Friday, June 28, 2013
In light of whistleblower Edward Snowden revealing the size and scope of government surveillence on law-abiding Americans, the free market has birthed a defense. This new font is designed specifically to thwart surveillence, as it is difficult for a computer to read the characters.
Thursday, June 27, 2013
of the Year. We'll be adding more pictures in the next few days, but let's
start with this: the dinner menu created especially for our Teachers at Smith
& Wollensky. Everything you've ever heard about the restaurant is true. The
food was awesome. The beef melted in our mouths. We're proud of our Teachers of
the Year, and are delighted we had the chance to share such a fantastic meal
with them in Chicago.
Wednesday, June 26, 2013
A month ago, I was sitting with some college students for lunch. After we ate, two of them took out loose-leaf tobacco and rolling papers, with filters and all. They started rolling cigarettes at the table. In some way, it looked more like poverty than a charming anachronism. Puzzled, I asked why they were doing this.
The answer was what I feared: Thanks to taxes, no student can really afford pre-rolled cigarettes anymore. You can avoid those taxes by rolling your own for a fraction of the price.
And so it has come to be. Students are equipping dorm rooms with rolling machines. Kids carry pouches and filters. They are only occasional smokers but they are serious about the art and technique of rolling.
It strikes me as very strange, like a reversal of time. It's one thing to do this as a hobby "people brew their own beer and even make their own cars" but as a necessity? Sadly, this is not just a fashion trend. It is a direct result of government policy that has effectively reversed the course of history.
An older man once told me that back in the 1930s, "ready roll" cigarettes brought a huge upgrade to his life—sort of like indoor heating, telephones in every home, and the electric icebox. Thanks to ready rolls, there was no more fussing with papers and spilling contents. How peculiar, then, that roll-your-own (RYO) has made such a roaring comeback today.
It's a forced result, something that would not have happened but for intervention. Was this what it was like to live in Cuba in the 1970s or Russia in the 1950s, places and times where cars and heaters had to be hacked just to keep from slipping further back in time? Is this all we are destined to do, hold desperately onto memories of a good life we once knew and hack our way toward survival?
Maybe it seems like a small sign, but there are just so many signs. It's hard to get even legal medications and so more people are relying on sketchy websites. Appliances like washing machines and dishwashers that once worked now have to be hacked up just to function. You can't buy a decent gas can anymore. Proposed taxes on sugar, salt, and fat collectively seem like a move to outlaw birthday cakes. Are we going to have to get those from the darknet? And the tobacco example is not insignificant, either.
I decided to visit ground zero of the roll-your-own movement in my town, a small discount tobacco store. Sure enough, half the products in the store were related to RYO cigs. There was a representative there from a company selling some impressive rolling equipment—an example of capitalism working even when the government tries to stop it. He demonstrated to me how the machine works. You put the paper and filler in the side and fill up the slot with tobacco. Then you turn the crank. Out comes the perfect cigarette.
He was also using pipe tobacco. When I asked why he was using this stronger stuff for cigarettes, he said it was a "special blend that is more economical."
I looked and him with a knowing smile and asked, —Ah, you mean it is taxed at a lower rate? He smiled back, let his guard down, and said, "Precisely!"
He told me that taxes weren't the only reason RYO was becoming more popular. Smokers believe RYO tobacco is healthier, he told me, since it doesn't include the FDA-mandated chemical flame retardant "meant to keep tobacco from burning sofas and beds" that pre-rolled cigarettes do.
This began about four years ago. Reduced fire propensity cigs are now mandated in 43 states. The added substance is EVA, a carpet glue. Many people report that it tastes awful. Others say that this stuff is more dangerous to ingest than the tobacco. The government doesn't care. Cigarette makers go along.
I was stunned. We have heard about the dangers of smoking for a century. But what about the dangers of being looted and poisoned by bureaucrats? It seems like there ought to be warnings about this, too.
This glue revelation is exactly the sort of information you get from people within an industry, especially when the information has largely escaped public attention. These are the people who deal with regulators every day. And here it was, just another in the thousands and millions of petty regulations that are squeezing the life out of the market and the civilization it built and supports—just another mandate that leads to a mess.
After he had rolled a few of these cheaper, healthier cigarettes, he put them down. I was excited to actually smoke one as a way of testing the product. I started to reach while asking, since I naturally assumed that this was surely part of the demonstration. I figured it was just like the grocery store where the cook makes a dish and the customers sample it.
"I'm sorry, I can't let you smoke it," he said firmly. "Federal law doesn't allow it."
"Huh? It is right here, right in front of me, about six inches from my fingers right there on the plate. You are telling me that if I pick that up and light it, you will have broken a federal law?"
"That's exactly right," he said. "I'm not allowed to distribute tobacco products. I'm only allowed to demonstrate my machine here."
I just couldn't believe it. I kept pressing: but this product is right here, right in front of me, and you want me to test it. I want to test it. I only need to pick it up. And yet we can't let this happen because of some law passed a thousand miles away from here?
I'm stunned again. The laws are insane. Surely people are breaking them every day.
Then I recalled a recent study by Michael LaFaive and Todd Nesbit for the Mackinac Institute, which pointed out that "between January 2007 and 2009, 21 of the 48 contiguous states" including tobacco state North Carolina "raised their cigarette taxes, producing a total of 27 tax hikes."
Sure enough, this tax increase has caused an explosion in cigarette smuggling. In Arizona, for example, more than half the cigs smoked there are actually smuggled in. We are also seeing a huge rise in crime: hijackings of tobacco trucks, tobacco store break-ins, muggings of people trying to deliver or take away cigarettes.
I spoke at length to the nice people at the tobacco discount store about this, and, sure enough, they had some pretty alarming tales of theft, violence, frenzy, riches, and law-breaking. The whole thing seemed like a scene out of the 1920s with speakeasies, bootleggers, and enforcement agents—complete with the tobacco equivalent of bathtub gin.
Markets will not be stopped, no matter how much force the rulers use. Look at the amazing innovation of the e-cigarette. As a piece of technology, it's remarkable. But this innovation was probably prompted by the crackdown on the real thing. Now, of course, the regulators are after the e-cigs, too.
At the end of my visit, having heard a whole series of cockamamie stories about the derring-do world of tobacco distribution, I could only summarize by observing: "This is one crazy country." They all readily agreed and I waved goodbye.
You might think it doesn't matter. You don't smoke. Well, consider this fact: Cigarettes are the single-most traded item in the world. Does it matter that government is doing this to a $400 billion industry? Absolutely. If they can drive even cigarette production to these depths, they can do it to anything.
Whether they are reading your email, listening to your phone calls, or driving you to roll your own, it's all part of the same oppression.
Read more: http://www.fee.org/the_freeman/detail/tobacco-speakeasy#ixzz2XLmwqnWN
Tuesday, June 25, 2013
by DON BOUDREAUX
My former student Charlie Wang kindly requests that I re-post a link to my November 2010 EconLib essay, �Free Trade and Globalization: More than �Just Stuff�; my vanity compels me to oblige Charlie�s request. Here�s my conclusion:
The fear that globalization makes the world less interesting culturally is baseless. The effect of free trade is twofold: first, it gives us more prosperity and, second, this prosperity creates diversity and dynamism. Both of these effects are good reasons for opposing the antediluvians who would obstruct international trade.
Thursday, June 20, 2013
by BILL FREZZA
One of Martin Luther's indictments against the medieval Catholic Church was the selling of indulgences. If the law was not applicable to all and could be suspended to advance personal, political, or pecuniary objectives, a corrupt clergy would know no bounds.
Are we now due for a reformation of our corrupt temporal institutions?
The Constitution of the United States was constructed on four principles. First, the government would be based on the rule of law, not the whims of men. Second, the central government would be limited to strictly enumerated powers. Third, the exercise of those powers would be carefully divided across three co-equal branches. And finally, as a bulwark against tyranny, a Bill of Rights was added that specifically prohibits government from encroaching on a defined set of inalienable rights.
The Obama administration, building on the bipartisan foundation established by its predecessors and under the actions of Attorney General Eric Holder, has managed to violate all four of these principles with its PRISM surveillance program.
By expanding a surveillance infrastructure designed by the prior administration to monitor all forms of digital communications both within the United States and across its borders, it has breached protections enshrined in the First and Fourth amendments.
By vastly exceeding the legislative intent of the USA PATRIOT Act and doing so behind a veil of secrecy, it has violated the separation of powers.
By twisting its legitimate responsibilities to defend the country against foreign threats into a mandate to conduct domestic police operations, it has overstepped its enumerated powers.
And by offering technology company executives grants of immunity from both criminal prosecution and civil suits in return for their complicity in spying on American citizens -- a modern day Indulgence -- the rule of law has been replaced by the rule of men.
Given Congress' chronic dysfunction, the judiciary's passivity, and the media's short attention span, these violations of our founding principles appear unlikely to meet with any consequences. The surveillance "scandal" will most likely blow over when yet another Obama administration abuse of power takes over the news cycle. The media will eventually move on, entrenched bureaucrats will return to business as usual, and Washington will continue expanding its powers at the expense of a few more freedoms traded away for more free stuff.
This leaves us ordinary citizens one avenue for redress -- voting with our consciences, our feet, and our dollars. We can pressure technology company CEOs, board members, and senior executives into taking the following pledge, and then name, shame, and boycott their firms if they don't:
"I (insert CEO's name here), do so solemnly swear to take all necessary legal action to prevent federal agents from compelling my employees to use the resources of my company to violate the Constitutional rights of Americans. Further, I will resign my position before I allow such transgressions to take place under my leadership."
When government agents threaten a CEO with legal harassment and regulatory retribution, while other branches of the government hold out lucrative contracts conditioned on cooperation, duty to shareholders can easily trump abstract principles. Yet shareholders and customers have the power to change the math by making corporate collaboration in building up the national security state more expensive. If ever there was a place where class action lawsuits and extensive discovery can do some good, this is it.
As for employees unwittingly dragged into spying on their customers: Does your CEO grandiosely promise to "Do No Evil?" Hold him to it. Gather your colleagues and take it upon yourselves to spread a little sunlight into the dark corners where Big Brother lurks. The surveillance state may strive to know all and see all, but it cannot survive intense scrutiny of its own behavior, even when backed by an army of lawyers who are expert at stretching the law to its breaking point.
If you work for one of the tech companies whose executives have been suborned and you are aware of nefarious activities, speak out! Don't be afraid to seek whistleblower status under the statutes designed for that purpose. If enough customers and employees raise the stakes maybe more CEOs will think twice before they trade away their countrymen's privacy.
In cases of actual lawbreaking, remember that you cannot be compelled to become an accessory to illegal activities even if your CEO has been granted immunity. You have personally signed no gag orders, and your corporate confidentiality agreement cannot be used to force you into aiding and abetting illegal acts, the covering up of such acts, or violating your own conscience.
If you are worried about your job, seek safety in numbers. If a few hundred Google,Microsoft, Apple, and Facebook employees stepped forward to publicize specific acts of unconstitutional government surveillance, what is Eric Holder going to do, make jailhouse martyrs out of you? Imagine the headlines that would generate.
Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Amanda Billyrock breaks it down brilliantly.
Barack Obama said of Ben Bernanke in an interview that aired yesterday, �He�s already stayed a lot longer than he wanted or he was supposed to.� Today, the market has reacted to the Fed's inconsistency with volatility. Where is this going, and shouldn't this shake-up be getting more coverage?
The EF-5 tornado that ripped through Moore, Oklahoma, left 24 fatalities, nine of them children. An estimated 12,000 homes and many businesses were destroyed or damaged along the estimated 17-mile-long, 1.3-mile-wide tornado path. It's hard to get your head around that kind of devastation.
While the immediate concern is response and recovery, the residents of Moore will soon have to turn to the task of rebuilding. But among the first steps toward emotionally healing from the storm is removing the debris—that is, the physical vestiges of the storm. And that step needs to be taken quickly.
The longer it takes to rebuild and reopen businesses, the less likely it is that communities will fully recover. Social scientists have been studying what has helped or hindered community recovery in the hopes that future communities "like Moore" can recover more rapidly and comprehensively.
Every disaster is unique, as each presents a new array of difficulties that only the residents of the disaster-stricken community can fully understand. But the lessons from communities previously affected by natural disasters can offer insights on how better to recover.
Due to the insufficiency and unreliability of post-disaster data, as well as the extreme difficulties of quantifying the important human element of recovery, social scientists conducting disaster-recovery research have increasingly relied upon intensive field work and interviews to supplement conventional data sources. These methods were employed in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina, as well as in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and Joplin, Missouri, following their 2011 tornadoes.
The Need for Speed
While disaster recovery isn't a race, when rebuilding lags, residents become less likely to return as they become frustrated with the slow recovery, become accustomed to their new communities, or lose faith that the old community will ever return. Entire communities and their cultural heritage can therefore be lost by a slow or incomplete recovery.
A number of factors impact recovery, but the two most important lessons from research on previous natural disaster recoveries are these:
- Allow churches, charities, and businesses to lead the response and recovery efforts.
- Waive the licensing, regulatory, and zoning requirements that complicate and impede rebuilding.
Trying to manage the recovery efforts through central planning only impedes the response efforts of the local organizations "churches, charities, and businesses" that often have better access to local circumstances and needs.
Daniel Smith and Daniel Sutter found that the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce played a vital role in determining the needs of disaster-stricken business owners and finding other business owners who could meet those needs. Emily Chamlee-Wright and Virgil Storr found that the Mary Queen of Vietnam Catholic Church in New Orleans played an important role in coordinating a recovery through the provision of services and goods.
In the case of New Orleans, Father Vien of Mary Queen of Vietnam describes how the church anchors the community, and as such, could effectively provide aid after Katrina: "We organized" because there were so many people—we organized cooking teams so that people could get food. So in that sense we helped facilitate the return of the people — there's the other principle and it is this: During all of that time our focus was on the recovery of the people.— Later, Father Vien and others began to rebuild the physical structure of the church.
In Tuscaloosa, a local grassroots organization called Tuscaloosa Temporary Emergency Services quickly expanded its operations in the wake of the tornado, managing 22 warehouses of donated goods and coordinating volunteers to sort and deliver these items to disaster victims. Local churches and charities in both Joplin and Tuscaloosa showed a remarkable ability to minister to disaster victims and to house and coordinate volunteers. Social media, such as RebuildJoplin.org and even Facebook, also played an important role in coordinating donations and volunteers.
Businesses also play an important role in disaster recovery. One of the simple ways they help is simply by returning people to familiarity and routine by reopening and reestablishing local commercial flows. Commercial entities create the social spaces, employment, and the goods and services necessary for returning residents to their lives. For example, the sight of the walls of a Walgreens going up in the midst of the tornado scar in Joplin, only three months after the storm, provided much-needed hope. One Joplin resident explained, "We love to see walls go up " When we saw Walgreens cleared and going up people were all talking about Walgreens.— Residents even reported having a countdown to the opening of Chick-fil-A about three months after the tornado.
The importance of insurance companies is often overlooked, too. In any natural disaster, insurance claims will dwarf charitable contributions. The consensual pooling of risk is an important element in a free society, and while the industry will never be free of complaints, insurance companies in past natural disasters have done a remarkable job of getting on the ground after the disaster and issuing checks immediately to disaster victims so they may meet basic needs. The larger claims process helps victims pull their lives back together. (Insurance also provides the incentives for efficient risk-mitigating measures to be implemented before a disaster strikes.)
Businesses also played a large role in delivering meals, supplies, and equipment to victims and volunteers in New Orleans, Joplin, and Tuscaloosa. Big-box retailers have demonstrated a remarkable ability to arrive with needed supplies and services in disaster-stricken communities—often before the federal government can arrive on the scene. For instance, Steven Horwitz provides a detailed analysis of how Walmart and Home Depot met the needs of disaster-stricken communities in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. In Joplin, Smith and Sutter found that the manager of Joplin's unaffected Walmart (the town's other Walmart was destroyed) was given the discretion to stock non-traditional items that the community needed, such as mattresses, appliances, and even lumber. He also had direct access to Walmart headquarters and was able to receive the much-needed products quickly.
"[I] made a phone call [and] within three days, had a trailer full of mattresses,"v the manager said.
Tide's Loads of Hope and Duracell's Power Stations were on the ground doing laundry and charging cellphones in Joplin and Tuscaloosa, and, according to the Red Cross, are already in Moore as of this writing.
More Durable Than the Levees
Unfortunately, a tremendous civil-society response by churches, charities, and businesses can be hampered by insensible regulatory barriers, such as complicated or uncertain licensing, zoning, and building codes.
Many states have laws that restrict or prohibit out-of-state specialists "including electricians, carpenters, nurses, and physicians" from practicing within state borders. Licensing laws that restrict economic freedom in good times cause even more harm following a natural disaster. Implementing or expanding reciprocity laws, even if only for emergency situations, can go a long way toward helping volunteers and workers from other states aid in the response and recovery efforts.
Complicated or uncertain regulations can also affect the ability of disaster-stricken communities to get back to normal. Businesses, especially long-established ones that have deep roots in the community, are often grandfathered in under past zoning laws. It is frustrating, confusing, and costly for destroyed business owners when they can't rebuild based on their pre-disaster design and configuration. Time spent deciding on the correct square footage of greenery in front of a business, or preventing businesses from returning because they don't have the requisite number of parking spaces, create further delays that jeopardize community recovery. City leaders can waive these zoning laws and also bring in more building inspectors to reduce wait times for inspections.
Other types of regulation can also inhibit recovery. Following Hurricane Katrina, families that had evacuated New Orleans were hesitant to return because childcare centers were still struggling to get up and running. Parents faced with the task of rebuilding homes and getting back to work could not bring their children home without childcare. Those daycare centers that had reopened were forced to turn away parents and children because of required child/teacher ratios. These child/teacher ratios are meant to ensure the safety of children during mundane times; but during disaster recovery, these same regulations can put children at risk if the alternative is having the child in a damaged home or separated from parents during the recovery process.
In order to preserve "fairness" after Hurricane Sandy, politicians disabled the price signal that would have alerted entrepreneurs of a profit opportunity and would have effectively increased the supply of gasoline and lowered its price through the market process. Instead, price-control regulation made gasoline shortages worse and contributed to long lines at the pump. After Hurricane Katrina, residents of Louisiana and neighboring states anticipated that storm victims would need generators. Entrepreneurs purchased generators in their hometowns, then drove several hours to New Orleans to supply the needed generators. However, these entrepreneurs were fined and even arrested for trying to sell the generators above a specified price, which prevented New Orleans residents from getting the power they needed. The generator story provides yet another example of how bad economic policy can slow recovery.
As John Stuart Mill recognized in 1848 in his Principles of Political Economy, throughout history humankind has exhibited a phenomenal resiliency in the face of natural disasters. While this resiliency has been hampered at times, every disaster provides lessons for future disaster-stricken communities. With these lessons in mind, we have no doubt that the residents of Moore will exhibit the same remarkable resiliency.
Read more: http://www.fee.org/the_freeman/detail/lessons-in-disaster-recovery#ixzz2WgtCAbMg
Tuesday, June 18, 2013
Monday, June 17, 2013
From our standpoint, growing Hondas is just as much a form of production — using American farm workers instead of American autoworkers — as building them. What happens on the other side of the Pacific is irrelevant; the effect would be just the same for us if there really were a gigantic machine sitting somewhere between Hawaii and Japan turning wheat into automobiles. Tariffs are indeed a way of protecting American workers — from other American workers."
- Page 70, Hidden Order
Thursday, June 13, 2013
Wednesday, June 12, 2013
Suppose you and your friends want to throw an ice cream party, but you can afford only one flavor. Each of you has a different favorite, so you disagree about which flavor of ice cream to buy. No amount of voting can discover the one best flavor of ice cream for your party; you simply cannot please everybody.
Democracy evidently does not have all the answers. Yet you and your friends would readily agree to reject some flavors of ice cream. Nobody wants to party with dirt-flavored ice cream, for instance.
The lesson: Democracy works best at correcting mistakes.
Surge Protectors for Democratic Power?
Winston Churchill aptly described democracy as "the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time." Note well Churchill's phrasing: that have been tried. Could a new kind of government correct the failings of democracy?
Many sing the praises of democracy, but few trust it to govern well. Even self-proclaimed democracies limit the power of the vote, filtering it through representational mechanisms and setting aside certain rights as beyond simple majority rule. For those limits on democracy, wise people sigh in relief.
Even its most ardent fans admit that democracy in its purest form "a broad franchise giving direct control of all government operations" offers a poor way of running things. Giving total and direct control of the government to the majority of voters can work, if at all, only in the smallest and most intimate of groups. It cannot work at the scale of a city, much less a state.
Yet democracy has the great virtue of giving voters some say in their government. Even as it invites some excesses, it offers hope of preventing others. How can we safely tap the power of democracy without blowing out the fuses that keep government within safe bounds?
A corrective democracy allows voters to do only one thing: Strike down a specified rule. Voters would get a fair shot at any law, regulation, ordinance, or order that offends them. If it failed the corrective vote, the rule would get removed from the books. Think of it as the electoral equivalent of jury nullification.
Corrective democracy qualifies as a type of "disapproval voting," the general name applied to systems that allow only votes against certain choices. Disapproval voting has seen use in a number of contexts, most famously on reality game shows where participants can vote each other off but also, and more conventionally, in recall elections and no-confidence votes. (Disapproval voting has not evidently attracted much formal study, however, or been put to the broad political use advocated here.)
A corrective democracy could not be used to create a government agency or program; creating new institutions would require the passage of new laws. Corrective democracy thus comes with a powerful built-in limitation. Even if the lazy and vicious outnumbered the industrious and virtuous "a tragic but unlikely situatio" they could not use a corrective democracy to give themselves bread and circuses.
A Broad Franchise with Narrow Powers
The narrow powers afforded by a corrective democracy make it safer to adopt a very broad franchise. Many supposedly advanced democracies deny the vote to ex-felons, a policy that can leave as much as 10 percent of the population of some minority communities unable to vote. Yet who better than an ex-felon to know whether the criminal justice system lives up to its name?
A corrective democracy could let ex-felons vote without worrying that they would, say, elect a pro-felony politician. Indeed, even felons still serving time could vote. Nobody need worry that a few criminals would vote away the protections popular with more law-abiding folk. How likely is it, after all, that bad guys would outvote everyone else on the question of, say, striking a ban on burglary? Not even many burglars would vote for that proposition; even people who sometimes break the law generally enjoy its protection.
Playing with the Variables
If you've made it this far, you probably see the promise of corrective voting but have some questions about the details. Those would and should vary according to circumstances. Allow me to describe one implementation, however, to give you a feel for some of the variables in play.
As already mentioned, corrective voting could safely support a broad franchise—broader than most self-proclaimed democracies allow. In addition to ex-felons, for instance, children might be afforded a vote in matters affecting their rights. And what about a State's non-citizen residents? They can easily find their rights at risk and are not likely to outnumber citizens in votes concerning politically popular immigration controls.
What percentage of the vote would be required to get rid of a challenged law, regulation, ordinance, or order? Different polities might choose different percentages. Simple fairness suggests, however, that a rule should not stand if more than 50 percent of eligible voters disapprove of it.
Even on that simple-majority standard, it would not prove especially easy to get rid of unpopular rules. Every "no" voter has to take the trouble to cast a ballot, after all, whereas just staying home effectively counts as a "yes" vote. The rules on the book thus get a presumption of validity; the burden of changing them falls on challengers.
It is thus unlikely that fundamental rights, such as freedom of expression or religion, would fall prey to a corrective vote. Nonetheless, worries on that front could be assuaged by protecting certain rights with supermajority requirements or completely exempting them from popular challenges. Here as elsewhere, implementation might vary from place to place and from time to time, but the point remains that fundamental rights need not face undue risk of repeal.
How to provide open access to corrective democracy without wasting time on futile votes? Let anyone call an election on any rule, but make losers pay the costs. Apart from perhaps requiring that challengers post bond, this system would let anyone target any law, regulation, ordinance, or order. Elections in a corrective democracy could thus arise directly from voters themselves, the popular will unmediated by party politics, electoral commissions, or arcane devices like the Electoral College.
Not a Scepter but a Sword
Corrective democracy offers democracy, corrected. Because it operates only to trim back government excesses, corrective democracy runs little risk of degenerating into mob rule. It thus gives voters a more direct say in their government without giving them direct access to power.
Corrective democracy is not a lesser form of democracy, however. To the contrary, it affords a safe means to broaden the voting franchise and open up public access to the initiative process. Corrective democracy does not solve every problem of governance "somebody still has to write the rules, for instance "but it does improve on current political mechanisms. Corrective democracy turns voting from a blunt scepter for wielding political power into a sharp sword for defending individual rights.
Disclaimer: These are the personal views of Tom W. Bell and not those of any employer, client, or advisee.
Tuesday, June 11, 2013
by KEVIN CZARZASTY
I was given a free copy of The Law at a Young Americans for Liberty conference a few years ago. I can surely say, my understanding not just of government, but of my actions and their consequences, hasn't been the same since. Frederic Bastiat changed me, for the better.
Few books capture the fundamental nature of
government so sharply. The book, less than 100 pages long, serves as
a moral framework for all believers in freedom.
Bastiat asserts that, one cannot justify the initiation of force on
another individual. This assertion is
the bottom line for libertarians.
However, Bastiat uses logic to take Libertarianism to the next step: If
an act is deemed immoral for an individual, it is also immoral for a group of
individuals to perform the same act. In
reaching this conclusion, Bastiat illustrates how collectivism is objectively,
Walter E. Williams sums up the impact of the book
it its foreward:
�After reading the book I was convinced that a liberal-arts
education without an encounter with Bastiat is incomplete. Reading Bastiat made me keenly aware of all
the time wasted, along with the frustrations of going down one blind alley
after another, organizing my philosophy of Life. The Law did not produce a philosophical
conversion for me as much as it created order in my thinking about liberty and
just human conduct.�
The Law can be a quick read on an airplane, a great
gift for a political thinker, or a tool for awakening almost anyone to the
ideas of freedom. Buy it here: http://www.amazon.com/The-Law-Frederic-Bastiat/dp/1614270570
Monday, June 10, 2013
"Mary Ann Glendon makes much of the failure of law in the United States to impose a legal duty to come to the aid of a person in mortal danger�. Yet one might well regard the nonimposition of a legal duty to give help as an example of humility and restraint on the part of law and government. The absence of a legal requirement does not mean repudiating the moral duty to give help. To suppose it does � more broadly, to suppose that the law determines or at least registers what morality requires � is a tacitly statist notion. Government should not try, with coercion as its ultimate sanction, to enforce everything good and suppress everything bad. Taking on so broad a responsibility would worsen its dangerous aspects."
is from page 242 of Leland Yeager�s important 2001 book, Ethics as Social Science: The Moral Philosophy of Social Cooperation (citation removed; original emphasis):
Saturday, June 8, 2013
In a watering hole near the state capitol, pretty women with tattoos find a handful of sharply dressed men who've loosened their ties. A Johnny Cash song gives way to The Clash. A rocker works his way to the bar so he can have a drink before his set. And behind them in a corner, a scrawny kid sits at a laptop writing code for a game app that will soon swallow up millions of joyous hours from people around the world.
Cross the street and discover techno thudding in some basement club. A little farther away a Stratocaster is conjuring the ghost of Stevie Ray Vaughn.
Smells from food trucks draw different people as if by invisible cords. Find smoky brisket or fish tacos among the trailers. Or sort through the culinary ecosystem for higher-end fareUchi's gourmet sushi or Lambert's boar ribs would do nicely. It's all just another day in Austin. If the Republic of Texas needs a capital at all, Austin will do just fine.
Austin has always been "alternative." But SXSW—the music, film, and interactive festival—has gotten so big that some Austinites are creating SXSW off-broadway shows just to rebel. And that's fine. There is a secessionist streak here that may be in the DNA. If secession weren't stigmatized by slavery, Texas might be its own country. And Austin would be a logical place for a new constitutional convention. Call me a crazy teabagger for suggesting such a thing, but secession is just another word for "self-determination." And people here determine their own selves like nobody's business.
Austin made its name as one of the country's best music towns, right up there with Nashville, New York, and Los Angeles. This being Texas, it has a country-and-western vein that intersects with a desert rock vein. But it has its own spirit, evoking highways rolling over hill country, waxy trees, dusty cars, and a big sky.
But Austin is also a tech cluster. Some of your favorite habits may have started here among wily game developers. It's just one of the ways creativity manifests itself in a city far enough outside the Beltway to escape that dark gravity that prevents the sui generis--a Latin phrase meaning "of its own kind"--flowering of civilization.
When you live here, the creativity is palpable. Washington, D.C., folks ought to visit Austin at least once. They might discover they've been living in a creative desert or a spiritual abyss—a political purgatory where, upon meeting someone, you're expected to unfurl your resume before any conversation can proceed. Once you escape all those talking points in pantsuits, even for a day, you find you can breathe easier. Because in Austin, people talk about what makes them happy.
There's been an influx of relative newcomers like me in recent years. Most are from California. Notwithstanding all the bartenders wearing T-shirts that say "Thanks for visiting, now please don't move here," all people are welcome. Still, given what they did to the California they left, I'm frankly a little uneasy about what they might do to Texas. But for the moment, so-called "jurisdictional arbitrage" is benefiting Texas, and Austin in particular.
Yes, it's a trendy place, but that's only part of its appeal. Imagine some of the minor characters from the show "Portlandia"—only they're better-looking, some are wearing cowboy boots, they're smiling more, and they have tans. But that's just to drop in on a spaceship and look around. Once you're here a while, you discover you can subtract the northwestern neurosis and pretension, add a heaping tablespoon of friendliness, and gain a sense that people cherish freedom here without really even being conscious of it.
Still, you've probably heard that Austin is a mecca for self-styled progressives. At their pettiest, they'd prefer to dictate your grocery bag preferences. Plastic bags have already been taken away. Paper bags must be 40 percent recycled if they're offered at all. Just know the chicken blood that leaked into your reusable burlap sack is a small price to pay for a cleaner environment.
But as with the checkout line, Austin is a mixed bag. The same officious bohemians happy to ban bags would riot if the city fathers tried to regulate away their food trucks. And, of course, these are more or less the same people who made John Mackey a wealthy man. Whole Foods, and its value ecosystem, is just another one of Austin's strange contradictions.
"Keep Austin Weird" emblazons T-shirts and bumper stickers of the tackiest sort. But it is our mantra. It is a far sexier way to say "practice toleration" while also being a nicer way of saying "your city is boring." And to keep Austin weird is mandatory—even for the most insipid Midwesterner who wanders into town seeking his fortunes. It's not just that you might end up brewing kombucha in your basement, it's that you'd miss the weirdness terribly if it went away.
It's perhaps anticlimactic, but I'll save discussing the Austin libertarian movement for the print edition. Suffice it to say we've got the merriest band of freedom lovers anywhere. They're young. They're many. And they're keeping Austin weird. (Free Staters, sit up and take notice: You've got some competition.)
Friday, June 7, 2013
For Michael S. Rozeff's entire article, go here.
Thursday, June 6, 2013
Today, it was uncovered that the NSA has been hoarding phone data from virtually all Verizon customers...daily. This should come as no surprise. The ironically named Patriot Act provided fertile ground for eroding privacy, and considering the size of the NSA database in Utah for "Domestic Surveillance" this was bound to happen. Below is the logo of the NSA's domestic surveillance program. We think that this image, featuring a red-eyed eagle wearing headphones and holding a bundle of cables, says it all.
Wednesday, June 5, 2013
"Perhaps understandably, in the absence of any public choice perception, Keynes made no reference, either then or later, to the special interests that would dictate the pattern of government intervention once the political market was unleashed from its laissez-faire constraints. But, he had no excuse, whatsoever, other than Harvey Road elitism, for ignoring the warnings of Hume, Smith and Mill concerning the self-seeking corruption endemic in an extended polity." - page 130-131