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War (on Drugs) Is Not The Answer! February 28, 2008

Posted by federalist in Government Regulation, Healthcare, Natural Rights.
4 comments

As if the FDA’s regulation of pharmaceuticals weren’t damaging enough, we now have the Department of Justice’s Drug Enforcement Agency trying to expand the War on Drugs to involve more chemicals with bona fide medical uses.  (Where are all the voices who lamented the expansion of the War on Terror from Afghanistan to Iraq?)  WSJ has a number of good letters today explaining why the whole War on Drugs is a vain endeavor.  Suggests Joe Reimers:

The so-called war on drugs of today is very similar to Prohibition of the 1920s-’30s. It has built multi-billion dollar criminal empires, made criminals of people who would otherwise be little more than dead-beat losers at worst, and corrupted large chunks of government and law enforcement in various places around the world, including here in the U.S.

Why not legalize drug possession/use (as long as it’s not associated with another crime or DUI) for adults, while at the same time eliminating any legal barriers to discrimination against users by any entity, public or private, for any reason, or for no reason at all. This would remove the drug problem from the criminal justice system and address it by societal discrimination.

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QOTD: Roots of Special Interest Power February 25, 2008

Posted by federalist in Government, Special Interests.
2 comments

There is absolutely no reason for you to spend your time, talent, and money in politics except for this:  If you do not, laws will be written and regulations enforced by folks with little or no interest in your well-being.

Michael Rothfeld explains both why politicians so rarely accomplish what we think they should and why special interests can obtain so much power in our current government.  He suggests that broad elections in our two-party system are practically decided by only 3% of the population.  Hence special interests that are willing to vote their issue are enough to make politicians — normally reticent to do anything that could draw criticism — act in the special interest.

Dead-Weight Government February 24, 2008

Posted by federalist in Economic Policy, Government, Pensions, Retirement, Taxation, Unions.
1 comment so far

When you drive from Delaware into New Jersey, you don’t really see any differences.  If you move from New Jersey to Delaware you don’t experience a significant decline in government services.  But New Jersey has among the highest tax burdens in the nation, while next-door Delware has among the lowest.

If higher taxes aren’t buying better government services, then what do high-tax governments like New Jersey do with all of their extra tax revenue?  Apparently the answer is that they buy votes.  More specifically, public union votes:

Public workers and teachers can retire at age 55 after 25 years with a pension of 60% of salary — indexed to inflation. Police and firefighters can retire at 65% of salary at any age after 25 years of service and 70% after 30 years.

Not that we should be surprised at American democracies degenerating into this sort of patronage government.  But isn’t it depressing to think of all those public resources going to bankroll lives of leisure for union members instead of something virtuous?

Secession and the Consent of the Governed February 22, 2008

Posted by federalist in Federalism, Government, Natural Rights.
1 comment so far

With Kosovo declaring its independence it’s a good time to ponder the perennial movements for secession around the world.  How can a government legitimately bind those who have not given their consent to be governed? A good friend recently pointed me to Lysander Spooner’s 1867 essay, “No Treason” — required reading for all discussion of natural law and just government.

Spooner’s thesis is that we are not traitors for refusing to submit to a government to which we did not pledge allegiance, or with which we have no contract. He argues at length that our natural rights to life, liberty, and property cannot be infringed by a government unless we have individually and explicitly agreed to join it. I.e., “We the People” cannot claim the consent of those who do not affirmatively sign on to that Body Politic, nor can it exercise just dominion over those who do not participate.

[T]he whole Revolution turned upon, asserted, and, in theory, established, the right of each and every man, at his discretion, to release himself from the support of the government under which he had lived. And this principle was asserted, not as a right peculiar to themselves, or to that time, or as applicable only to the government then existing; but as a universal right of all men, at all times, and under all circumstances.

One essential of a free government is that it rest wholly on voluntary support. And one certain proof that a government is not free, is that it coerces more or less persons to support it, against their will. All governments, the worst on earth, and the most tyrannical on earth, are free governments to that portion of the people who voluntarily support them. And all governments though the best on earth in other respects — are nevertheless tyrannies to that portion of the people — whether few or many — who are compelled to support them against their will.

His reasoning suggests a test for legitimate government: Can it survive if individuals have an ability to secede, or if it cannot coerce people to join? Clearly our present government would collapse if individuals were allowed to secede. However I believe our federal government as constituted could survive. Our goal, then, should be to return to a government that people would voluntarily join.

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QOTD: Make Consumers Buy Their Own Insurance February 21, 2008

Posted by federalist in Judiciary, Markets, Real Estate.
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You can buy insurance against various misfortunes that might befall you.  You can also play our “jackpot justice” system and try to cash in on someone else’s insurance.  The problem with the latter option is that it is fraught with moral hazards.

Corey Cohen offers an excellent solution that extends a proven concept:

Title insurance is little more then a mandated malpractice policy for lawyers that is purchased, in most cases in its entirety, by the homeowner. If a “title defect” occurs, the title insurance completely indemnifies the lawyer who performed the contracted service. In those states that don’t require title insurance, a form must be completed that releases the lawyer from responsibility for forged or poorly performed searches. Either way, the potential injured party, the borrower, is responsible for the cost.

I don’t understand why other providers of goods and services aren’t allowed to mandate upfront indemnification. I’m sure that if given the chance, large retailers like Wal-Mart, which face expensive lawsuits related to in-store injuries, would love a chance for “pay-as-you-go” legal coverage. They could collect a dollar at the door from customers to cover any injury that might occur in the store, or have them sign a waiver releasing the corporation from any injuries that occur from things other then falling prices.

As an emergency physician I would welcome the ability to request payment for individual indemnification on a patient-to-patient basis like the government-mandated, consumer-purchased “malpractice” policy that protects my brethren in the legal profession.

I.e., at least make customers pay for their lottery ticket if they want the right to sue.  And give people like me who don’t want to pay these jackpots a chance to opt out.

Huzzah for Tax Protesters! February 3, 2008

Posted by federalist in Taxation.
4 comments

Why would a reasonable patriot applaud citizens who avoid paying their “fair share” of taxes?  Because taxes are the fuel that enables government to overstep its constitutional bounds and encroach upon our life and liberty.

I just stumbled upon this report of a remarkable triumph over the IRS last July.  The substance of the case seemed to revolve around the definition of personal wages, and the government’s right to tax those.  The defendant in the case, Tom Cryer, noted to the WorldNetDaily reporter:

The IRS lets Wal-Mart sell a trillion dollars worth of goods, but they can back out their cost of goods [before being taxed.]  The IRS considers, in the case of a Wal-Mart wage earner, 100 percent of what he takes in is profit.

Indeed, one feature of the tax code that has always bothered me is the fact that businesses, investors — even gamblers — can deduct their expenses for producing income, but individuals cannot.  In principle everything that preserves your capacity to work for income — food, shelter, medicine, and even recreation — should be deductible from your wages before taxation.

There are many individuals and groups protesting taxes out there.  WeThePeople is another one on which I found another fascinating report of IRS defeat — in this case by a clever businessman who paid wages in precious coins circulated by the U.S. Mint that carry a face value far lower than the metal’s market value.

It doesn’t take much research into tax protesters to get the impression that they are all nutjobs.  Or at least that they all have very bad website design skills.  Nevertheless, the fact that a lot of nutjobs advocate similar positions doesn’t necessarily make a position illegitimate.

The IRS has gotten so tired of hearing the same arguments against its authority that it has even compiled an official list of “frivolous arguments,” along with rebuttals and the promise of stiff fines for people who continue to try them.  In the case of Tom Cryer:

He said throughout his battle, he’s offered at every turn to pay taxes if the IRS could show him the authorization, and that never has happened. “The Criminal Investigation Division and Department of Justice both responded only with ‘your position is frivolous.’ I had never stated a position, so how could they know whether it was frivolous?” he said. “Imagine my sending you a bill for $1,000 and when you call me and ask what the bill was for I simply said, ‘that position is frivolous, just write the check and send it in.'”

“Puzzling” Second Amendment Solved! February 1, 2008

Posted by federalist in Natural Rights, RKBA.
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Opponents of our natural rights to self defense often try to convolute the semantics of the second amendment to the Constitution, which states, “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

For example, Erwin Chemerisnky argues that “The language of the Second Amendment is a puzzle,” citing its reference both to a “right of the people” to arms, and its reference to the necessity of a well-regulated militia.

David Hardy offers the most lucid explication I have yet seen:

The wording becomes utterly clear once we realize that, at the time, “militia” meant the entire male citizenry, bearing their own arms, and “well-regulated” meant “orderly” (Samuel Johnson’s dictionary treated the two as synonyms, and many writers referred to a well-regulated gentleman, or well-regulated tastes). “Orderly, armed, citizens being necessary to a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms” makes perfect sense.

Indeed, the U.S. Code still preserves this original definition of “the militia”:

The militia of the United States consists of all able-bodied males at least 17 years of age and, except as provided in section 313 of title 32, under 45 years of age who are, or who have made a declaration of intention to become, citizens of the United States and of female citizens of the United States who are members of the National Guard.

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