Saturday, January 19, 2013

The "Libertarian Ideal" is neither libertarian nor ideal.

A lot of talk has come up from conservative quarters about "government so small you can drown it in your bathtub". It makes for great campaign rhetoric, and it sounds really good on a flyer. But does it work? Let me explain why it may not be such a great idea in practice.

Let's say you and I start our own little Galt Gulch. I'm a fair bit wealthier than you, so I buy a couple of thousand acres of land. You get a good deal on a section, and you settle down.

Pretty soon, I decide I really don't like you. The reason is immaterial; maybe you listen to Justin Beiber and I don't want that in my libertarian paradise. I quickly realize that the land around your nice little section is for sale in every direction. So I buy it.

Suddenly, you're your own little island, with no means of entrance or exit. You are completely dependent on me. I haven't done anything to trespass on your property, I haven't assaulted you...nothing that would amount to committing a crime, where we would want to get the authorities involved. I haven't even restricted your movement, as long as you stay on your land.

You can't get a variance; that would involve a sort of eminent domain, and an abridgement of my rights as a property owner. You can't ask the county to build you a road; it's my land, my rights. Suddenly, unless you have a well developed airstrip, you're not getting your goods to market and all of your production is useless except for your own subsistence.

So you come to me in desperation. You need relief. I offer to build a toll road...but I set the tolls. Because you are the only customer and I want to receive a return on my investment, I charge draconian tolls. I can, right, no business regulation? You finally sell out to me for pennies on the dollar and head off for more socialist pastures.

These are not hypothetical examples. Sure, the specifics are hypothetical, but because there is no government regulation, my control of the wealth, and the land, allows me to get wealthier at your expense. And because you insisted on a lack of government regulations, there's really nothing you can do about it. A feudal system quickly develops, and the poorer members of society begin to serve the wealthier members.

Just like a pyramid scheme, this is pretty good, as long as you are at the top. But as long as you're part of the support structure, bearing the weight of society gets pretty tiring pretty quick. Your Libertarian dream just turned into a nightmare.

Now, it's equally obvious that overregulation stymies growth. But a total lack of regulation creates oppression, and upward mobility that was once aspired to suddenly becomes a privilege for the very few.

I have said for some time that what we need is smarter government, not necessarily smaller government. There's a time and a place to regulate, but all the time isn't the time, and everywhere isn't the place.

So the next time someone tries to pitch a "perfect" Libertarian system, remember, it's good to be king; not so good if you ain't the king!

Will you be a Go-Getter or a Grumbler?

One of my favorite old time yarns concerns a travelling salesman who came upon a farmhouse in the middle of the country. He saw an old hound dog sitting on the porch, howling away. After the dog quieted down some, he rang the doorbell and an old farmer came out. He started his sales pitch, and the dog started in again. Again, the dog quieted down, but kicked it up just as the salesman was trying to continue his pitch.

Finally, exasperated, the salesman looked at the farmer and asked "what in the WORLD is wrong with that dog?"

"I dunno", the farmer replied, "probably sat on a burr or something."

"So why doesn't he get off of that burr?"

The farmer shrugged, "I dunno. I guess he'd rather holler".

We have a lot of pressing problems in the world; will you go out and be a go getter, or will you be a grumbler?

In an attempt to make a difference, I have started a petition to create a five year plan to eliminate homelessness on the White House petition site. Won't you join with me and sign the petition so that together we can make a difference? Petition

Friday, January 4, 2013

Republicans and Racism

I have a a fair amount of Republican friends, some of whom may choose to re-evaluate their status after reading this article. that's fair enough; I am speaking in generalities here, and that shouldn't require constant disclaimers.

I also have number of NON Republican friends, a strong number of whom consider the GOP to be racist. I'm usually dismissive of that kind of talk, but after the last election, I have to wonder if there's more truth than non truth.

Before going forward, let me be very clear: this is not about whether you did or did not vote for Obama. This is about whether fears and concerns about the future were based primarily on race, rather than reality.

Republicans should have loved Obama's first term. Gun control? Not a whimper, aside from the chatter that followed the unfortunate shooting of Gabriel Giffords. Trickle down economics? Done, to the point of not one, but TWO stimulus packages that favored big banks, interest rates held at historic lows, and tax policy that retained capital gains at a low rate favoring the wealthy. War President? He continued action on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, only scaling down the latter on a timetable established by his predecessor.

Add to that his continuation of detentions at Guantanamo Bay, extension of Patriot Act Provisions, and adoption of a longstanding Republican health care model based on an individual mandate, and you could have called this guy Bush III.

But Republicans suddenly became fiscal conservatives, and the deficits that "didn't matter" under Bush II became deficits that mattered. And the same people that gave W a blank check to reinvigorate the economy got squeamish.

But even that paled in comparison to their Presidential choice. If they wanted a candidate who could make government so small "you can drown it in a bathtub", they had that candidate. They had that chance. Ron Paul offered all of that and more.

Instead they chose as a candidate the one who authored the model for the ACA; a big government, big spender from Massachussetts. Why? Aside from his contempt for the poor, there really was not a huge difference between Obama and Romney. No radical new tax plan, no spending reduction plan, nothing that would have altered the suddenly all important budget significantly. No exit strategy for the remaining war in Afghanistan, or government reduction plan, when these issues were allegedly important. Only vague suggestions, altogether reminiscent of the "change" mantra from 4 years ago.

Ahhh, but it gets better. The GOP prides itself on the Christian Right (a group that is neither). And having lived for most of my life around people who self identify as part of the Christian Right, I know that in their worship, they're pretty open about the feeling that the LDS church is a cult. There have been volumes of books written on the subject, and all you need to do is walk into a Christian bookstore OUTSIDE of the state of Utah, and you'll find them prominently displayed in the cult section. Yet all of that not only didn't matter to these people, they literally shouted down anyone who felt that it SHOULD matter.

Seeing all of this, one has to wonder why. Why they would select as their candidate a priesthood holder in a faith they consider to be evil over another candidate whose policies were largely a continuation of the policies of his predecessor. And as I search the horizon, I can find only one.

Are Republicans racists? I can't call that, really. I know a good number of Republicans who are decent people, who don't have a racist bone in their body. Those people were usually the ones who reluctantly voted for Romney, in my personal experience. But it's starting to appear there is at least a plurality within the party that does the label does fit. And that plurality, I believe, is significant enough that no thinking conservative would want to be involved with a party that allows and even embraces it.