Tag Archives: Libertarians

All Hail Our Armed Corporate Overlords

16 Jan

1. F your gun

A 12 year-old New Mexico boy brought a .20 gauge shotgun to school.  He shot three times, hit two classmates. One is ok, the other was shot in the face and neck, and is in critical condition. 

…the suspected shooter’s family issued a statement Wednesday saying they were heartbroken and that their remorse could not be put into words. They said the two children who were injured have been in their thoughts and prayers.

“We are horribly sad over this tragedy on so many levels,” the family stated. “We are praying that God will be with everyone who has been affected.”

The family added it will cooperate with law enforcement to “piece together how this awful tragedy occurred.”

The gun came from home. Maybe the family could take its prayers and condolences, double-check their homeowner’s insurance, prepare for the lawsuit they so richly deserve, and properly secure their weapons.

As of December 14, 2013, there had been 26 school shootings since the tragedy in Newtown, CT. But we’re told we don’t have a gun problem. Not at all.  Yet for some reason, school shootings are an overwhelmingly American problem

What would you expect their logo to look like?

2. The Freedom to Pollute Shall not be Infringed

Freedom Industries recklessly poisoned the water supply of 300,000 West Virginians last week. Poor oversight, crappy facilities, a laughably inadequate response, environmental carelessness – ignorance, all contributed to a catastrophe that people still don’t quite get. 

Here’s what I get. When you elevate “job creators” above “people”; when you lionize big corporate interests over clean water and people’s health; when you abandon or reject regulation and oversight of industries that pose a continuing imminent threat of mass poisoning, you have ceased to maintain a proper representative democracy. From the Charleston Gazette

While DEP has said it hasn’t inspected the site since 1991, when it was owned by Pennzoil, Kolb and Bauerle said Monday that the agency had looked into a previous odor complaint at the site and another odor complaint in St. Albans related to a company called Diversified Services, which handles shipping of materials for Freedom Industries.

Kolb and Bauerle arrived at the operation shortly after 11 a.m. In the parking lot, they met Kanawha County fire coordinator C.W. Sigman, whose office was also looking into residents’ odor complaints.

The DEP officials went to the office, where Dennis P. Farrell, who identified himself as president of the company, greeted them. They told Farrell about the odors and asked if the facility was having any problems.

“He said as far as he knew this was a busy time of year. They were just handling a lot of trailers,” Kolb said. “As far as he knew, there weren’t any problems.”

The DEP officials asked Kolb to show them around the facility. When they went outside, an employee asked to speak to Farrell. After that conversation, Farrell told the DEP officials there was a problem, and led them to tank 396.

There, the DEP officials said, they found a 400-square-foot pool of chemical that had leaked from the tank into a block containment area. Pressure from the material leaking out of the tank created what DEP officials called an “up-swelling,” or an artesian well, like a fountain of chemical coming up from the pool.

They saw a 4-foot-wide stream of chemicals heading for the containment area’s wall, and disappearing into the joint between the dike’s wall and floor.

Initially, no one saw the chemical pouring into the Elk River. 

This disaster is a direct result of bad right-wing/glibertarian laissez faire environmental and regulatory policies. You know – the notion that “job-killing regulations” are worse than people-poisoning absence of regulations. 

Instead of rounding people up into death camps, FEMA provided water to the nine affected counties pursuant to a declared federal state of emergency. The area where this happened is known as “chemical alley”. When the pointy-headed nerds from the federal Chemical Safety Board and local environmental groups encouraged West Virginia to improve its oversight and regulations in the area, but no one wanted to do it because jobs and freedom

This is the libertarian/conservative dream scenario. Lack of oversight to prevent catastrophe, and inadequate or non-existent health insurance to treat injuries resulting from it. Add “tort reform” to the mix, to prevent or dramatically restrict liability for wrongdoing, and we might as well elect Freedom Industries and its ilk as dictator-for-life. 

Ostrowski’s Anti-Pork Lawsuit Dismissed

21 Nov

Libertarian activist and attorney Jim Ostrowski had been spearheading a lawsuit brought against several corporations, Empire State Development, and the state of New York, alleging that state business development incentives were violative of the state constitution. The New York State Court of Appeals put an end to that suit in a decision released today.

§8. 1. The money of the state shall not be given or loaned to or in aid of any private corporation or association, or private undertaking; nor shall the credit of the state be given or loaned to or in aid of any individual, or public or private corporation or association, or private undertaking, but the foregoing provisions shall not apply to any fund or property now held or which may hereafter be held by the state for educational, mental health or mental retardation purposes.

Ostrowski filed suit, and the defendants won a motion to dismiss, which was then reversed on appeal to the Appellate Division. At issue in the fight was whether state would continue to have a right to grant money and incentives to various private entities in order to help businesses and create jobs – it goes to the very heart of contemporary state business development strategies.

The Court explains how constitutionality is not only presumed, but that a violation must be found “beyond reasonable doubt”, because the Court had found as far back as 1976 that it will uphold “public funding programs essential to addressing the problems of modern life, unless such programs are ‘patently illegal'” The current prohibition was devised throughout the 19th century to prevent the state from being required to bail out and insure businesses who have received public monies, and to “insulate the state from the burden of long-term debt”. This is why the state created public benefit corporations and authorities. Case law has repeatedly found that public benefit corporations operate independently from the state, and that the state can grant money to them for lawful public purposes.

Because public benefit corporations are independent from the state, the Court finds that Article VII Section 8(1) does not apply to them gifting or loaning money the state has provided to them.

The Court also affirmed grants of public money to benefit things like stadiums, which may provide a private entity with a monetary benefit but also serves a public purpose. As such, county subsidies to the Bills and Rich Stadium may continue unimpeded by constitutional uncertainty. Justices Pigott and Smith offer dissenting opinions, arguing that longstanding practice does not magically render the unconstitutional, constitutional, and that the system merely rewards the well-connected at society’s expense.

It’s quite an interesting read (if you’re used to reading legal opinions) and, absent a constitutional convention, the end of the road for this particular argument.

Bordeleau v. State//

Misunderstanding Motivation

13 Apr

I am increasingly fascinated by our collective ignorance of what drives our desires, actions, and visions of delight – as our basest needs are met, wealth and “utility,” the cold economic term for happiness, diverge logarithmically. And I am not the only one focusing on this. Dan Pink did a wonderful talk at RSA on the subject. David Brooks wrote a book and a piece in the New Yorker on this question as well. I can’t go a week without reading a story how wealth and happiness only partially relate at all, and rarely directly.

Our laws, legal system and public policy, of course, will lag such scientific understanding or debate. Transforming new academic positions into productive governmental positions take time. But as the simplistic economic rational actor theory – that all people will logically and predictably choose more of a good than less, and make personal choices to maximize their economic situation at the least cost – becomes more and more exposed as trite and incomplete at best, our laws and policies based upon that theory are revealed as incongruous to the facts. Our tax laws and penal code are based upon the idea that we can induce, encourage, and incentivize behavior (Nudge it, perhaps) based upon cash pay outs or punishments, carrots and sticks, because Americans are rational actors. Let me give two seemingly unrelated examples where that is clearly not the case: NPR and marijuana.   

Lost in the debate about federal funding of NPR, as Republican politicians seemingly wish to exact revenge for some perceived slight, and Libertarians and budget cutters seek to remove the government from educating and informing the public via radio at all, is that if the economic rational actor theory was wholly accurate, NPR should not exist at all. Corporate NPR gets little of its funding from the federal government, but they are merely the news organization that produces the programming. The individual NPR station in towns and cities and rural areas across the country receive the greatest percentage of their funding from individual listeners. But it is in no one’s personal economic interest to donate their money to a radio station. Listening to the news is free, and as far as any individual can tell, the news will appear whether I give money or not. Why pay for an item when I can have it for no cost? That is not economically rational. As a tax break, I get a maximum of 35 cents back to my dollar donated – the rational economic choice is to keep the dollar.  Business donations make up the second major chunk of funding, but there too advertising dollars would be better spent. Why spend $1000 to get a ten second mention on NPR when I can have a full ad in another outlet or venue? Radio host Michael Medved speaks for many conservatives when he says he would donate money to NPR the day federal money dries up. Why? Because just like the motivation to donate to NPR, the debate about governmental funding of it is about a lot more than the economics.

Similarly, laws and public policy fail to account for, control, or incentive the use (or disuse) of marijuana. If man were a rational actor, the punishment for smoking pot would effectively discourage its use. But despite nearly 900,000 arrests a year, or roughly one in 25 who smoke regularly, marijuana remains the third most used recreational drug behind alcohol and tobacco. Roughly one third of Americans have smoked it at some point, and 25 million a year partake. Smoking pot is like speeding, jaywalking and drinking underage – technically illegal behavior that is widely socially accepted and now little influenced by the law. Thirty percent of Americans live in a jurisdiction with lax marijuana laws, and academic studies in those areas (plus Holland and other western nations that have taken similar steps) have shown that Doritos stay on the shelves and productivity does not decline. In other words, everyone who wants to smoke pot is smoking it, the world hasn’t ended, and our rational actor public policy needs to catch up with our understanding of human nature.

On Liberty

25 Nov

This Thanksgiving, you can be thankful for the fact that you can celebrate Thanksgiving any damn way you want to. That is the true mark of America: very individualized personal freedom.

Big BirdThe irony is both the Left and Right are constantly trying to control the general public’s behavior, and find great offense and shock (SHOCK) when their opponents do the same.

The Right wants your children to listen to prayer in public school. They want Manger scenes outside of city hall at Christmas (not Holiday) time. And most of all, they want you to keep your baby in your womb until its time to for him or her to come out.

While expressing constant outrage at these attempts to push personal beliefs on others, the Left simultaneously wants to you to hand in your gun, stop driving your gas guzzling SUV, and otherwise reorder your life to stop destroying the planet.

For both sides, the quest to change the individual behavior of every American is a matter of great moral and ethical importance. For every F-150 pickup with an “Abortion Kills Children” bumper sticker, there is a bicycle with a “Save the Earth” type decal.

The culture wars will continue in America, but do not fear. Soon gays will be able to marry and we’ll all be smoking pot – the arc of the American story is a constant bending towards personal liberty. And not just happy-fuzzy personal liberty. It will bother Libertarians to hear, but America is indifferent to offensive, destructive, bad-for-the-common-good personal liberty.

You will continue to be able to own guns with no training required on how to use one, or registration of how many guns you own. You will continue to be able to kill your baby as long as it hasn’t been born yet. You will continue to be able to smoke tobacco your whole life and then get the government to pay for your lung cancer treatment. You can drive a tank that gets 3 mpg, skip all public transportation, and never recycle a blessed thing in your life. You have the personal freedom to not just be destructive to yourself, but to others as well. In America, we err on the side of liberty, with little regard to offense or impact.

Of course, there are certain behaviors we as a society have deemed favorable, and while we don’t mandate them, we do encourage them. This is well established, but is changing as well. Traditionally, our society thinks owning a home and having children is a good thing for the general welfare. Therefore, there are tax incentives (and some straight handouts) for doing those two things. These are carrots – do what you want, but if you do these couples things, we’ll pay you a little extra.

What is changing is the coming round of sticks to add to the carrots. Our list of advantageous behaviors to modify is growing. And when the carrots don’t seem effective enough, we turn to sticks. There are plenty of carrots for employers to offer healthcare to their employees. But not enough companies are participating. So, for the first time, sticks in the form of penalties to companies who fail to provide are proposed. There are ample tax rebates for companies who upgrade their manufacturing processes to be more environmentally friendly. But the carrots are not enough – a cap-and-trade stick-based program is coming soon.

The arc remains to liberty. Americans don’t like curtailments on their freedoms. And sticks are supposed to be for rogue regimes, like North Korea. Is non-health-insurance-providing Walmart a rogue regime? Don’t answer that.

Be thankful for your liberty today. It is the defining mark of our nation. Do whatever you want today, like read a blog. Or go eat turkey. Or tofurkey. And think about how much behavior modification you advocate and deride (but only if you want to).

About the Buffalo Libertarian “Movement”

30 May

Here’s a comment I posted in Ostrowski’s thread, and I’m reprinting here.

The United States has evolved over its 200+ year history, and with each election, the social contract changes. Sometimes rightward, sometimes leftward. Never has it gone to either extreme, however. We have never had a fascist nor communist coup or government of any sort.

Libertarianism is an extreme concept, and one that obviously appeals to some people. But by no means a majority. By no means in any sort of numbers that would tend to lead to the sort of anti-government, every-man-for-himself utopia you envision.

The ideas you are proponents of simply don’t compete when it comes time to vote for people. You can tout your microscopic menagerie of occasional libertarian conquests (like supposedly defeating the penny county tax), but that’s the smallest of small potatoes and hardly equivalent to convincing a mass of people that what Hayek and von Mises think is the bees’ knees.

And yes, in order to prevail in a marketplace of ideas, you have to sell those ideas to people who may be uninformed or ignorant or disinterested or beholden to some other ideology. Otherwise you’ll be stuck with 5% of the Republican electorate, like Rep. Paul was.

So, the point of Chris’ post was that you need to grow beyond 5% if you expect to make any sort of real difference. Seriously, it’s basic mathematics.

And if you continue behaving like you’re the only ones who are right, and everyone else is wrong, that in and of itself is, I guess, fine. But to add in what you do – that those who are wrong are also stupid sheeple, then don’t be surprised if that 5% shrinks rather than grows.

You guys don’t get the message, and persist in being fucking assholes all over the local internet, parroting the same tired lines, the same easy one-line answers, the same links to the same posts from websites more obscure and dull than those belonging to the CPUSA or National Alliance.

And then, when you go around behaving like assholes all over the internet, you bitch and moan that people won’t “debate” you in a serious manner. Make up your minds.

So, the social contract in the United States shifted leftward in 2008. It continues apace, given the blind flailings of the rudderless, extremist Republican Party.

Libertarians actually have an entree into the debate. But because they generally act like jerks, freaks, or both, their ideas are generally rejected by the people. Remember the libertarian candidate in NYC who decided to hand out toy guns to kids in Harlem when the state required toy guns to be colored in a way so that they are easily identified as toys and kids don’t get shot? Yeah, keep doing idiot stunts like that and you’ll guarantee the perpetuation of the general rule:

You’ll never win a meaningful election because of your extreme views and nasty attitudes, and you’ll continue with your extreme views and nasty attitudes because you can’t win an election.

So Many Teaparties

20 Apr

We’re all Victorians now.

Buffalo has now seen at least four teaparties that I know of, two of them held the same week.

The two most recent ones took place mercifully while I was out of the country or in transit, but the Libertarian one held on the 18th was billed as a teaparty with a “focus” and a “plan”.

Held in a bar, with a march to City Hall and back, its focus was on the same stuff the Freeners have been yelling into the ether about for years now. From what I can gather, we have to adopt Austrian School laissez faire economics and return the government to what it was in pre-Constitutional, post-revolutionary America. Or something. But you have to cherry-pick which founding father you agree with and pay attention to.

Here, incidentally, is the “plan” set forth at the last tea party.

It seems to be heavy on symbolism, light on action. If one was a cynic, one might almost think it was giving local Ron Paul supporters something to do. And from a fundamental standpoint, I’d never, ever associate with the paranoid Birchers here. The full “plan” set forth after the jump. “DO IT!” Continue reading

Shorter Jim Ostrowski

27 Feb

No one wants to play with me anymore. And I’m always right.

Socijalizam

7 Feb

Proletarians of the world, unite!

No.

My parents actually fled socialism in the mid-60s to come to this country and make a better life for them and me. So, no, I don’t remotely consider myself a supporter of the system that my parents fled.

But because I believe in the idea that society should pay for things like Fire protection, Police protection, health care for the poor and elderly, etc., the Ron Paul people are so happy to label me a “socialist”, without regard for what that word means generally (a hundred different things), or more specifically that it is an epithet that, to me, are fighting words.

Seriously, however, being called a “socialist” by the likes of the local Ron Paul supporters is something I take as a compliment. Because in practice, that’s all they do.

Yes, they put up signs and rally in Niagara Square for their candidate. But they also come on the internet and, like the sandwich-board messiah of yore, predict the end of the world in intemperate tones. Other than that, it comes down to labeling those who disagree with their opinions as “socialists”, “sheeple”, equating them with SLA-era Patty Hearst, and accusing them of being complicit in perpetuating a fascist/socialist/nazi America.

Yet these insult-hurling, people-labeling, philosopher-adoring people complain bitterly when insults are hurled at them, when they are labeled, and when their views are mocked as strenuously as they mock others. I believe the market gives them the liberty to purchase some cheese with their whine.