The Wrong Enemy and the Right Enemy

If you listen to the progressive left for any length of time, you will no doubt hear a lot of bashing of wealthy people in society. Whether it’s Bernie Sanders hypocritically tweeting about the number of yachts owned by rich people,  or Elizabeth Warren’s incessant attacks on the “1 percent” (who, ironically, is a one percenter, as well),  it’s clear that the left see rich people as the cause of most problems in society.

There are certainly rich people that are part of the problem. The issue here is that Sanders, Warren, and many of their followers are largely missing the point. Many societal problems aren’t created because of “the rich”, they’re created because of a rent-seeking mentality. Politicians, crony corporations, and politically connected interest groups are using the state apparatus to enrich themselves and their cronies at the expense of the taxpayers. This behavior would be impossible without the state.

French journalist and social critic Frederic Bastiat summarized the problem in his masterful book The Law, written in 1850,

When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men living together in society, they create for themselves, in the course of time, a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.

Not only do Sanders and Warren mischaracterize the problem, they offer all of the wrong solutions. We don’t need a bigger and more intrusive government intervening in our personal and economic lives. That’s just adding to the problem. The goal should be to eliminate the state and it’s monopoly on violent and coercive wealth redistribution and focus on voluntary interactions, self-ownership and strong private property rights.

Image result for know the right enemy meme

Without Government, Who Would Provide ______????

One of the most persistent arguments any anarcho-capitalist hears, without question, is “But without government, who would build the roads?”  All too often, the question comes from some statist who wields the argument around like it’s a checkmate against anarchy. It isn’t. In fact, roads in the pure free market is one of the easiest things to explain. For this reason, the “roads argument” is the source of much derision among libertarian.

Nevertheless, the question remains. It doesn’t matter if the issue is roads, PBS, or defense services, the question isn’t who will build or provide these services, but who will fund them. On the free market, these services aren’t funded by a coercive government stealing the hard earned money of it’s citizens, but by the individuals who use the service.

Many people counter that this is utopian; that it’s too difficult for individuals and organizations to coordinate the production of so called “public goods.” Nonsense, take the recent case of Planned Parenthood. After President Trump announced he was cutting funding from Planned Parenthood, the market miraculously responded in the form of increased individual and private funding. Proponents of Planned Parenthood argue that increased private donations equal increased public demand for federal funding, but what they don’t realize is that they’re actually making the case for privatization.

If you’re ever in doubt about how x would be provided in an anarchic society, just follow the handy chart below.

withoutgovtwhowouldprovideit.jpg

It’s Time to End the War on Drugs

It’s April 20th today. Four twenty. In the cannabis community, April 20th is a national holiday. Kind of like New Year’s for cannabis enthusiasts. As a result, you’ll see many blogs and articles discussing cannabis legalization issues and statistics regarding drug use in America, but you will also see a lot of “Reefer Madness” type scare tactics attempting to trick people into believing that cannabis use is the great scourge and downfall of society. Let’s look at a few of the important issues and players in the fight for, and against, cannabis legalization.

1. Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The former Alabama senator has been leading the charge against legal cannabis, even in the face of polls showing that 60% of Americans believe cannabis should be legal. Sessions is an avowed drug warriors, to the point of saying such things as, “good people don’t smoke marijuana” and that he though the KKK was “okay until I found out they smoked pot.” I wonder if Sessions would say that to the thousands of people whose seizures have been stopped due to cannabis? Sessions is a cantankerous old man stuck in a bygone era, yelling at kids to get off his lawn.

2. Cannabis legalization is sweeping the nation. As Sessions tries to stick his finger in the dyke of progress, cannabis legalization is sweeping the nation-state by state. There are already 29 states where cannabis is legal either medicinally with a doctor’s prescription, or recreationally. In addition the these legalization laws, many other states are reducing the criminal charges related to possession and use of cannabis. To sum, almost 60% of states already have legal or medicinal cannabis and the remainder are not far behind. Even where ballot initiatives to legalize cannabis have failed, such as my home state of Arizona, the defeat was in large part to pro-legalization groups campaigning against the measure for creating a cartel as opposed to a free market.

3. Legalization has not caused the sky to fall. Take Colorado, for example. Colorado legalized recreational cannabis in 2012 and many of the usual suspects predicted doom and gloom. None of those things happened. In fact, quite the opposite. Even Governor John Hickenlooper, who did not support legalization in 2012, calling it “reckless”, now admits that the “worst nightmares” of legalization opponents “haven’t materialized.” He went on the say, “We didn’t see a spike in teenage use. If anything, it’s come down in the last year. And we’re getting anecdotal reports of less drug dealers.” Imagine that, eliminating the cannabis black market reduces drug use and makes those who do choose to use safer by taking them out of the shadows and into the light. Not to mention the financial benefits. Colorado has taken in over $100 million dollars in tax revenue, which largely goes to schools. Also, cannabis in Colorado has become a $1 billion dollar industry that’s creating new small businesses and employment opportunities across the state.

4. The drug war’s despicable consequences. There are many disgusting outcomes from the escalation of the war on drugs. The first is racial. For the record, I am not one who finds oppression behind every blade of grass, I leave that to the social justice warriors. That said, the statistics are staggering. Between blacks, whites, and hispanics, the percentage of those over 12 years old who use illicit drugs are all statistically close at 10.5%, 9.5%, and 8.8%, respectively. But when arrest statistics are analyzed, the differences are clear: blacks are three to four times more likely to be arrested for drugs than whites.

The second dangerous outcome of the drug war is the continuing militarization of police forces across the country. Per the ACLU,

“Federal programs providing surplus military equipment, along with departments’ own purchases, have outfitted officers with firepower that is often far beyond what is necessary for their jobs as protectors of their communities. Sending a heavily armed team of officers to perform “normal” police work can dangerously escalate situations that need never have involved violence”

When local police forces have tanks, body armor, and AR-15’s, they send entirely the wrong message to the public. Instead of protecting and serving, the image is adversarial and threatening.

The last consequence of the drug war is the degradation of the individual and the increasing encroachment of civil and human rights. There are many examples of this, but the most recent and disgusting is the trend of performing forced catheterizations in order to obtain urine for drug tests. Take this case from Pierre, South Dakota. One night police responded to Dirk Spark’s home for a domestic disturbance call. “When officers observed him acting “fidgety,” they asked for a urine sample. When Sparks refused, police sought a warrant from a Hughes County judge to obtain a urine sample by “medically accepted means.” Apparently in North Dakota acceptable means five police officers put a bag over your head, hold you down on a table, and take the urine by force.

Read the last sentence again. Based on suspicion alone, police kidnapped Sparks, held him hostage, and tortured him by pushing a plastic tube up his urethra to remove bodily fluids without his consent. I can’t imagine a more disturbing, painful, and humiliating situation for a human being to suffer.

If that wasn’t bad enough, in February the Pierre police department did the exact same procedure to a three-year-old boy as part of a child welfare investigation. Imagine being the parents of the small child screaming in agony as police held the boy down and committed what would rightly be considered sexual assault if anyone else did it.

The war on drugs is a colossally expensive,  massively immoral failure. As has been outlined here before, the foundation of libertarianism is private property rights, of which self-ownership is paramount. Kidnapping nonviolent drug offenders and locking them in cages is immoral and only leads to the kind of abuses outlined above. It is time to end the failed drug war.

Happy Tax(ation is Theft) Day!

Today is Tax Day in America. That means it is the last day for people to file their federal and state income taxes before they start adding fines and penalties. In honor of such an occasion, we’ll look at some history and interesting facts about the income tax, as well as some of the absolute insane things that our tax dollars fund.

Before 1913, Americans paid no income taxes. In fact, the founders saw taxes as one of the most important issues surrounding the revolution. It was, after all, impositions such as the Sugar Act, the Stamp Act, and the events leading up to the Boston Tea Party that riled up colonists enough to demand “No Taxation without Representation”, leading to direct confrontations with the British army. Until 1913, governments used tariffs, property taxes, and poll taxes to fund roads and infrastructure, railways, schools and colleges, etc. Even when the government was fighting wars, many taxes were raised only temporarily and lowered upon completion of the campaign.

Even when the income tax was instituted in 1913, the rate was remarkably low (about 1%) and most people didn’t make enough income to even qualify to pay federal taxes.  It was also much easier to do your taxes. Per Mark Perry at Carpe Diem:

“For example, page 1 of the original IRS 1040 income tax form from 1913 appears above. There were only four pages in the original 1040 form, including: two pages of worksheets, the actual one-page 1040 form above, and only one page of instructions, view all four pages here. In contrast, just the current 1040 instructions for 2016, without any forms, runs 106 pages.”

And that complexity adds up big time. Per the National Taxpayer Advocate, an “independent” group within the IRS (no, seriously, stop laughing), estimates over 6 billion hours and $10 billion dollars are spent on tax prep each year. There is also a productivity loss of $131 billion dollars. This opportunity cost for income tax preparation is simply outrageous. The U.S. Tax Code is currently over 75,000 pages long. 75,000 pages of rules and regulations designed to confuse and intimidate taxpayers into submission.

Some additional interesting facts about the income tax:

  1. In 1987, the IRS started requiring social security numbers for dependent children. That same year, more than 7 million children mysteriously disappeared from the tax rolls.
  2. The U.S. is the world’s only industrialized nation that taxes citizens who live overseas, even if their income is generated in a foreign country and they never intend to return to America.
  3. If you report anyone who has cheated on their taxes to the IRS, you’ll be paid a minimum of 15% of the amount they owe to the IRS. (Perfect for encouraging brownshirt behavior.)
  4. The U.S. has the highest corporate income tax rate at 35%. (This is why so many American companies move overseas.)

Though many people complain about income taxes, in general, most people quietly resign themselves to the fact that if they don’t pay their taxes, they’ll be kidnapped and locked in a cage. There is a reason, for instance, that the day we pay taxes is on the exact opposite side of the calendar from when we elect our leaders. I have a feeling that if Tax Day was the day after our elections, many would have a different opinion on taxes and the people who force us to pay them.

Another reason outrage is generally low is because of mandatory employer withholding. As it stands, employers withhold taxes from employees’ paychecks for things like income tax, social security tax and the like. I imagine that if they were to eliminate automatic tax withholding and everyone had to send bi-weekly checks to the IRS to cover their tax burden, or better yet, one giant check in April, people would be much more outraged by the amount they are forced to pay and what it is spent on.

But at least our tax dollars fund all kinds of super-duper important initiatives and programs, right? So much so that there’s “nothing left to cut”? Well, not exactly. Over 66% of the almost $4 trillion-dollar federal budget is spent on mandatory payments like Social Security, unemployment benefits, Medicare/Medicaid, and interest on the federal debt. Of the remaining 34%, over 55% is spent on the military’s foreign adventurism.

Here are a few other programs that are apparently too important to cut:

  1. $3.5 million in grants to study why almost three-quarters of lesbians are obese.
  2. $5 million for students at the University of Tennessee could wear fruit costumes and promote healthy eating.
  3. $200 million for the construction of MidAmerica St. Louis Airport in Mascoutah, Illinois, which has just one airline operating out of it.
  4. $2 million for jazz playing robots.
  5. $300,000 for NIH to study which gender plays with Barbie dolls more.

That’s just five stupid ways the government blows taxpayer dollars.  These are far from the most expensive or most ridiculous. The U.S. government has spent trillion of dollars prosecuting wars of aggression in Iraq, Libya, and Afghanistan. Literally, trillions of tax payer dollars going to casually murder millions of civilians in foreign countries because it is in the U.S.’s “strategic interest”. Of course, strategic interest always means whatever the government wants it to mean at that time.

So this year when you become painfully aware of your tax burden, remember what Rothbard said, “The state is a gang of thieves writ large.” and “Taxation is theft, purely and simply even though it is theft on a grand and colossal scale which no acknowledged criminals could hope to match.”

Collapse of the Anti-war Left: Dems turn on Rep. Tulsi Gabbard

What do you call a U.S. Representative that’s skeptical of American military interventions, traveled to Syria to speak directly with the Assad administration about their civil war, and has the audacity to ask for some proof of Assad’s alleged gas attack before launching bombs at Damascus? Well, if you’re Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), you get called a Trump apologist that should be ousted from Congress.

This is just the latest in a line of events signalling the total collapse of the antiwar left that started under President Obama’s murderous reign and is finding its hastening under a now warmongering President Trump.

Per The Hill:

Howard Dean, the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and Neera Tanden, head of the Center for American Progress, both took to Twitter to bash Gabbard for what they see as a shameful defense of Bashar Assad, the Syrian president long accused of brutal attacks on his own people in the country’s ongoing civil war.

Dean said in tweets that Gabbard “sounds like Trump making excuses” and that she “shouldn’t be in Congress.” Tanden, on the other hand, called on the people of Hawaii’s 2nd District to oust Gabbard for “meeting with a murderous dictator.”

There was a time, not long ago, when one could rely on the left to be antiwar. After all it was the left, with libertarians, that put up any opposition to the Bush administration’s lies in the run up to the Iraq war in 2003 and it was only the left and libertarians that held the administration accountable during the war.

That all changed once Obama took control of the war machine.

Even though Obama campaigned as an antiwar candidate and was bolstered by a Nobel Peace Prize in his first year in office, he left the oval office with the dubious distinction of having been the only U.S. President to be at war for every single day of his two terms. Obama escalated the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan in his first term; and proceeded to indiscriminately bomb Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia, and Syria in his second term.

At no point during Obama’s two terms was there any meaningful antiwar opposition from the left. In fact, the left all but abandoned the antiwar movement under Obama. Even when Obama sought congressional approval to enter Syria in 2013, it wasn’t Democrats that stopped him, it was the Republican led House of Representatives.

Under a President Trump, I fully anticipated the antiwar left to return with a vengeance. Needless to say, it hasn’t. Never underestimate the crushing hegemony of the establishment, I guess. In fact, the strongest antiwar sentiments are currently coming from the right-wing, particularly from Trump’s own supporters. Stefan Molyneaux, Alex Jones, Paul Joseph Watson, and even white nationalist Richard Spenser all oppose intervening in Syria.

It’s unlikely that Rep. Gabbard will receive a serious primary challenge in 2018, as she was reelected in November with over 80% of the vote. It does, though, look like she’s learning the lesson of Ron Paul: when you oppose the establishment’s rush to war, you can become very unpopular.

It’s Time to Remove Government From the Marriage Business

The major outcome of the landmark 2015 Supreme Court case Obergefell vs. Hodges was that same-sex men and women are guaranteed a fundamental right to marry, which comes along with government granted privileges, such as tax benefits, as well as end of life and child/family decision-making authority. In the 5-4 ruling, the majority ruled that the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment protects the right of same-sex men and women to marry.

I have no quarrels whatever with anyone who want to get married, gay or straight, but I do have an issue with court ordered expansions of fundamental human rights and sloppy judicial activism that clumsily tramples on the democratic process. A better solution would be to simply end government’s involvement in marriage altogether. After all, a marriage is but a contract outlining the rights and responsibilities of the individuals involved.  In a libertarian society, there is no legitimate role for the State to play in marriage. If there is to be a State, though, then the role of the government should be solely to enforce contract law via the courts, no more, no less.

The involvement of the State in marriage, like the State’s involvement in most areas, is unnecessary at best and harmful at worst. Aside from the obvious fact that requiring licenses generates revenue, there is a more insidious effect. By defining who can get legally married, the State can control the private lives of those they deem outside their realm of morality.

No one may understand that more right now than polygamists.

Last week, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R-UT) signed new legislation that not only continues to treat polygamy as a felony offense punishable by up to five years in prison, it also changes the definition of bigamy, as well as enforce additional penalties if someone in a polygamist relationship is suspected of a number of different types of crimes, including fraud, child or spousal abuse, or sexual assault.

Under current Utah law, a legally married couple can have a third member live with them and raise a family without interference from the government, but as soon as they refer to that relationship as a “marriage”, they are committing a felony. The law literally criminalizes what people can call their consensual adult relationships.

Per Elizabeth Nolan Brown:

“This year, Utah lawmakers decided to double-down on the state’s bigamy statute. Under HB 99, bigamy becomes a second-degree felony if a defendant is also suspected of fraud, domestic abuse, child abuse, sexual assault, human smuggling, or human trafficking; as such, it’s punishable by up to 15 years in prison, in addition to any penalties for those separate offenses. Anyone fleeing from abuse in a polygamous relationship is now immune from bigamy prosecution.”

Instead of passing more and stricter laws regarding who can or can’t legally marry, we should remove government from the realm of marriage totally and completely. There is no reason why consenting adults shouldn’t be allowed to make their own decisions regarding how they want to set up and run their families.

It is the individuals involved that are responsible for their choices and they need to be the ones who make the tough legal decisions.  Important issues such as end of life medical care, or child care, or who gets what should there be a divorce, should all be determined by the individuals themselves, not moralistic, demagogic politicians and bureaucrats. That goes for gays, polygamists, and everyone in between.

Arizona Governor Takes on Licensing Boards

In early February 2017, Juan Carlos Montesdeoca, an Arizona cosmetology student, got in hot water over an event he created that would give free haircuts to homeless people. The Arizona State Board of Cosmetology, which handles the licensing requirements for those in the industry, shut down the event and began an investigation, sparked by anonymous tips that he was giving haircuts without a license. This prompted Republican Arizona Governor Doug Ducey to come out and slam the licensing board for their ‘outrageous’ behavior and called on them to end their investigation. Specifically, Ducey said, “Any actions by your board on this issue, outside of applauding Mr. Montesdeoca’s efforts, are unnecessary and uncalled for.”

Last week, Gov. Ducey took his criticisms of Arizona’s overly onerous licensing boards to the next level with a new executive order. The order requires over two dozen licensing boards in Arizona to defend their licensing practices. Per the Governor’s office:

The governor’s executive order requires a number of state boards and commissions to review all requirements for each type of license that they issue—and then report these requirements accordingly. If the licensing requirements are found to be excessive (compared to the national average for that license), the board will have to justify the regulation in question, specifically citing potential harm to individuals in our state.

The licensing boards have until the end of June to return their findings to the Governor’s office.

Per the Institute for Justice, a libertarian think tank, Arizona has the second most onerous licensing requirements in the nation, behind only Louisiana. In Arizona, 64 separate occupations require “an average of 599 days—more than a year and a half—of training before granting permission to work.”

Like most government programs, licensing is sold to the public as a way that government protects consumers. What licensing really does is raise prices and reduce competition, a losing combination for consumers.  Licensing harms lower class and minority workers disproportionally, by requiring time and monetary investments from those least likely to be able to afford them.

This action by Gov. Ducey is a definite step in the right direction. The goal, of course, should be to end all occupational licensing, as well as any other government created barriers to entry. In the words of the Governor Ducey, “There is great value and purpose in work. Government should never stand in the way of someone’s efforts to start a new life or profession.”