to sacrifice its young men and women in order to protect its existence. There have been times when the local populace has been forced to take up arms against corrupt governments and organizations to protect their rights from those that should have been protecting them. Yet people are willing to forget those sacrifices – those dead and wounded – and hand over the rights won by others on the promises of politicians and technocrats.

Right now, I’m listening to the audiobook version of Dr. Sowell’s Basic Economics. It is an excellent primer on what is economics and how it explains events we see in the marketplace. If you’re homeschooling your children, this should be one of the texts you use. Probably junior high to high school level.

Gun Rights Policy Conference 2012

12 Jul
July 12, 2012

The Second Amendment Foundation wisely decided to hold the GRPC this year in Orlando. Details here. I will definitely be attending on Saturday and Sunday (Sept. 29 & 30). Friday may be more problematic because it’s the last day of the fiscal year. Right now, I’m still planning to be there. To say that I’m excited to be going is kind of like saying the Mongols dabbled in real estate.

Friday Quote – 7/7/12

07 Jul
July 7, 2012

Okay, this one is a day late. So sue me.

“You’re not the better human by not fighting back. You’re not the better human for choosing to have no claws or teeth. You’re not the better human for delegating responsibility your personal safety to some underpaid guy or girl with a tin badge. And you damn sure don’t get to claim a halo for your attitude.”

Marko

This quote made the circles around the gun blogs a few months ago. Like many of them, Marko managed to perfectly sum up my feelings towards many of the “violence is not the answer” crowd. There is a big difference between avoiding violence and refusing to do violence. As I said in my previous post, I try to avoid escalating a conflict to the point of physical violence and attempt to deescalate if it looks like the altercation is going that way. That said, I’m always prepared to do violence in the protection of myself or my loved ones. Heck, even some of my acquaintances.

Refusing to do violence when attacked is rewarding the predator by making his job easier. Surrendering of liberty, by abrogating the responsibilities that come with liberty, means that even those of the populace willing to take up that responsibility will be forced to give up their liberty.

Is it enlightened to not want to do violence to another? Yes. Should we take steps to avoid violence? Yes, when possible. Will there come times when violence is the answer? Yes.

Hat tip: Say Uncle

Short-term vs. Long-Term vs. Historical Reaction to Obamacare Decision

02 Jul
July 2, 2012

On my way home, I like to listen to the Squirrel Report podcast. It’s usually pretty funny and informative, and I really like the combination of Breda, Jay, Weer’d, and Alan. For their June 28 show, they also had Borepatch on as a guest host. The first hour was dominated by the Obamacare decision. Understandable, since that was perhaps the most dominating story of the day.

Borepatch was making some very cogent arguments on how Chief Justice Roberts used the Obamacare decision to put the Democrats in a bad position. Here’s his blogpost laying out some of his arguments. Not necessarily in the short-term, but in the longer term of when the provisions of Obamacare really start to kick in. In terms of the politics, I think Borepatch is spot-on. I disagree with Borepatch on his seeming admiration of Chief Justice Roberts.

Here’s my issue: when dealing with Supreme Court decisions, you can’t just look at it in the prism of the next year, the next five years, or even the next ten years. Judges, by their training and nature, are loathe to overturn precedent. The heart of the arguments against Obamacare, namely the modern interpretation of the Commerce Clause, has its heart in a 1942 Supreme Court case. If Borepatch’s analysis is correct, then Roberts played a Supreme Court decision for present-day politics, and that absolutely disgusts me.

Ramblings on about the Obamacare decision

28 Jun
June 28, 2012

To say that I’m disappointed in the Supreme Court’s decision on Obamacare is an understatement on par with saying the Titanic got a little dinged up by that iceberg. Especially how the individual mandate was upheld. It’s okay as long as it’s a tax. Bullshit. It is not an acceptable encroachment of personal liberty to tell me I must buy a product or you will take money from me at the end of a gun. Will I continue to buy health insurance? Yes. It is the financially intelligent thing for me to do at this point in my life. Should I be forced to purchase health insurance? No.

The health care system in America functions well most of the time, but it has some glaring gaps. Those didn’t just happen. Like any good problem, it’s an evolution of choices that is now more than the sum of its parts. The problem is not going to be solved with one radical change. There are too many players that have too many vested interests. Health care in America is a complex organism, much like the human body it is supposed to be treating. Remedying a symptom isn’t going to cure the disease, even if it makes the patient feel better for the moment.

This decision also reinforces my reasons not to vote for Romney. First, a vote for Romney will not guarantee a repeal of Obamacare. Even if the Republicans control both houses of Congress, I don’t see Romney pushing for a full repeal. Like any good statist, he will find a way to make it better. Instead of repealing this monster of regulation and taxation, let’s fix it, because that will make us look good. Second, this decision highlights that the political party of the president is no guarantee that the judges he manages to place on the high-court will be friendly to liberty. Roberts, the swing judge on this decision, was one of Bush II’s placements. Can the president be a barometer of the types of decisions the justice might hand down? Sure, but there has been enough of these types decisions that I don’t put much faith in the idea that any justice from Romney will work to protect my rights under the Constitution.

I won’t go into the heated rhetoric of this decision being the one that sends us plunging into becoming the next communist state or the next Greece. It is another step in that direction. I am convinced we still have time to recover from our socialist delusions that the government must protect us from every misfortune. I just don’t see very much support for it in the current body politic.

Anti-Vaccine Proponents – Righteous Fools With a Body Count Part I

13 Jun
June 13, 2012

I find most forms of pseudoscience just annoying. They’re harmful, but ususally just to the practitioner. Someone who wastes their life chasing UFOs or becoming a Scientologist usually just hurts themself. That expands when an adult drags their children into their delusion, but usually someone outside their immediate circle is not directly affected. (I know there are exceptions. There are reasons a generalization is a generalization.)

Then there are the anti-vaccination conspiracy people. Vaccines are one of the true miracles of modern medicine. They have eradicated small pox, one of the deadliest diseases in human history, to the point where the only samples are in laboratories. Unfortunately, vaccines have become a victim of their own success. Since people are not growing up with seeing their friends and family members suffering from the ravages of vaccine-preventable diseases, the idea that the cure is worse than the disease has managed to take root. In this first post dealing with the anti-vaccine propaganda, I will deal with why I think everyone should be required to be vaccinated unless physically unable.

Vaccinations are one of those subjects where I devolve from some of the more rabid wookie-suited libertarians, especially when it comes to those of us who are urban or suburban residents. One of the truisms held among the libertarians is that “your right to swing your fist ends at the tip of my nose.” Essentially, the right a person has to do what they want ends when it will reasonably be expected to cause harm to another. How does that fit into the use of vaccines? For that we need a basic of understanding of how vaccines operate in a populace.

Let’s take a normal small sized city of maybe 50,000 people. In that population there are adults, children, elderly, healthy, and sick people. In that 50,000 there are going to be those that physically can’t be vaccinated. The very young or people with compromised immune systems. In order to protect those individuals from the ravages of some horrible diseases, the city will need to develop “herd immunity.” Essentially, this means that when (not if) a disease enters the city, there are enough vaccinated “blockers” between the carrier and the unprotected population that the disease dies before it can reach the unprotected. More importantly, for this herd immunity to work, there needs to be a high number of blockers. For some diseases the threshold may be 75% of the population needs to be vaccinated, but pertussis (whooping cough) requires at least 92% of the population to be vaccinated for herd immunity. Understanding that, if I choose to live in a city with this unprotected population and do not get vaccinated, then my actions can reasonably be expected to put a portion of the population at risk. How many people do I come in contact with during the course of a normal day? How would I know who could be vaccinated and didn’t and who’s immune system couldn’t take vaccinations.

In the next part, I will take on some of the anti-vax propaganda.

Friday Quote – 6/8/12

08 Jun
June 8, 2012

“Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it.”

George Bernard Shaw

What surprises me is less that people dread liberty, but how quickly they will surrender it “for the public good.” They don’t understand that each time they surrender their liberty so that someone else will handle their responsibility, they are giving control to an enitity who may not use it in their interest.