Sunday, August 22, 2010

"Pay Up!" Philadelphia Wants Biz License $$ from Bloggers!

Pay Up :: News :: Article :: Philadelphia City Paper

According to the city fathers, if you earn anything from your blog, you have to pay their $300 business license. The woman in this story earned $50 over "several years" -- too bad, pay up!

And you wonder why I'm a libertarian.....

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Richard Epstein's Brilliant Three-Point Plan For Reforming Public Employment

in Forbes:

A shame no candidate for public office (save Ron Paul) ever talks like Mr Epstein in this essay -- and we badly need candidates to talk like Richard Epstein!

Some samples"
"No longer can we duck the two deeper questions behind these endless legislative and judicial struggles. First, what institutional arrangements give rise to these constant showdowns? Second, what can be done to fix them--not only for teachers, but also for prison guards, police and firefighters, and all other state and municipal workers....

"...Major states like California, Illinois and New York require state agencies and local governments to negotiate with unions. To avoid strikes, compliant public officials grant unions guaranteed wage and pension contracts that shift all the risk of the economic downturn onto public treasury. Bad times have led to a collapse in the stock market and a decline in tax revenues. So what if private citizens are taken to the cleaners? Who cares if discretionary public services are cut? The union ship continues to ride, untroubled, high on the roiling seas...."

"..The only serious solutions do two things and avoid a third. First, they launch a frontal assault on the protected status of public unions. Second, they cut pension benefits for present and future union retirees. Third, they forbid the use federal tax money to bail out failing states and municipalities...."

"...No public body should ever be required or allowed to confer monopoly power on an employee union--period. In education, for example, don't let powerful unions block charter schools, vouchers and home schooling. Any school, public or private, should operate with an explicit legislative guarantee that all teachers and other employers must agree not to join a union as a condition of employment. The "best interests of the student" cannot be allowed to become a fig leaf for protectionist union legislation. Alternative paths of education are the best way to reduce government expenditures and blunt union power."

Now here's where he gets really bold, see if you can believe any pol would agree:

"Second, cut back pension contracts for all retired and current workers now. Far from being sacred property rights, these sweetheart agreements between union leaders and sympathetic legislators represent the worst form of self-dealing. Some legislators sell out their constituents in exchange for modest campaign contributions; others yield to union threats of massive electoral retaliation if they do not go along with union demands.

"Regrettably, no taxpayer has ever been allowed to challenge these questionable deals in court before they took effect. That has to change. Any self-dealing between a corporate board and its key officers would not last a minute. These bloated union contracts should fare no better. They should be set aside as unfairly obtained. Exactly how they should be trimmed is hard to say....

" In the end, the ultimate objective is to reduce pensions for public employees to the levels received by their peers in private industry."

And, just to make sure you understand how *fundamental* this issue is:

"Last, this battle over union contracts and union pensions is part of a larger political struggle. One the one side are those who think that more regulation, more taxation and more spending are required to dig this nation out its current hole.... We need to move in the opposite direction: deregulate, lower taxes and slash budgets.

"The choice could not be more stark. The coming election will tell us what the American people are made of, for if the voters do not throw the rascals out now, they may not get a second chance."

Frankly, in my darker moods, I doubt if the electorate can or will rise to this challenge. A hundred years of being trained by politicians, special interests, and the lax press have trained our voters in all the wrong directions. We've seen this in California, we see it elsewhere, we'll continue to see it. I worry.

Our recession, like Japan's, is due to poor monetary policy

"Recessions, in short, are positive, and historically brief occurrences that signal an economy on the mend. Failure to allow recessions to run their course in order to weed out bad investments and poor management merely ensures longer periods of economic strife; thus Japan's lost '90s decade, and ours at present."

Very interesting, and very scary, reading -- it seems we *know* what to do, and what not to do about the recession and recovery -- and our government is earnestly and relentlessly doing exactly the things it should not do, and refusing to do the things it should do. It is repeating the mistakes of Japan in the 1990s, condemning us to a decade of no growth.

It is all too depressing.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

"Not the WHITEMAN'S bitch" -- Wisconsin govt ballot committee votes to block candidate's ballot slogan

A fun article -- go read it.

What makes these officials think the Constitution has a gigantic freeway-sized hole in the First Amendment that says, apparently subvocally, "Congress shall make no law respecting freedom of speech -- as long as it's not obscene, offensive, or derogatory"?

First, this is exactly the kind of political speech the courts have been most interested in "protecting".

Second, her slogan *exactly* describes her politics; I'd bet every potential voter in her district would know precisely whether they'd want to vote for her, without needing to ask another question.

Third, since when is political offensiveness a crime?

And fourth, when did 'WHITEMAN' become a protected class?

(And let's not even get into the whole issue of "protected speech" as a mischaracterization of the Constitution and the First Amendment. The First Amendment did NOT carve out a set of categories of speech that are protected from government interfernce -- this would suggest that everything else is not protected. No -- the Constitution listed specific powers the government could exercise, none of which involved deciding whether someone could be blocked for obscenity or offensiveness -- but just to underline the point, the highlighted key examples of areas where the government has not, by any massaged misinterpretation, been granted power.

In fact, some objected to calling out these eight areas (of the original Bill of Rights) for specific mention, on the grounds that future generations might misunderstand and think that these are the *only* areas in which government may not intrude. The authors of The Federalist Papers, mocked this fear, noting that to misinterpret the rest of the Constitution to gain this belief, future generations would have to brush aside the plain implications of other parts of the Constitution. So they added the 9th and 10th Amendments just to double-underscore the point.

Of course, the skeptics were right and the Federalist Paper authors (including James Madison) were wrong: Major-league Constitutional scholars including a Supreme-Court nominee of recent years (Bork) have simply asserted that the 9th and 10th Amendments are dead letters, having no practical significance. Because if they did have practical significance, half the stuff the government does would be plainly illegal.

And you think *I* am a radical!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Penn Jillette on what distinguishes a Libertarian from a Liberal

Pemn Jillette:

"I think the biggest misconception that I find about libertarians is that there's a lack of compassion and I think that there is as much compassion on libertarians as there is among liberals. It's not what the problems are, it's how to solve them."

Amen, brother. When I first read Milton Friedman's 'Free to Choose' I realized that here was a guy who, like me (a Democrat liberal at the time) cared about the same things: the poor, the unfortunate, the unfairly treated -- but who had fresh new ideas for how to organize a society that made solving these problems more likely -- or possible at all, frankly. I was a burnt-out liberal, tired of the same old 'solutions' that never solved anything but just argued in circles.