Friday, August 29, 2008

A reality-check list

In the world of metaphysics, there are no real accidents and we always get what we ask for. In the world of politics, we often get poor results because we ask such poor questions.

The Greek philosopher Socrates had it right. Good questions can expose wrong thinking. That’s why I keep a set of questions handy to spring on politicians when they ask me for my votes.

My questions are both factual and philosophical. My factual questions expose ignorance. The philosophical ones expose immorality, including hypocrisy. I will not vote for politicians who are fundamentally ignorant about the role and power of government and immoral with its use. Here are my questions (and some reasons for asking).

1. How many constitutions does Indiana have and when were they ratified? (This is a factual question relating to whether politicians know even the first thing about our state’s constitutional government.)

2. Do you believe that government has the right to take 100 percent of what Americans earn and own? If not, what percentage is acceptable to you? (Our governments currently consume about 60 percent of our paychecks.)

3. Do you believe in forcing others to do things if those things are good for them? Do you believe in being forced to do things if they are good for you? Who should decide what is good for you and your family? (These questions expose whether politicians abide by the Golden Rule. Most support compulsory taxes, education and savings, as well as using force to jail others who merely offend them.)

4. Do you believe in taking other people's property if it is for a good cause? Do you believe in having your property taken if it is for a good cause? Who should decide what is a good cause? (These questions reflect whether politicians follow the commandment that prohibits stealing or instead the principles of Robin Hood.)

5. Do you take responsibility for everyone else's needs? Should everyone else be responsible for your needs? (These questions are about the role of government. Hint: Karl Marx would have answered “yes.”) Which needs?

6. Should you be responsible to pay for the consequences of other adults’ unhealthy lifestyle choices? Should other people be responsible for your bad choices? (These questions are about self-responsibility.)

7. Should Americans be required to ask government’s permission to work in their chosen professions? To ensure high standards, should government license lawyers, home inspectors and barbers? How ‘bout journalists?

8. Should government serve special-interest groups?

9. Do you know what is best for other adults and their children? (This question exposes delusion. Only deluded people presume to know what is best for you and me.)

10. Can you name any government programs that have solved the problems for which they were created? (There are thousands of programs to consider, but very few correct answers. Good luck.)

11. Should jurors be punished for refusing to apply bad laws? (This is a trick question. Under Indiana’s two constitutions, ratified in 1816 and 1851, jurors have the power to trump the wisdom of legislators. It’s good to remind politicians and jurors of this from time to time.)

Our political system is only as good as our political discourse. Our discourse is only as good as the issues we discuss. If we raise the standards of our discussion, we will raise the quality of our representative government. Let’s get started today.

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Saturday, June 23, 2007

A solution for illegal immigration

Let me tell you up front: I'm a philosophical libertarian, so I don't really believe in national borders. Practically, I don't think they work or are fool-proof, particularly given the fools that run our national government. Ethically, I don't see where anyone has moral authority to forcibly stop or intimidate anyone else from exercising their natural rights to trade or travel to seek better ways of life. Economically, there's absolutely no justification for preventing the flow of goods, services and people, where not only participants but also the whole of society gains from exchange.

Alas, I support the general idea of amnesty to allow so-called "illegals" to remain in the United States without criminal sanctions. I have never had a problem with their coming to the United States, so I certainly don't believe in their imprisonment or deportation. I have no problem with them living in my neighborhood either, just so long as they are honest, nonviolent and self-sufficient, which they seem to be. Illegals are proof that our government's border security doesn't work and that as individuals we have no moral or economic justification to interfere with them, unless as individuals they do us wrong.

Having said this, I have only one problem with illegals, and a big one, for which our national discussion of a national border is universally irrelevant. The problem is not an economic one nor a moral one nor one of practicality. The problem is strictly a political one, and one which calls strictly for an easy political solution.

The political solution for illegals is this: give them amnesty from prosecution and deportation, but do not give them easy access to free government services, such as welfare, or to the right to vote via fast-tracking their citizenship. Living and working within the fifty states is one thing. Getting free government hand-outs and having the privilege to vote, and thus the power to steal other people's rights and property for self-interests, are altogether different. Perhaps if we can first prevent illegals from voting to convert other people's interests, then maybe we can eventually stop ourselves from the same insidious practice.

This political solution doesn't call for a stronger border, but instead a stronger will to prevent illegals from acquiring welfare and the privilege to vote. If they want such benefits, they need to first come here legally and qualify. Otherwise, let them remain citizens of their nations of origin, with natural rights to seek better lives here, but without any political privileges.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

License lawmakers, not massage therapists

Indiana lawmakers should set up a bureaucracy to license themselves long before they set up a new one, at public expense, to license massage therapists. Hoosiers do not need the state's help distinguishing between legitimate massage therapists and prostitutes.

If public safety is the reason for licensing, as proponents claim, then lawmakers should be the first professionals to be licensed. Their incompetence profoundly affects the lives of more people than any other profession. Their negligence in making policy can wreak havoc in our lives. If licensing is such a good thing to keep standards high, let's license lawmakers first.

To be licensed and certified, lawmakers should be required to pass a litany of classes and tests, just as they require lawyers, doctors and realtors to do at considerable expense.

First and foremost, they should be tested on Indiana's constitution, which should be required reading even before they file their candidacies. Once elected, they should be required to cite constitutional authority for each of their legislative acts. If lawmakers read their constitutions, they'd realize how little authority they've actually been delegated, and how much they've just taken from the rest of us through plunder.

Lawmakers should also be required to pass ethics classes on the morality of taking property from some citizens to give to special interest groups. The classes might also help them find moral courage to resist voting for needless regulatory legislation just because of petty political peer pressure.

A simple economics class would show them that prosperity and wealth comes from having more individual liberty, not more government, which is largely parasitic and non-productive, just as a new massage therapy bureaucracy will be.

Lawmakers should also take control-issue classes, so that they don't just act out to fulfill their own prejudices when they vote to control other people's lives and to put others who merely offend them in jail. All incumbents should take Continuing Control-Issue classes.

What's good for the goose is good for the gander, but our ganders should be licensed first.

(Co-written with Jon S. Zwayer)

Friday, November 03, 2006

Better government is as easy as standing up, mate

Those readers who watch television have probably seen a recent Geico insurance commercial about the ease of saving money. Check it out at Geico videos.

"Uh huh, easy money," remarks the Geico gecko in his adorable British accent. The commercial's message is that saving money on our car insurance is as easy as going to

"Which is like what?," asks the gecko, "(Like) asking you to stand up? (It's like I say to you), 'If you stand up, you can save loads of money.' What the hell, you're going to be like, 'No thanks. I'm so rich, I think I'm going to keep my seat.'"

Elections are a lot like shopping for car insurance on the Internet. Not only are they now dependent on computers, they're all about our exercise of choices.

What if there was one choice on the ballot that could save us loads of money, give us more personal choices and freedom, protect us from special interest groups and encourage responsibility in our neighbors? What if more prosperity, choices and integrity were as easy as voting for Libertarian Party candidates?

"But yikes, that would mean I'd have to vote Libertarian," responds a voter.

"Which is like what?," asks the gecko, "(Like) asking you to stand up? (It's like I say to you), 'If you stand up, you can save loads of tax money, gain your personal freedom back and quit being bullied into paying other people's way.' What the hell, you're going to be like, 'No thanks. I'm so rich, free and charitable, I think I'm going to keep my seat.'"

Monday, October 16, 2006

Should we license journalists?

Indiana has over 40 licensed professions - everything from licensed doctors and nurses to licensed lawyers and hypnotists. Every year these professionals pony up money and ask permission from the state to call themselves professional whatevers.

The justification for this licensing process and its continuing education requirements is to ensure quality service to the public. In effect, when you listen to or hire a state licensed professional, the state certifies that the professional has met certain minimum standards in educational achievement, board certification and the taking of continuing education courses.

This way, the logic goes, the public is ensured that everyone who holds themselves out, for example, as a doctor or lawyer or teacher will meet minimum medical, legal and teaching standards.

If government can set a meaningful minimum standard for professional services, shouldn't we want every profession to be licensed? Midwives were added to the list a couple years ago. Roofers, lawn cutters, gutter installers and car mechanics could be next. Why are we waiting? If licensing serves the public, we should be demanding that all professionals be licensed.

This includes journalists.

Otherwise, how do we ensure that what we read in newspapers, magazines and the Internet meets professional standards? The lack of standards is why Indiana University basketball coach Kelvin Sampson recently closed practices to the public, after a nasty comment he once made to a player showed up on the Internet. (see "I.U.'s Sampson closes practice, blaming 'dumb Internet'"). If journalists can't police themselves, then they need to be licensed and policed.

Plus, it can be easily argued that journalism offers society greater risks than most professions that the state licenses. Journalistic misfeasance and prejudices can affect millions of people, whereas lawyers and doctors generally only decide the fate of their clients and patients. If journalists are so important and risky to us, why don't lawmakers license them for our protection?

Journalists' standard answer is that the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees freedom of speech and exempts them from licensing. But I can point to the Sixth Amendment that guarantees my choice of legal counsel, regardless if my counsel is certified by the state bar, but tell that to politically partial judges today who allow only state licensed attorneys, like me, to make arguments in court.

Fact is, the First Amendment is as legally flimsy as the Sixth. It just has more political clout. It would be dying just like the Sixth Amendment if it didn't have the support of most journalists, who bang its drum.

If I licensed journalists, I would require them to know and respect all the Bill of Rights to the same extent as they do the self-serving First Amendment. Journalists' lack of vigilance over growing government and our declining individual rights will likely doom our civilization. If there was ever a reason to license journalists, it is this.

But few people seriously are demanding this, and I am not one of them. There's a good reason for this: Licensing doesn't ensure or improve quality of service. A mechanic doesn't need a license to fix a car. A doctor or lawyer with a license can botch a job just as much as someone without these credentials.

Private accreditation associations and referral services, such as Angie's List in Indianapolis, offer consumers more useful information than the state's stamp of approval provides.

We have licensing not because the public demands it, but because professional associations conspired for their members to be licensed and regulated. (When I use the word "conspired," I mean criminally conspired). That way they can exclude others without their qualifications, or with different ones, from competing against them for business.

Licensing is a neat little scam. It works for the licensed professionals because economics is economics. If they can control their supply through licensing and the certification of trade schools, then they can keep their fees artificially high and protect their status in the community.

This leads to a simple maxim of licensing: If there's a shortage of doctors, teachers and nurses, you can always blame the doctors, teachers and nurses. Licensing is a state protection racket for these professionals. Car mechanics and gutter installers would seek state licensing, too, if they were better organized and more politically astute.

This isn't to say that licensed teachers and nurses and doctors aren't good. It's only to say that it's not licensing that makes teachers and nurses and doctors good. Licensing is not needed to maintain or improve their professional quality. Licensing hurts professional quality by graying standards and stifling or eliminating competition.

Licensing would play particular havoc with journalism. Just think how expensive or poorly reported news would be today if journalists were licensed and in limited supply.

The public is just as qualified to shop for professional services as it is to decide which newspaper, magazine or blog to read, without providers being state licensed. One framed certificate from the state should mean very little to a consumer compared to the other certificates of education and achievement on a professional's walls.

Only competition through the repeal of licensing ensures the best overall quality of services. We have the best quality journalism in America because journalism is not licensed and is competitive. Let's raise the bar and demand this standard from all professionals.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Lost voters need your guidance

A letter to fellow Hoosier Libertarians:

Indiana voters desperately need your guidance on Election Day. Won't you step up to help them?

It's bad enough that fewer and fewer of them find their ways to the polls each year. Worse is that most voters are completely lost once they get there.

Just ask them. Few will know that this election determines if they have two or three choices on their ballots in future elections. (You'd think that the chance of losing a third of their choices might be important enough to know). Few will know that the only way to vote against Senator Dick Lugar is to vote for a Libertarian.

Voters need YOU to remind them of these important details that empower them beyond their typically narrow political consciousness, which is based on the limited information they pursue and are fed. YOU are the voters' last hope of using their votes wisely and powerfully, instead of wasting them on thieves who plunder our property and rights on behalf of special interest groups, be they sports franchises, penal businesses, moralists, licensed professionals or just the employees of our various bloated governments themselves, who vote for more government.

Except when our lawmakers are out of session or asleep, their plundering never stops. Let's never kid ourselves about what we're dealing with: at best, ignorant and fearful politicians whose auto-reflex is to try to control other peoples' lives without looking for non-coercive solutions. (Need an example? Not one Democrat or Republican elected official publicly proposed funding Lucas Oil Stadium with private capital).

Seeking government solutions is the common grotesque denominator of ALL non-Libertarians. Their use of government to bully or trick others into paying for their pet projects is the main reason why it's so easy, gratifying and imperative to volunteer at the polls to defeat them. They deserve to be challenged every day, not just Election Day. It's a full-time job. Have you done your part?

Won't you please help the voters this year by volunteering at the polls on behalf of your Libertarian Party candidates? Whether giving an entire day or just an hour before and after work, you can make a big difference in the lives of wandering, lost Hoosiers who have been looking for direction from all the wrong people.

I was once lost, but now I'm found. I hope you'll join me volunteering at the polls on Election Day.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Longing for better schools, shorting on all cylinders

The Indianapolis Star's headline "Blacks long for better schools" (August 13, 2006) should have read "Minorities vote against better schools for themselves."

In my numerous runs for political office as a Libertarian Party candidate, including a bid for school board, I have yet to meet or run against a local minority politician who advocated anything but mediocrity in education. This includes one of my first political opponents, Congresswoman Julia Carson. Unfortunately, most local minority children get the mediocre education that their parents predominantly vote for, and have few people but their parents to blame for it. Here's why:

Public education in Indiana is run and supplied by the government, which is a monopoly. This monopoly provides its curriculum and teachers from the same stagnant pool, which has no competition. This pool is fed from the same stale educational source - namely, college education departments - and filtered of brilliance and creativity by blanket teacher accreditation requirements. Government-created monopolies, by their very nature, give mediocre service because there is nothing to compete with them, or nothing to stir up the pool.

Most local minority politicians support mediocre education because they support this government-run monopoly to the exclusion of educational competition. They support this monopoly, not on behalf of the interests of school children, but because the self-interested organizations that benefit from the monopoly, including teacher and public-employee unions, help them get elected.

An alternative to this monopoly is to have the government continue funding public education, but to let private providers supply it. This alternative, called educational or school choice, would break the monopoly of government-run schools by giving parents a choice not to choose their mediocrity. No longer would politicians, with their horrible accountability and lines in the sand, determine who gets the best education.

If, as the Star's article indicates, 67 percent of area blacks want private education for their children, then all they have to do is vote for school choice. But this will require breaking away from most of their political leaders who are on the record opposing this competitive solution and who have historically led their community astray on behalf of the self-interested players within the public education monopoly.

All Hoosier children deserve better education than the mediocre cookie-cutter version that adult voters provide them today. But Hoosier parents and taxpayers, no matter what skin color, have little basis to expect better educational outcomes without voting for competition among education providers and for universal school choice for parents.