December 30, 2008
Many people who look into the Libertarian Party platform positions on issues find themselves nodding in agreement with us as they run down the list: less government, lower taxes, individual responsibility, free trade, restraint in foreign military intervention, 2nd amendment, free speech...... and then they get to repeal of drug laws and freak out. Don't freak out, read on.
There is a Foo Fighter's song (my son will be impressed with this reference) that goes "one of these things is not like the others", that comes to mind when the issue of drug policy is discussed. Tobacco, alcohol , and drugs - all three come with bad side effects, but only one comes with gangs and crime.
First of all, understand that we do not support drug use. We oppose the government deciding which drugs you can use and which ones you will get sent to prison for using. Big difference.
Does anyone seriously consider use of a substance to be morally equivalent to injuring another person? Using drugs may be stupid, but it is not criminal in the same sense that we think of child molestation, assault, extortion, fraud, or manslaughter.
If the choice was drugs or no drugs, most of us would pick no drugs. That's not the choice we get in the real world - our choice is A) drugs, or B) drugs, gangs, and crime. I pick A.
For the past half century, our government has chosen B. For as long as I can remember, we have been in a "war on drugs". If we look at federal drug policy in those terms, we can say with certainty that in the war on drugs, the drugs won.
We have spent hundreds of billions of dollars, trillions more likely, enacting, enforcing, and prosecuting increasingly strict prohibitionist drug laws. We have spent billions more constructing prisons and filling them up offenders of the new laws we have passed. For all of this, we can't keep drugs out of homes, schools, and streets - we can't even keep drugs out of prisons.
Every penny of the billions spent each year on the drug war is wasted. Making drugs illegal has not reduced the supply of drugs, but it has made them obscenely profitable, creating the illicit trafficking industry, run by international cartels and drug gangs in our cities.
Our inner cites have become uninhabitable; not because of drugs, because of drug laws. Our drug laws have disrupted other countries, too - Mexico, Columbia, Peru, Afghanistan, Turkey, the Golden Triangle - where cartels and private armies control the production and wholesale distribution of drugs.
Tens of thousands of innocent civilians have been killed and countless governments corrupted around the world by the drug cartels- this is the collateral damage in our "war on drugs". We waste tens of billions of dollars in the U.S. each year prosecuting this lost cause, and we spend billions more in aid to other countries to fight the drug lords and traffickers our policies have created.
Prohibitions against drugs do not stop drug use - human nature does not change simply because Congress passed a law. Conversely, repealing drug laws does not cause an increase in drug use - many countries have decriminalized drugs without increases in drug abuse.
In fact, a recent study by the World Health Organization found that drug laws have no influence on the rates of drug use, none. Countries with strict drug laws have the same rates of drug use as those without. Rates of marijuana use in the U.S., where 700,000 arrests were made last year, is the same as in the Netherlands, where pot is legal.
In America, we learned a lesson nearly a century ago with alcohol. Before Prohibition, we had alcohol. Then we passed laws to make alcohol illegal, and we had alcohol, gangs and crime - the 1920's were a very violent era in our history. Prohibition was the cause, and Al Capone was the effect. When we repealed prohibition, the violence, gangs, and criminal activity ceased.
The Crips and the Bloods are not slaughtering kids over Miller Light or Winstons. Repeal the drug laws, take away the profits, eliminate the gangs, and the violence that comes with them.
It really is that simple, and we know it works.
December 25, 2008
Company after company is reporting huge losses this year. The good companies will survive by cutting jobs and curtailing spending. Bad companies will fail. The truly bad ones will probably finagle a government bailout, and then fail a few months and couple of billion of your dollars later.
The Obama campaign promised to give 95% of Americans a tax cut, and to pay for it by increasing taxes on "the rich". I hope he had a Plan B.
Increasing taxes on the rich was a loopy idea to begin with; now it would be not only stupid, but ineffective. Go ahead and increase the capital gains rate to 20%, 30%, even 50% and it would make no difference - with stocks down by 40%, there are no gains to tax.
With the economy in severe recession, there are less of those corporate profits to tax, and less executive bonuses to tax, and less capital gains from stock options to tax. The rich earn income from the profits of the business they own, and from gains in the value of their investments. Corporate executive compensation is derived from company profits - stock options, performance bonuses and the like pay only when the company is profitable. Not this year.
Still think you have a tax cut coming? Children believe Santa Claus will bring them presents; adults believe the government will. Tax cuts? Health care? Mortgage assistance? Free college? Go ahead and leave the cookies and milk by the fireplace if you still think all those promises made this past summer will come to pass.
All of these business failures and cutbacks have a ripple effect, as laid-off employees must cut household spending, further reducing demand for products and further reducing corporate revenues and profits. In this recession, millions of jobs will be lost here in America, tens of millions around the world.
Unfortunately, this is why gas is cheaper.
As factories reduce their output of goods, they use less energy, and less energy is needed to transport raw materials to factories and finished goods to stores. The reduction in energy demand has led to falling prices for gas, oil, and coal. Supply and demand, economics 101.
To the guy who is laid off from his job. it is probably no consolation to know that his misfortune has helped to make gas cheaper, but it's a fact.
With hindsight being 20/20, it seems those days of excess corporate profits and high gas prices weren't so bad after all, now that we have seen alternative.
December 15, 2008
There is an old saying that if you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.
In many respects, this describes the sorry state of American politics these days. Both of the major parties jettison principle for power with frightening regularity, leaving their members disillusioned and effectively disenfranchised. You vote for something, and then you get something else entirely.
Who would have imagined it would be the republicans who would run up the debt to expand government spending and special interest earmarks? Who would have guessed it would be democrats clamoring for corporate bailouts and sending more troops overseas?
Not that the democrats and republicans lack convictions. They have an overabundance of those these days - cavorting with escorts, playing footsie in airport bathrooms, selling favors, harassing interns, auctioning senate seats, stashing cash in the freezer…...
It’s time to return to the idea of principled government. The Libertarian party is described as the party of principle, and I often use the acronym F.L.I.P. to describe our philosophy in simple terms:
F = Free Trade
L = Limited Government
I = Individual
P = Private Property
Free Trade. The proper economic relationship between citizens is free trade, unencumbered by government interference. The proper relationship between the
Trade, not aid. Trade, don’t blockade. Trade, don’t invade.
Less Government. Less government is better government. The only legitimate purpose for government is to protect its citizens’ individual rights and property; it is not to impose the beliefs and preferences of one group upon all, and it is not to redistribute wealth. Today, nearly 2/3 of the federal government is engaged in activities not authorized by the Constitution. This is both wrong and wrong-headed.
Less government. Lower Taxes. Less Regulation. Leave us Alone.
Pro-choice on everything, not just one thing.
Private Property. Just before he died, Karl Marx wrote that his one mistake in development of his communist theories was the abolishment of private property rights – it killed initiative and removed an essential human incentive. The American ideal of individual sovereignty is based upon personal property ownership, and it is fundamental to a society based upon individual rights. You own the fruits of your labor - I have no legitimate claim to your property either directly or indirectly through the government that represents me. None.
You earned it, you keep it.
For most of our nation’s history, these four principles defined the American ideal – they lifted us up from a backwater colony to the most powerful nation on earth. People came here from around the world for opportunity, not security. They ran from government to liberty, from a life chosen for them to one of their own choosing.
Our system of free enterprise and limited government made us great, and it also made us good. It was
In recent years we have turned our backs these four principles, and have done so at our peril.
We have ceded trade sovereignty to international protocols, our bloated government claims nearly half of our earnings, individual liberty has been sacrificed at the altar of group entitlement, and our property is no longer our own to do with as we please.
For four decades now, we have embarked on a steady expansion and concentration of government power, and we have disregarded inconvenient Constitutional prohibitions and safeguards in the process.
As Dr. Phil would ask “how’s that been workin’ out for you?”
Our economy is in shambles. Our public schools are a disgrace. Our inner cities are uninhabitable. Our jobs are moving overseas. We have lost the respect of much of the world. We consume more than we produce, we borrow more than we save, we spend more than we earn. We are less free, less wealthy, less healthy, less happy, and less safe.
Not such a good idea, this big government thing.
And yet both parties – Democrat and Republican – seek to move American even farther into the abyss. In the election just passed, both parties promised to increase the size and scope of government, to expand our military presence overseas, to increase regulations on commerce and property, and to diminish liberty by restricting choice in health care, energy use, and education.
Libertarians offer an alternative to the failed big government prescriptions of the two major parties. We believe in free trade, limited government, individual liberty, and private property.
I want to represent these principles in the U.S. House of Representatives, and I hope that you will support me in that effort and vote Libertarian in 2010.
December 07, 2008
If the U.S. House of Representatives ever needs a theme song, I nominate "Oops, I Did It Again" from that icon of irrational behavior, Britney Spears.
The bailout parade continues in Congress. AIG, Washington Mutual, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Bear Stearns, CitiGroup - the "oops" list was pretty long already, and this week the House added GM, Ford, and Chrysler to it. Thankfully, the Senate didn't bite.
To hear Barney Franks or Nancy Pelosi tell it, you would think the entire
There are three American automobile companies that are in trouble. Three
Meanwhile, there are five other
If GM, Ford, and Chrysler all fold, it will not be the end of the auto industry in the
Our cars will be made in
Jobs lost in
The Senate understands what the House apparently does not - that the demise of the union automakers is inevitable. There is no way to prevent them from failing, because they already have failed. Of course we feel badly for people who will lose their jobs, but they will lose their jobs anyway - either now, or in three months when the bailout money is gone.
Giving them money now is like giving a death row inmate a heart transplant - it squanders resources that might have saved someone else. It is delusional to think these three companies could change if we give them $15 billion. If they could change, they wouldn't need a bailout.
A union exists to defend the status quo, stifle innovation, and block change. Union work rules are designed to limit productivity. The best managers leave to work in non-union companies where they can lead innovation and productivity improvements - accomplishing more and earning more as a result. Lousy workers are protected by the unions, and uniform wage scales take away motivation to do more or better work - the best workers often leave in frustration.
You cannot flip a switch on and off and have an organization that fights innovation and productivity improvement one day, and then embraces it the next.
It is no surprise that unionized companies fail when they have to compete - they have the worst managers, the worst workers, the highest costs, the lowest productivity, and the least innovation. 90% of private sector workers have figured this out, and choose not to unionize. Today, unions thrive only in government, where there is no competition and incompetence is tolerated.
Unions have destroyed every industry in which they have come to dominate - mining, steel, shipbuilding, textiles, airlines, electronics, education, the list goes on and on. States like
Choices have consequences.
By bailing out the
The House of Representatives once again voted to reward failure and punish success. Oops.
December 05, 2008
Is it while you are working? 15% of your wages are taken for social security and medicare taxes, between 25-35% for federal income taxes, up to 7.5% in state income taxes.
You are pretty much working for the state until 11:00AM, and then the government lets you keep what you earn for the rest of the day. But they aren't quite done with you yet.
Does it hit you when you gas up the truck after work? You paid sales tax and registration fees on your vehicle when you bought it, and each time you fill 'er up you pay on average 50 cents per gallon in federal and state taxes.
Maybe you get it as you head downtown, pay a fee to park, do a bit of shopping and then stop at your favorite pub for a beer and burger. You will pay sales tax on everything, excise taxes on some things, and sin taxes on a few things - cigarettes, liquor.
Embedded into the purchase price of everything you bought are all the taxes paid by the mines, farms, factories, warehouses, delivery firms, and stores that produced and distributed your goods - 27 different taxes on commerce that add about 20% to the cost of everything you purchase.
How about when you get home? Property tax, sewer and water, school tax, phone tax, tax on utilities, special assessments, building permits - can't even get a dog to meet you at the door without paying for licenses and mandatory vet expenses.
Is your free time really free? Boat license, hunting and fishing fees, park stamps, gun registration fees, camping permits, RV registrations - the government may not work on its weekends, but it certainly taxes yours.
You pay the state incessantly. You pay to work. You pay to get to work. You pay to play. You pay to buy things. You pay to use them. You pay to save, invest, or gift your remaining earnings. You pay to live, and you will pay to die.
We pay over 50 different taxes in the course of daily living. The state takes half of what we earn, and it dictates how we can spend the share it allows us to keep.
We have become slaves to the state. We can emancipate ourselves by voting for candidates who will will return government to its limited Constitutional role - that is my purpose for running for in 2010 as the Libertarian Congressional candidate from Wisconsin's 2nd district.
Don't vote for me. Vote for yourselves. Vote Libertarian