Saturday, February 24, 2007

Will Conservatives Learn to Prioritize?

Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform , wrote an op-ed piece recently titled, What Is to Be Done for Conservatives’ Future, where he discusses what Conservatives need to do in order to advance their agenda in the wake of last fall’s resounding election defeat for the Republican party. In it, he advises:

Conservatism must avoid learning the wrong lessons from 2006. Maybe 10 congressmen and Senators lost due to sui generis personal problems: e-mailing pages, throttling mistresses, breaking the law. The rest fell to the tsunami of unhappiness with the seemingly unending occupation of Iraq.

No Republican lost because he or she was for lower taxes, or pro-second amendment, or committed to parental rights in education, or for their commitment to property rights or abolishing the death tax.

Two lessons: No more throttling mistresses or selling earmarks. And the occupation of Iraq needs to be in the rearview mirror in 2008, not the windshield.

Well, setting aside the fact the Republican party isn’t the least bit “conservative” when you look at the facts, I do recognize that most people think that Republicans are the party of Conservativism. And given that perception, I understand how Conservatives might be wondering whether small government is even viable anymore.

However, when I look around, I have to wonder who Norquist thinks he is talking to. Sure, I applaud him for trying to wake up Conservatives, and get them to focus on what’s important. But from where I stand, he is a lone cry in the wilderness here. Everytime I flip on Limbaugh, Hannity, and Boortz (yes, Boortz is, despite what he may say, a Conservative), they routinely persist in their warmongering. When I talk to the average Conservative on the street, they are still firmly dogmatic about “supporting the troops”, and invading every county that George W. tells them is a threat, real or imagined. Frankly, they just don’t get that their party lost because the rest of America is getting tired of Iraq, and the war. They continue to cling to their faith in W’s plan that bombing and killing is the way to go. That is the foremost issue on their minds.

Meanwhile, the better ideas of Conservatives – cutting government, protecting gun rights, and such – fall by the wayside. As long as “Conservatives” cling to this killing fetish of theirs, the rest of America will have a hard time giving their ideas any serious consideration.

The irony is that I've always heard the criticism that libertarians are out of touch with what people want, because we want to talk about whats important to us, rather than whats important to voters. They claim that we have a fetish for obscure things like privatizing the roads, or unpopular things like drug legalization, when we would be more successful sticking to "safer" positions, like cutting taxes. The charge is that we are so politically deaf, we don't know how to prioritize effectively, and therefore lose credibility. But who is losing sight of priorities, here? Who are the ones who want to push what's important to them, even though most voters have rejected the excesses of that agenda?

Unless Conservatives can learn to prioritize, small government, it would seem, is going to be the biggest casualty to their bloodlust.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Florida: Sales Tax v. Property Tax

I caught this blog entry from The Tax Foundation, a Think Tank to which I often will turn in order to find some very informative information about tax policy and tax statistics. The author expresses some dire concern that Florida may cut property taxes, while increasing the sales tax to compensate. When I read his warning, it reminded me of the difference between a Conservative and a Libertarian.

Conservatives will often make the argument in favor of tax cuts on pragmatic grounds, and usually will resort to pointing out that cutting taxes will increase the amount of revenue to the State, because the increased economic activity will result in more taxable sources, and thus offset the tax cut. The goal, to Conservatives, is to increase the amount of resources given to the State.

Libertarians, on the other hand, make the argument in favor of tax cuts on principled grounds: taxation is, frankly, theft. Theft is wrong. It is immoral to deprive a person of his property without just cause. Cutting taxes reduces or eliminates such theft and is the only morally justifiable course of action. The goal for Libertarians is that individuals be secure in their rights and property.

Where do I stand on this Florida issue of property vs. sales tax? I think, on its face, it sounds like a good idea. A sales tax is, as the author of the blog notes, avoidable. One can purchase off the internet, go across a border, or simply abstain from consuming to reduce one’s tax burden, while a property tax isn’t as escapable. Also, property taxes, in principle, turn us all into renters (one plank of the Communist Manifesto). Just as if you don’t pay the rent on your apartment, so too if you don’t pay the property tax, you can be “evicted” from your home by your landlord, the State.

So, I don’t really have a problem with the swap. I’m not particularly sympathetic to the argument that the State is going to lose money in the deal. Good! Let it! Maybe it’ll create more room for the productive sector to fill in the gaps.

Rockwell on the Ds and Rs

I love it when I see articles written in a themed format. Lew Rockwell, one of my favorite writers and commentators, has written a couple of articles lately that really do a great job portraying the nature of the Democrats’ and Republicans’ ideologies. As usual, he cuts right to the chase, and exposes the old, worn out philosophies that steer the people who inhabit these two gangs.

First, he says of the guiding ideology of Democrats:

That ideology is socialism. I know what you are thinking: these guys aren't socialists, for it's been years since any prominent Democrat openly advocated the nationalization of all industry. So triumphant have free markets been that they don't even believe in this stuff anyway.

That's true enough but it sidesteps the reality that there is no economic activity that these people don't favor regulating to the nth degree. They talk of privacy and civil rights, but when it comes to commerce, they recognize no right of privacy and no individual rights. All property is up for grabs to control and meld in the name of national wellbeing.

That's the practice, but what about the underlying theory? Here too, socialism of the old sort is gone. But the socialist theory of society still burns brightly. Their model is that in the state of nature, meaning in a state of freedom, all is conflict and cruelty. Pathology and ugliness are everywhere. The government is necessary to step in at every level of society to resolve these otherwise intractable conflicts and manage our way into the new epoch of human well-being.


You will recognize them. They believe that a deep and intractable rift separates the sexes such that one is always dominating the other, and so legislation and regulation are always needed to even the score and make up for past wrongs. The same is true of the races, and natives and immigrants, and the abled and disabled. None of these people can possibly work out their differences on their own. They need deep institutional change – even social revolution ushered in by elites – in order to bring about dramatic, Hegelian-style advances.

Only this conflict model explains why these people can't imagine, for example, that business and consumers can have a cooperative relationship rather than an antagonistic one. So it is in every area of life. Even the most long-lasting institutions, such as the family, are seen as fundamentally pathological and exploitative. The same is true in international relations: they don't like Republican wars that much, but offer no model of internationalism that can replace the view that it is always and everywhere war by someone against someone, and so the only way to stop war is to wage one.

Such is the view of today's left. They have never come to terms with the great insight of the old liberal revolution, which is that society is self-managing over the long term. People can work out their problems. Human relationships are characterized most often as cooperative rather than antagonistic. People, not bureaucrats, know what is best for their own, and pursuing their self-interest is compatible with, and even enhances, social well-being....

Then… he turns his eye onto the Republicans:
...In the same way, the Republicans imagine that the social order is rife with conflict, but a conflict of a different sort.

Republicans believe that all of society, whether your town, the nation, or the whole world, is divided between those who adhere to the law and those who are inclined to break it. These they define as good guys and bad guys, but it is not always true since the law these days is not the law written on our hearts but rather the rules as laid down by state masters. But this seemingly important point is completely lost on the Republican mind, since they believe that without the state as lawmaker, all of society and all of the world would collapse into a muddle of chaos and darkness.

This view they get from Hobbes. Not that the average buyer of Ann Coulter’s books reads political philosophy. They rather accept a popular version of the fundamental anti-liberal idea: society is a wreck without Leviathan. This is why they celebrate the police more than merchants, why they think that war deserves more credit than trade for world prosperity, why they call drafted killers for the state the "greatest generation," whereas the pioneers of the 19th century are merely historical curiosities.

In short, their meta-understanding of politics bypassed the liberal revolution of the 18th century and embraced the anti-liberal elements of the Enlightenment. Up with Hobbes, down with Locke: that is their implied creed. Liberty is fine but order, ORDER, is much more important, and order comes from the state. They can’t even fathom the truth that liberty is the mother, not the daughter, of order. That thought is too complex for the Manichean mind.

Now, it is true that Republicans tend to be better on issues of welfare, environmentalism, social legislation and the like. They reject egalitarianism, more or less, and have no strong beef with business. But none of this matters in the defense of liberty because they are intellectually wedded to the state in the most fundamental way. They believe that it and not voluntary cooperation is the source of order in society, and what they fear more than anything is revolution. Freedom, to them, is not a right but something conferred as a reward for good behavior. (Emphasis added - LJ)

It is a curiosity that these same people tend to herald the Declaration of Independence. This was a revolutionary document that postulated that government was the source of disorder, and imagined that society could be forged in absence of the state. The replacement government under the Articles of Confederation was a government in name only, and like the anarchy that Republicans fear more than anything else.

I once heard a leading Republican intellectual, a respected figure with lots of books on everyone’s shelves, express profound regret when the Soviet Union was falling apart. The problem, from this person’s perspective, is that this led to disorder, and order – meaning control even by the Soviet state – is the fundamental conservative value. That about sums it up. Even communism is to be tolerated so long as it keeps away what they dread more than death: people within their rights doing whatever they want.

But these days we see all around us how liberty generates order and how this order is self-sustaining. We live in private communities. We see the glorious world of the web. We benefit daily, hourly, minute-by-minute, from an order that is not imposed from without but rather generated from within, by that remarkable capacity we have for pursuing self-interest while benefiting the whole. Here are the great mystery and majesty of social order, expressed so well in the act of economic exchange.

Republicans by contrast live intellectually in a world long past, a world of warring states and societies made up of fixed classes that fought over ever-dwindling resources, a world unleavened by enterprise and individual initiative. They imagine themselves to be the class of rulers, the aristocrats, the philosopher kings, the high clerics, the landowners, and to keep that power, they gladly fuel the basest of human instincts: nationalism, jingoism, and hate. Keeping them at bay means keeping the world of their imaginations at bay, and that is a very good and important thing for the sake of civilization.

I couldn’t have said it better myself. Libertarians have long asserted that there is very little difference, in principle, between Democrats and Republicans. They are both State-Worshippers. They both view the State as God, who will save us from the bogeyman, and elevate us to a glorious new Garden of Eden. They are both elitist to the core, and have a profound distain for ordinary people in society, who seek to live their lives in their own fashion.

I was just chatting with an old acquaintance of mine the other day – a staunch Democrat – who openly admitted that he is an elitist, thinks most people need to have their lives managed by the State (translation: by him), because most people don’t live up to his expectations of how they should be behaving. What arrogance!

These days, it’s pretty hard to distinguish a D from an R, that’s for sure. They are two slightly different shades of the same collectivist, anti-liberty colors.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Ohio Senate: Restrict Use of Eminent Domain


According to a Cleveland Plain Dealer article , the Ohio State Senate is coming around to curbing one of the most atrocious government powers, eminent domain, which is a relic of the ancient "Divine Right of Kings" ideology, which presupposes that political authorities have the final say over all property in existence.

I agree with Dr. Sam Staley, when he says.

Should a simple majority vote determine whether you should enjoy the privileges of free speech, the right to vote, or practice religion? The idea would repulse most Americans. Our Constitution enshrines these rights as core values in our American democracy.

Yet, a similar question about core principles is unfolding in a Hamilton County courtroom as the city of Norwood defends its right to forcibly take the property of some of its residents and give it to another private party. The city thinks a private developer has a better plan - he wants to build
condominiums, offices and a few stores in place of the older, quaint homes owned by more than 70 homeowners and businesses. About 10 percent of the property owners don't want to sell. So the city is forcing them to.

This summary may seem simplistic, but it captures the essence of how eminent domain is used in America's cities. Governments no longer have to show their projects will serve a public use, or that the primary benefit will be to the public, not another private person or business. All it takes is the city council mustering a majority vote to decide whose plan is better. Homeownership becomes a privilege granted by the local government. (Emphasis added - LJ)

This is the essence of socialism, my friends. When "majority rule" takes precedence over individual rights, then the very concept of individual liberty and human rights becomes illusory. If a "majority" of people in a community can be allowed to say, "tear down my neighbors house" at any given moment, then how can we say we are free? Or rather, how can we even say we are secure???

Monday, February 19, 2007

How Eminent Domain Abuse Hurts the Black Community

This came in my inbox the other day. Thought I would pass it on. The Castle Coalition does a heroic job of fighting Eminent Domain abuse, and should be considered worthy of your support. - LJ


February 14, 2007
New Study Details Devastating Effects of Eminent Domain Abuse on African Americans

Arlington, Va. - “Eminent domain has become what the founding fathers sought to prevent: a tool that takes from the poor and the politically weak to give to the rich and politically powerful,” concludes Dr. Mindy Fullilove in her new report released today titled, “Eminent Domain & African Americans: What is the Price of the Commons?” The report is available at

Eminent Domain & African Americans is the first in a new series of independently authored reports published by the Institute for Justice, Perspectives on Eminent Domain Abuse, which will examine the different aspects of eminent domain abuse from the vantage point of noted national experts. The release of this inaugural report is particularly timely this month, as millions around the nation learn about African American history.

In this study, Dr. Fullilove, a research psychiatrist at the New York State Psychiatric Institute and a professor of clinical psychiatry and public health at Columbia University, examines the effects of eminent domain abuse on the African American community. Focusing specifically on the Federal Housing Act (FHA) of 1949, Dr. Fullilove finds that “[b]etween 1949 and 1973 … 2,532 projects were carried out in 992 cities that displaced one million people, two-thirds of them African American,” making blacks “five times more likely to be displaced than they should have been given their numbers in the population.”

Although urban renewal under the FHA was discontinued in 1973, Dr. Fullilove reported “the tools of urban renewal had been honed through 20 years of projects. Politicians and developers found that they could repackage eminent domain and government subsidies in many new ways, facilitating the taking of land for ‘higher uses.’”

Dr. Fullilove shares the story of David Jenkins-who lost his Philadelphia home to urban renewal in the 1950s-to illustrate the devastating impacts of forced displacement. “Within these neighborhoods there existed social, political, cultural, and economic networks that functioned for both individual and common good,” explains Dr. Fullilove. “These networks were the ‘commons’ of the residents, a system of complex relationships, shared activities, and common goals”-the loss of which cannot be replaced or remedied.

“What the government takes from people is not a home, with a small ‘h’, but Home in the largest sense of the word: a place in the world, a community, neighbors and services, a social and cultural milieu, an economic anchor that provides security during the ups and downs of life, a commons that sustains the group by offering shared goods and services,” continues Dr. Fullilove.

“Dr. Fullilove’s pioneering research reinforces the need for state and federal legislative reforms of eminent domain laws,” said Steven Anderson, director of the Castle Coalition, which helps homeowners nationwide fight eminent domain abuse. The Castle Coalition is a grassroots organization coordinated by the Institute for Justice, which litigated the Kelo eminent domain case before the U.S. Supreme Court in 2005. Anderson said, “Property owners nationwide-particularly minorities, as evidenced by this paper-will remain vulnerable to seizures by tax-hungry governments for land-hungry developers until the use of eminent domain is reined in and limited to only true public uses.”

A recent example of eminent domain targeting African American communities can be found in Riviera Beach, Fla. Despite the state’s new restrictions on eminent domain, city officials are pursuing a plan to remove thousands of mostly low-income, African American residents from their waterfront homes and businesses to make way for a luxury housing and yachting complex. The Institute for Justice is representing property owners there who want to protect their rights and save what rightfully belongs to them.

In addition to her clinical and teaching duties, Dr. Fullilove is the author of Root Shock: How Tearing Up City Neighborhoods Hurts America, and What We Can Do About It, which takes a powerful look at the effects of urban renewal on African Americans. She coined the term “root shock” to describe the devastating effects of forced displacement.

# # #
Christina Walsh
Castle Coalition Coordinator
Institute for Justice
901 N. Glebe Road, Suite 900
Arlington, VA 22203
(703) 682-9320

P.S. HELP THE CASTLE COALITION GROW! Forward this message to your friends. They can sign-up here:

Taking McCain out of McCain-Feingold

A repost from PatriotPostBlog

In the 1990s, after dirtying his hands with infamous Savings and Loan kingpin Charles Keating, John McCain became the voice of campaign-finance reform. The legislation that he co-championed with Democrat Russ Feingold tried to rewrite the rules about how campaigns for public office should be financed. First Amendment rights were trampled along the way, and now there is more money in politics than ever before, and even McCain himself can no longer walk the line he once tried to foist on others. He is currently considering opting out of public financing for his presidential bid, and if he hopes to match the hundreds of millions of dollars that will be raised by his rivals, he will most likely go private.

As a reformer, McCain tried to rein in 527s and soft money, but now that he is a candidate, he has tapped into the GOP fundraising giants who have rebuilt the soft-money machine. Six of his eight national-finance co-chairmen have contributed at least 3.5 million in soft money and 527 donations since 1998. How McCain will explain his backslide on this issue will require some first-rate election-season gymnastics.

I know a lot of McCain fans that are going to stick their head in the sand about this one. They'll deny that the real point of "campaign finance reform" is to squash independents and other would be challengers to the politically entrenched - meanwhile the political system remains awash in "soft" money.

The problem isn't money in politics. Its the fact that government is so big and powerful that there is a tremendous incentive to try to harness that power - or at least obtain enough influence to insulate oneself against misuse of power.

If we made government smaller, there wouldn't be this huge financing "problem", because there would be nothing to buy from the political system.