Saturday, September 14, 2013

There's no way to rule innocent men

There's been a lot of rejoicing amongst my pot-smoking friends because of Attorney General Eric Holder's decision not to enforce some of the existing marijuana possession laws. 

I take an opposite view. 

The best way to get rid of bad laws is to enforce the hell out of them. Create some outrage.  Giving prosecutors the authority to pick and choose which laws to enforce gives them the authority to pick and choose which groups to favor, and that is a bad, bad thing. 

"Prosecutorial Discretion" works like this: You want to build a warehouse.  The government inspector in charge of plumbing finds that your contractor has violated some bullshit rule about plumbing.  The inspector agrees that it's a bullshit rule, and he ok's pouring a bunch of concrete on top of the pipes and drains that make up the plumbing system.  But he always, always, always makes a note that your plumbing broke the law. 

At that point, he owns you.  If you raise hell with City Hall about anything for the rest of your life, or if you contribute to the mayor's opponent, or if you want to simply fight some other ridiculous law,the plumbing inspector can waltz in and insist that your rip up the concrete in your warehouse and repair the plumbing that isn't up to code.

The same thing happens with those possessing marijuana.  They let you slide with small amounts, but they make note of it.  You have broken the law.  You think that you're ok with The Man, but you aren't.  Not even close.  The next time you try to fight a zoning ordinance, protest a war too loudly, or run for office, they've got you.  You were found to be in possession of an illegal amount of marijuana. 

They own you !! 

Here's one of Ayn Rand's villains in "Atlas Shrugged" explaining the concept:
"Did you really think we want those laws observed?" said Dr. Ferris. We want them to be broken. You'd better get it straight that it's not a bunch of boy scouts you're up against... We're after power and we mean it... There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What's there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced or objectively interpreted – and you create a nation of law-breakers – and then you cash in on guilt. Now that's the system, Mr. Reardon, that's the game, and once you understand it, you'll be much easier to deal with."

 There's no way to rule innocent men. 


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Al-Qaeda is no longer the enemy. We're not really sure who is the enemy. Oceania, maybe?

Last night, the President of The United States appeared before us to say that he was asking Congress to delay a vote on his proposal to carry out a military action that is "incredibly small" and whose timing doesn't matter, against an enemy who is also fighting other people who are our enemy, with no defined objective, no follow-up, and no defined goal. 

In other words, within two weeks we could be working as Al-Qaeda's Air Force*

*stolen from Dennis Kucinich

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Nudges that I would like to see

Nudges are the big thing this year.  Instead of legislating that people do the “right” thing (in the eyes of our bureaucratic overlords) people are now being nudged. 

"Nudge" is a verb meaning:

1.push or poke somebody: to push or poke somebody gently, usually with a motion of the elbow

2.move something: to move something gently, especially by pushing it slowly and carefully


Here’s the New American:

In an effort to “nudge” Americans to support bigger and more intrusive government while changing behavior to suit the whims of the political class in Washington, D.C., the Obama administration is following the lead of U.K. authorities by building what the White House refers to as a “Behavioral Insights Team.” According to an official document about the scheme aimed at recruiting personnel, the controversial team will be charged with prodding the U.S. population to think and behave in ways that officials deem best on everything from "sustainability" to health and education.

Whereas a traditional Nanny Stater might demand that we recyle, and penalize those who don’t, a nudger might hand out free in-home recycling containers, literature on how much we save by recycling, and prizes for kids who experiment with recycling at the Science Fair. 




Another example: some employers beg, cajole, threaten and scare employees into participating in the 401K retirement plan.  At Jukt Micronics, we take a different approach…..  We sign up everyone, and then send out a memo stating that if you don’t want to be on the 401K plan, you have to fill out some paperwork.  In this case the nudge is a slight hassle to do the wrong thing. 

Here are a few nudges that I would like to see in place, and a few wouldn’t even require major legislation, but they would move the citizenry toward liberty.  (Of course, anyone wanting to remain a slave to the 20500 D.C. zip code inhabitants should be allowed to remain in bondage.) 


1)      Federal Income tax should be paid by the individual, not withheld by the person who happens to be purchasing labor from that individual.  If we get to hold the money in our fat little hands before it is sent to Washington to blow up Syrians, imprison black pot smokers, and subsidize failing schools, we are more likely to vote for smaller government.  Employers who want to continue to act as Obama’s bag man should be allowed to do so.    


2)      Federal income taxes should be paid once a month.  I really like the idea of 60 million American households pulling out the checkbook on October the first and writing a check to the Treasury.  And then doing it again on November the first.   And December the first.   And January the first.  Every month, you gotta write Barack a check.  (There’s a reason that election day and tax day are currently as far apart as possible.)  If households have to write a check each month, they’ll see The Teleprompter Jesus’s “investments” in green /education /infrastructure bullshit in a new and exciting way.  They would be more likely to vote for a different ” investment”  broker.  Preferably one who would leave them and their money alone. 


3)      We are currently in a Two-Party Death Grip.  The thumbs are the Silly Party and the fingers belong to the Stupid Party.   There are people in the Stupid Party who would be willing to vote for a 3rd Party candidate (like Gary Johnson), but they’re afraid that it’ll just help the Silly Party win.  And vice-versa.  If we had a system of approval voting (hit the link), Sillies, Stupids, and Libertarian Sluggards could vote for multiple candidates in each race, and the highest vote total would win.  It would end the “wasted vote” fallacy.  Until we do something to break the Two-Party Death Grip, we’re going to get the government we deserve.  This would cost nothing, it could eliminate expensive primaries, and voters would have a real choice instead of the lesser of two lessers.   Imagine a ballot with Barack, Hillary, Newt, Mitt, Rand Paul, Gary Johnson, a Green, a Constitutionalist, and anyone else who could get signatures or ballot access.  I might vote for Gary and Rand and the Constitution guy.  Someone in favor of debt slavery and war might vote only for Obama and Newt.   The single candidate with the highest total wins. 


4)      Current legislation is usually presented to the public with a price tag, but none of these price tags have a due date.  Wouldn’t it be nice to see  “to be paid in full no later than 12-31-2013” on a spending bill?  Along with some language detailing where the money would come from?  Do you think that might nudge politicians and voters to be more realistic? 


5)      I’ve written before about how my employer, Jukt Micronics, has achieved an astonishing level of racial diversity by the simple expedient of wanting to make a whole lot of money.  The Federal government tries to accomplish this goal by threatening to sue your ass until it glows like a Japanese power plant.  We should nudge employers to hire a wider assortment of minorities by ending all anti-discrimination “protections” for two years.  I promise that employers would be more likely to hire blacks, browns, gays, women, old farts and the handicapped if they couldn’t be sued for replacing the employee if the relationship went bad.  Money is one of the greatest nudgers ever, and if you don't discriminate regarding things that really don't freakin' matter, you have a much better chance of making a pile o' money. 

That's all I got.  Go ye therefore and nudge. 


Help Kickstart World War III

Monday, September 9, 2013

Libertarian, Quite Contrarian - by Caroline Gorman

My friend Caroline Gorman posted this on Facebook the other day.  It's about how some small government types will sometimes use symbols from the Confederacy, just to show that they, too, are rebelling against Washington.  Or are being iconoclasts.  Or just want to be controversial. 

I went to a school whose fight song was "Dixie".  I started playing that song (drums) in marching band in the 5th or 6th grade.  Then I went to Ole Miss, where the fight song was "Dixie".  Transferred to Delta state, where the fight song wasn't "Dixie", but we played it a lot just because we were in.... Dixie. 

For the benefit of the Brits, Aussies and Kiwis who visit this site, "Dixie" was the fight song of the Rebel/Confederate army during the U.S. Civil War. 

I played the drum part to "Dixie" after every touchdown, field goal, extra point, blocked punt, and kickoff for about 12 years.  I've played it in parades and during basketball games.  Some level of racial sensitivity kicked in about 1984, shortly after I left school, not just at Ole Miss, but at colleges across the deep south, and you never hear the song any more.  Therefore, I think I may have played the pro-slavery war song "Dixie" more times than anyone now alive.  I've also carried my share of rebel flags, so I was interested in Caroline's take on Confederate symbols.  (BTW, now that I've put away that childishness, you won't catch me within 20 feet of a rebel flag.  Symbols don't mean what you think they mean.  They mean what OTHER people think they mean.) 

Here's Caroline:

Background: Jack Hunter, director of social media for Senator Rand Paul, was ‘outed’ in mainstream news outlets as, variously, “a fan of the old Confederacy,” (Slate), someone who said “John Wilkes Booth’s heart was in the right place,”[1]“anti-Lincoln,” (Chris Hayes, both) and related slurs. It’s unclear why this became news now, since Jack Hunter’s past as an outrageous radio personality named The Southern Avenger is certainly no secret. In any event, all of these slurs were taken as indicators of the number-one accusation: that Jack Hunter is a racist.

In response to this, libertarians jumped in to defend Jack Hunter. My Twitter and Facebook feeds were crowded with libertarians who wanted to assure me that they’d “never met a nicer libertarian” than Jack Hunter, that he was “a pillar of the libertarian community,” a “real lover of liberty” and most importantly, a nice guy. Or at least, he had been nice to his white fellow libertarians. Then came the proliferation of articles in his defense. A post on Lew Rockwell added some venom, as usual, but nothing substantive, again as usual.

But the most stereotypically libertarian – and flagrantly wrong reaction – was fromTom Woods and his scathing article on ‘Sweetie Pie Libertarians.’

Tom Woods’ argument reads as a brilliant, brave stand for intellectual freedom against ‘zombies’ and other intellectual light-weights. He begins with a blazoning “Now there are perfectly good reasons one might have to oppose the Lincoln regime.” And then he lists several. Then he turns his attention to the Sweetie Pie Libertarians, those who cravenly rush to be in the good graces of “Mr. Nice Media Person, sir.” These Sweetie Pie Libertarians are “policing the thoughts” of the brave, noble libertarians, in a cowardly, backward attempt to be “more attractive.” These Sweetie Pie Libertarians are just caving in to public opinion. Fortunately, we have big strong brave men like Tom Woods to stand up to the Establishment and tell it like it is!

Tom Woods, answer me this question: What does wearing a luchador mask with the Confederate flag on it have to do with a rational, intellectually honest exploration of the historical issues concerning the advent of the Civil War?

Answer: Absolutely nothing.

Jack Hunter’s use of Confederate symbolism had nothing to do with bravely questioning standard histories. He was taking a side in identity politics – and on the side of violent racists and bigots (note: even if, for some reason, you think that the Confederates weren’t violent racists and bigots, note that in the 150 years since then, that symbol has been used by violent bigots from the KKK to the murderers of James Byrd, Jr., - which means that symbol is now a symbol of racism).

I thank Tom Woods for his article. He entirely missed the point about why Jack Hunter should not work for a politician, or anywhere that he has a chance to put his racist views into action, but he did highlight another problem in the libertarian community.

He exemplified the‘Libertarian, Quite Contrarian’ Syndrome.

What is the "Libertarian, Quite Contrarian" Syndrome? It presents in the form of people who, if told to do one thing, will do another. These people are more predictable than zombies. Zombies at least have desires of their own (well, one desire: delicious brains). The Contrarian Libertarians don’t know what they want until they hear what they’re not supposed to want. They are individuals! They do what they want! Which is always, without fail, the opposite of what you are telling them to do.

Libertarian, libertarian
Quite contrarian
How does your movement grow?
When they say yes, you say no
They go left, you go right
Always spoiling for a fight
They say up,
you say down,
Turn that argument around!
They say red, you say blue
You can’t tell me what to do!

How is this relevant to the Jack Hunter situation? Jack Hunter, and the libertarians who support using Confederate imagery, just want to do something controversial. They want to use that word because they’re not supposed to. They want to say inflammatory things. And they want to pretend it’s brave.

Using Confederate imagery has nothing to do with historical revisionism, with individual rights, with states’ rights, with anything libertarian. To use the Confederate flag is to prove, supposedly, that you support freedom – by using a symbol of a time when human beings were enslaved.

Instead, using the Confederate flag is a perfect example of the dark side of individualism: relentless contrarianism. This contrarianism has nothing to do with questioning standard histories (perfectly admirable), taking a moment to reconsider childhood lessons (absolutely necessary) or understanding that few issues areas clear-cut as we would like (I wish more people understood that).

The use of Confederate symbolism which has swirled around the libertarian movement and the more populist elements is only a base childish desire to do something ‘naughty,’ dressed up in libertarian colors. Let’s stop protecting these people just because they know enough to use the language of liberty to justify their immaturity.

The irony is that being a Contrarian Libertarian is about as anti-individualistic as you can get. It also involves the same actions they so disdain in the mainstream media: race-baiting, kneejerk reactions instead of measured debate, and a profound acceptance of authority.

Because if you’re wearing the Confederate flag to prove that Civil War historical revisionism is necessary, you have lost. You have let the mainstream media put you in one of two boxes – for or against the Civil War. For or against the Confederacy. If you want to dislike Lincoln, go for it. If you want to question the cause of the Civil War, go for it. But accepting that questioning the traditional account of the Civil War equates to supporting the Confederacy (and wearing a flag is a pretty blatant symbol of support) is accepting their rules.

Why don’t you take the unusual third position of opposing the Civil War and opposing the Confederacy?  Of exercising your intellectual freedom to question the traditional Civil War narrative while also refusing to emotionally ‘take sides?’ That would be truly individual, and truly unusual!

Caroline K. Gorman is the Chair of the Travis County Libertarian Party in Austin, Texas. She also serves on the State Libertarian Executive Committee and is heavily involved as an activist at the local level.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Did Jimmy Carter create the Beer Boom?

There's been a little storm "brewing" (LOL) on the internet about whether Jimmy Carter's deregulation of the beer industry led to the incredible diversity of brew that we now have in the USA. 

There may have been 5 or 6 varieties of beer in the convenience stores of my youth. 

Fifty year later, the typical Stop'n'Shop now carries about 75 varieties of beer, most of which you've never heard of. 

Here's Eric Kain of Balloon Juice:
If you’re a fan of craft beer and microbreweries as opposed to say Bud Light or Coors, you should say a little thank you to Jimmy Carter. Carter could very well be the hero of International Beer Day.
To make a long story short, prohibition led to the dismantling of many small breweries around the nation. When prohibition was lifted, government tightly regulated the market, and small scale producers were essentially shut out of the beer market altogether. Regulations imposed at the time greatly benefited the large beer makers. In 1979, Carter deregulated the beer industry, opening the market back up to craft brewers. As the chart below illustrates, this had a really amazing effect on the beer industry:
Here's your chart. 

Good stuff, right?  We deregulated, little guys brought competition to the marketplace, and a plethora of brews were brought to a thirsty public.

 Here's what Reason magazine had to say on the subject:
I personally find it particularly meaningful that government and industry and (I presume) anti-drinking scolds colluded to criminalize a behavior that wasn't just victimless, but downright awesome; and that the removal of that appalling bit of illiberal nannyism helped usher in a phenomenon I would have bet the house against two decades ago: a thriving and variegated American industry of delicious beermaking.
And given that, what's wrong with making deregulation a "starting point"? (A concern of the original article) Imagine for a crazy moment a world in which the default expectation would be for government not to flop its grotesque belly onto the forehead of various industries, not to meddle in the affairs of pre-pubescent drink vendors, not to redistribute $20 billion a year (give or take) of our money to mostly well-heeled agriculture companies just to make sure they don't face competition from poor people. I'm not talking about no regulation here, but rather the idea that if such-and-such activity isn't hurting anybody it shouldn't be subject to governmental micro-managing, license-imposing, winner-picking, and even arrest.
One of the common misconceptions about libertarian enthusiasm for deregulation is that it's some kind of (presumably paid-for) philosophical cover for wanting the very richest Corporates to be even richer. Speaking as a libertarded conspiracy of one, my favorite bedtime deregulation stories are about stuff like beer, air travel, and talking about politics on radio and TV, where after you lifted restrictions that in retrospect sound like they came from another planet, people do what the normally do when left alone—create all kinds of interesting new artifacts, businesses, and even ways of life. Regulations so often piss me off because they so often fall disproportionately on the backs of the little guy, while the big guy—even/especially the one whose misconduct precipitated the regulation in the first place—walks off with a well-lobbied exemption. Generally speaking, the fewer activities are illegal, the freer us opposable-thumbs types are.
Damn.  I wish I'd written that!

But wait....there's more. 

After publishing some of these findings about Jimmy Carter's involvement in the beer boom, James Fallows had to issue an in absentia retraction for Mr. Kain, based on the research of a reader namedTom Hilton:
While I have immense admiration for President Carter, and would love to see him get the credit he deserves for all sorts of things (and who knows; now that Obama has officially supplanted him as History's Greatest Monster, maybe he will), but E. D. Kain's claim that Carter "deregulated the beer industry" (in Kain's words) is grossly inaccurate. What Carter did sign was HR 1337, which legalized homebrewing "for personal or family use, and not for sale"--'deregulating' individual, not commercial, behavior. The legalization of homebrewing did contribute to the growth of the craft beer industry (according to Charlie Papazian, 90% of the pioneer craft brewers started out making homebrew), so President Carter certainly deserves credit for that...but it just as certainly isn't "beer industry" deregulation. 
IMO, the step that really touched off the craft beer explosion was the legalization of brewpubs in various states--WA and CA in 1982, OR in 1983, with others following shortly thereafter. This is consistent with the graph, which shows a leap in numbers from 1979 to 1989 (meaning the growth could have started at any point during that decade); according to the American Brewers Association, the low point was 1982, meaning the turnaround actually began in 1983 (not 1979). Also: of the 1500 breweries in existence today, 2/3 are or began as brewpubs.
That would change everything, wouldn't it?  There's a huge difference between homebrewing and operating a brewpub and operating a full-blown distillery. 
So Eric Kain, who started the discussion, jumped back in
Your reader is quibbling over the definition of deregulation. Removing a barrier to entry to any market is an act of deregulation whether or not access to the market is direct or indirect.

If, for instance, people were not allowed to bake their own bread without a license from the government and strict adherence to a number of regulations, then this would effectively crowd out a lot of people who would otherwise become bakers. One doesn't need to legalize the sale of home baked bread in order to deregulate the bread market, they simply need to legalize the baking itself which provides people with basic access to the craft as well as to the supplies necessary to pursue that craft. Likewise, regulating away home bakers would also crowd out a lot of suppliers who would otherwise provide baking goods and information to home bakers. Soon only bakeries with access to lots of cash and influence would have any market share at all, regardless of whether or not smaller bakeries were legal.

The same phenomenon applies to home brewing. In the pre-Carter days there was little or no access to home brewing supplies, very little knowledge base for do-it-yourselfers to draw from, and far less experimentation with home brewing, making it effectively impossible to gain entry to the beer market for non-corporate brewers. Carter's deregulation essentially stripped away all these barriers to entry, making it possible for a number of people who would otherwise not have entered the market to do so. Did deregulation of brewpubs also help lead to the craft beer explosion? Certainly. But as your reader notes, 90% of craft beers began as home brews. Without Carter's deregulation, the brewpubs themselves would never have taken off. 90% of the craft brews we now have would never have existed. Even if this didn't allow home brewers to directly sell their beer in the wider market, it allowed them to gain the skills and information necessary to do so.

Removing these barriers to entry can rightly be understood as deregulating the beer industry. It's just semantics to suggest otherwise.
My head is starting to hurt from trying to figure this out.
Here's what I do know.  Somewhere, based on this Tempest In A Brewpot, the deregulation of the beer industry brought diversity and competition to the market.  The same thing happened in the airline industry, the deregulation of my own trucking industry, and in every other area where nanny-staters, busybodies and other parasites have decided to get the hell out of your way.  And Jimmy Carter had something to do with it. 

The guy is still alive, you know, but nobody will ask him exactly what happened because once he starts talking he doesn't stop. 

Freedom is good.  As long as you're not hurting anyone else, your freedom is a good thing.  Heck, it's a great thing.  It's the most undervalued asset on this planet.  Nobody planned on me being able to drink a Shiner in a East Fort Worth bar this afternoon.  There is no beer czar.  Therefore, the beer industry isn't screwed up. 

We do have a Drug Czar, an Education Czar, and for all practical purposes, a Healthcare Czar, and therefore those industries are as f***ed up as a soup sandwich. 

Let's deregulate healthcare and education.  We have no idea who will step in to make us happy for less money.  And in the meantime, raise a Shiner Bock in praise of Jimmy Carter, and thank the gods that we don't have a beer czar.