Monday, November 14, 2005
The value of taxation is that it forces people to contribute to the community. But this value is directly at odds with the value of reason. Taxes replace the rational dialogue that informs reasoned choices with the bludgeon of the state. If a person fails to pay taxes, the state works physical violence against him and his property. This is why taxes seem so unsettling, even to the hunter who sees the immediate impact of his contribution. This tension between reason and taxation should be obvious, although I suppose for some the guise of the state makes violence disappear, along with that tension. It seems to me that any advocate of reason would naturally also be an advocate of self-determination and non-violence; taxation relies on the evisceration of both.
Clearly, this latter consluion is not universally ture, because the path to forced communalism involves a great deal of violence. Yet, all the benefits that communalism supposedly bestows on a society can be had at a much lower cost, in both lives and capital, through trade. Schooling, police and fire protection, food, military, highways, voting machines, even government itself (through arbitration and private law, like contract) can all be more effectively acquired through consensual trade. It is true that the state has provided these things in the past, but only at the price of reason, self-determination, and violence. Some even attribute the success of America to communalism, yet this country was founded and continues to prosper on principals far afield from anything resembling communalism. Perhaps you distrust trade and the market that develops with its free exercise, but it is simply irrational to suggest America has prospered for any other reason but trade, or that our societal structures and benefits would fall apart if not for the forced communalism of taxation.
Wednesday, July 20, 2005
Given that the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling permitting governments to take private property in the name of higher tax revenue effectively guts federal constitutional protections against condemnation, the policies and practices of local governments on eminent domain are all the more relevant. Peoria is the only city in Arizona, and perhaps the nation, that has a formal eminent domain policy.
On its face, Peoria’s policy acknowledges the “the private property rights guaranteed by the Arizona and United States Constitutions.” The policy takes a step in the right direction by giving limited deference to owner-occupied housing, acknowledging the severe injustice in taking someone’s home by force.
Unfortunately, the policy also goes out of its way to outline procedures for condemning property for “third party development projects” – the very sort of eminent domain abuse at work in the recent Supreme Court decision.
A truly responsible eminent domain policy would forbid, not direct, this sort of legitimized theft.
At the very least, the policy should explicitly reflect the language of the state constitution which states that the authority to take private property only extends to matters of “public use”; it does not allow eminent domain for private use or what the city calls “public purpose.” This means abandoning the sections of the policy that permit the city to give condemned property to third parties and relying strictly on the constitution’s “public use” requirement. The difference between “use” and “purpose” is large; as large as a new condo complex built on top of an old neighborhood.
Goldwater Institute Study: Alternatives to Eminent Domain
Monday, July 18, 2005
One could be forgiven for thinking so, given the accolades they win from everyone from terrorism experts to city officials.
Scottsdale puts so much stock in the techno-baubles that it wants to cover six miles of the Loop 101 with 24-hour surveillance.
But if our experiences with terrorism have taught us anything it is that the best security cameras seem to accomplish is provide terrifying footage of missed opportunities to nab the bad guys. Remember the haunting image of Mohamed Atta at Logan Intl.? No doubt you have seen pictures of the seemingly-innocuous hikers boarding the London Tube. These images do nothing to bring back the dead, or prevent future attacks.
The same can be said for cameras on the 101. A camera might help in dispatching police to the scene of an accident, but a patrol car in the break-down lane would be far more effective in actually preventing the crash. Speeders and HOV-lane scofflaws aren’t likely to respond to a tiny camera perched above the 5:00 p.m. mêlée and a ticket that comes weeks later. Perhaps a sign reminding motorists “You are being watched” would make the cameras more effective.
But that still leaves the underlying question untouched: Do you want to be watched? “Sure,” many say, in this age of terrorism. “I have nothing to hide.” But if we get nothing more than evening-news footage of the bad guys when it is already too late to act, why waste our time and money to live in an ineffective police-state? If we want to drop the Iron Curtain on America, let’s do it – these Iron Mini-Blinds just don’t go with the drapes.
As the Cato Institute’s Melanie Scarborough puts it, “If a suicide bomber walks intothe rotunda of the Jefferson Memorial with explosives strapped to his body, a police officer watching at a remote site can do nothing to prevent disaster." Ditto for that jackass doing 90 mph in the right lane.
Thursday, July 14, 2005
When the bombs went off in London last Wednesday, you heard many broadcasters talking about Londoners showing defiance by continuing with their daily activities. Furthermore, you heard world leaders calling the attack on London as an attack on civilization and the overused phrase, "our way of life." A few years ago, when terrorism hit Saudi Arabia and Morocco, the same sentiment that was seen last week was absent. Many broadcasters covered those two attacks as "just another common event in the Arab/Muslim world--lack of in depth coverage from the "big three"--CNN, FOX, and MSNBC."
1) Attacks in the Arab world are not attacks "on our way of life" because they do not practice "our way of life." These are largely patriarchal, backward countries that deny the most basic liberties to their own citizens. You can draw all sorts of reactionary parallelisms to the post-Patriot Act United States, but the fact remains that Western women are not property, we do not summarily execute people in the streets, etc. Can you honestly say that an attack in Saudi Arabia(!) is tantamount to an attack in London, and by extension that society in Saudi Arabia is the same as in London?
2) The coverage of Middle Eastern attacks is prominent because it serves as a convenient way to criticize the Bush administration, or more specifically the Bush Doctrine. Bad news in the Middle East means bad news for the Administration, specifically and generally. These are policy zingers, not news stories. Or are you among the self-proclaimed illuminati who deny a liberal bias in the media? Even Bill Clinton doesn't deny that fact.
Monday, July 11, 2005
First Plank: Abolition of property in land and the application of all rents of land to public purposes. (Zoning - Model ordinances proposed by Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover widely adopted. Supreme Court ruled "zoning" to be "constitutional" in 1921. Private owners of property required to get permission from government to use their property. Federally owned lands are leased for grazing, mining, timber usages, the fees being paid into the U.S. Treasury.)
Second Plank: A heavy progressive or graduated income tax. (Corporate Tax Act of 1909. The 16th Amendment, ratified in 1913. The Revenue Act of 1913, section 2, Income Tax. These laws have been purposely misapplied against American citizens to this day.)
Third Plank: Abolition of all rights of inheritance. (Partially accomplished by enactment of various state and federal "estate tax" laws taxing the "privilege" of transfering property after death and gift before death.)
Fourth Plank: CONFISCATION OF THE PROPERTY OF ALL EMIGRANTS AND REBELS. (Various civil asset forfiture laws accomplish this nicely, and legally.)
Fifth Plank: Centralization of credit in the hands of the State, by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly. (The Federal Reserve Bank, 1913 - the system of privately-owned Federal Reserve banks which maintain a monopoly on the fiat paper money in circulation. Also, the Fed sets interest rates based on ... well, it sets interest rates.)
Sixth Plank: Centralization of the means of communications and transportation in the hands of the State. (Federal Radio Commission, 1927; Federal Communications Commission, 1934; Air Commerce Act of 1926; Civil Aeronautics Act of 1938; Federal Aviation Agency, 1958; becoming part of the Department of Transportation in 1966; Federal Highway Act of 1916 (federal funds made available to States for highway construction); Interstate Highway System, 1944 (funding began 1956); Interstate Commerce Commission given authority by Congress to regulate trucking and carriers on inland waterways, 1935-40; Department of Transportation, 1966.)
Seventh Plank: Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the State, the bringing into cultivation of waste lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan. (Department of Agriculture, 1862; Agriculture Adjustment Act of 1933 -- farmers will receive government aid if and only if they relinquish control of farming activities; Tennessee Valley Authority, 1933 with the Hoover Dam completed in 1936.)
Eighth Plank: Equal liability of all to labor. Establishment of industrial armies especially for agriculture. (First labor unions, known as federations, appeared in 1820. National Labor Union established 1866. American Federation of Labor established 1886. Interstate Commerce Act of 1887 placed railways under federal regulation. Department of Labor, 1913. Labor-management negotiations sanctioned under Railway Labor Act of 1926. Civil Works Administration, 1933. National Labor Relations Act of 1935, stated purpose to free inter-state commerce from disruptive strikes by eliminating the cause of the strike. Works Progress Administration 1935. Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, mandated 40-hour work week and time-and-a-half for overtime, set "minimum wage" scale. Civil Rights Act of 1964, effectively the equal liability of all to labor.)
Ninth Plank: Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries, gradual abolition of the distinction between town and country, by a more equitable distribution of population over the country. (Food processing companies, with the co-operation of the Farmers Home Administration foreclosures, are buying up farms and creating "conglomerates." Moreover, federal "grants-in-aid" effectively destroy the concept of independant local, state, and fedreal governments.)
Tenth Plank: Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children's factory labor in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production. (Gradual shift from private education to government schools began in the Northern States, early 1800's. 1887: federal money (unconstitutionally) began funding specialized education. Smith-Lever Act of 1914, vocational education; Smith-Hughes Act of 1917 and other relief acts of the 1930's. Federal school lunch program of 1935; National School Lunch Act of 1946. National Defense Education Act of 1958, a reaction to Russia's Sputnik satellite demonstration, provided grants to education specialties. Federal school aid law passed, 1965, greatly enlarged federal role in education, "head-start" programs, textbooks, library books. No Child Left Behind, 2002, gives authority to the federal government to set educational standards.)
(Sources: Encyclopedia Britannica, criminalgovernment.com)
On MTV, "Punk'd" is a hidden camera show that tries to deceive celebrities. Host Ashton Kutcher usually succeeds.
In Arizona, "Punk'd" is the buzzword in an ad campaign that tries to deceive the public, funded by a group calling itself Early Childhood Arizona. Let's hope the real-life version turns out differently.
The campaign promotes state funding of "early childhood development programs," read all-day kindergarten, by drawing questionable connections between the programs and everything from high school dropout rates to poor test scores to the economic success of the bioscience industry in Arizona.
It seems spurious to link all-day kindergarten to far-flung benchmarks like economic growth, let alone the biosciences specifically, when the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has found that by third grade, there are no achievement differences between students who attended half-day kindergarten and those who attended full-day kindergarten. The findings of the NCES study echo the warnings of HeadStart co-founder Ed Zigler: early childhood education cannot solve problems like high school dropout rates and low test scores, as Early Childhood Arizona claims. These problems find their roots after students leave kindergarten, not before.
Early Childhood Arizona advocates a centralized and expanded bureaucracy to oversee early childhood education to "create positive synergy between existing early childhood education programs." But positive synergy is positively useless unless it creates incentives for schools to change, like empowering parents to make choices about their child's education.
If Arizonans believe the claims of Early Childhood Arizona, they, like Kutcher's celebrity marks, will find themselves punk'd.
Wednesday, June 29, 2005
Something is wrong with a city's priorities when running golf courses comes
before paying employees.
Mesa spends $2.5 million to run two city-owned golf courses. At the same
time, city employees are being asked to forgo cost-of-living adjustments for
the next two years.
While glittering greens may look great in convention brochures and nicely
complement the other 19 golf courses in Mesa, a round on the municipal back
nine is cold comfort to those employees facing de facto pay cuts.
Reasonable people may disagree about the proper role of government; but
municipal golf courses shouldn't cause much contention.
After all, it is hard to discern the public benefit in a playing a round of
golf. When you consider that public courses are draining precious tax
dollars from payrolls, something is clearly amiss. Public parks with swing
sets and slides, these are not.
Mesa is not alone in financing lavish personal recreation at public expense.
Tempe and Glendale each run two courses; Kingman, Page, and Casa Grande have
eighteen holes each. These one- and two-course operations are positively
quaint compared to other Arizona cities. Tucson has 5 city-owned courses,
Phoenix runs 7, Sun City has 8.
Maybe these public links wouldn't seem so fantastical if Arizona didn't have
over 300 privately owned courses, many of them reasonably priced and most
open to the public. But even if the market was not already well served by
the private sector, government-run luxuries like golf courses make about as
much sense as government-run amusement parks or night clubs- none at all.
Tuesday, June 21, 2005
But what the biblical Chicken Littles in Mesa don't realize is that government spending is not a measure of community strength; it's a reflection of its weakness.
Consider the almost $14 million, more than a quarter of Mesa's prospective deficit, tied up in funding for the arts and museums. These are certainly necessary attributes of a strong community, but what does it say about the strength of a community when its citizens must be coerced into funding them by the taxman?
Government spending is not a measure of community strength; it's a reflection of
The same goes for stadiums and convention centers; if citizens want them, they should fund them voluntarily, not with taxes.
Is it possible the Mesa Arts Center could raise its $4.7 million budget through ticket sales and donations? If it cannot, then the community that Vice Mayor Walters decries losing is already lost.
Governments do best what individuals alone cannot, like provide police and courts; when it comes to cultural development, convention centers, and stadiums, leave it to individuals to pick up the tab through ticket sales and donations. Walters may be surprised to find her community is stronger than she seems to think--cut the funding and we'll find out.
Friday, June 17, 2005
Tuesday, June 07, 2005
The Arizona Registrar of Contractors (ROC) is busy protecting vulnerable consumers in
Perhaps it is because private firms like the Better Business Bureau do such a good job of advancing the ROCs core mission of protecting the health, safety and welfare of the public that the ROC has been so willing to step beyond its legitimate authority of late.
In the past year, instead of only focusing on helping consumers to resolve claims against contractors who walk off a job or do shoddy work, the ROC has increased its purview to include seeking out all unlicensed contractors, even those who operate legally. It has become something of a pseudo law-enforcement agency, complete with most-wanted lists and sting operations.
The ROC is a prime example of a regulatory agency out of control. And the costs to consumers and contractors, both in terms of dollars and freedoms, are mounting.
The agency helps justifies its existence with incredible tales of entire neighborhoods swindled by fly-by-night contractors. Perhaps the equally incredible tale of the ROC swooping in to save the City of
Monday, June 06, 2005
The purpose of courts is emphatically to say what the law is, not what it should be. The democratic process was trampled in this ruling - this is the very definition of judicial activism. I will be shocked, just shocked if Tom Delay doesn't bring this up when the Senate votes on Judge Janice Brown.
Seriously, though, this is judicial activism and it goes to the heart of resurrecting the debate over Federalism, vis-à-vis Article 1, Section 8. This is a perfect example of why we need judges like Brown on the federal bench. We need judges who recognize that the powers of the federal government extend only as far as Art. 1, 8 casts them.
Is this a debate that needs "resurrecting," or has it been raging since 1787? It did indeed start in 1787, but it died in the late 1930s when FDR strong-armed the courts into approving the federal tyranny that was the New Deal. It has been inching its way out of the grave ever since 1980. Why else, pray tell, did we need a constitutional amendment to ban alcohol in 1919, but Congress could ban marijuana (and many other drugs) in 1970 with the legislation at issue here?