My Own Pie

Libertarian Thoughts from Renaissance Guy

Archive for December 2009

Libertarian Platform #1

with one comment

     This is part of a series on the platform of the Libertarian Party. I plan to post quotations from the platform and comment on them. I will explain where I agree, where I disagree, and perhaps share my personal thoughts on each item. The statements are from the platform adopted in May of 2008.

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Individuals should be free to make choices for themselves and to accept responsibility for the consequences of the choices they make. No individual, group, or government may initiate force against any other individual, group, or government. Our support of an individual’s right to make choices in life does not mean that we necessarily approve or disapprove of those choices.

     The last statement is very important. I, for one, disapprove of the use of marijuana. I have never used it, and have no plans to start. I think anyone who does so is stupid. However, I support the decriminalization of it, since using marijuana, in and of itself, harms nobody but the user. It is no worse, as far as I can tell than alcohol or tobacco, and therefore should be treated the same way.

     On the other hand, I heartily approve of giving to those in need, and I practice it myself. However, nobody should be forced to support those in need against his or her own wishes. In fact, giving to others by force is not true charity. True charity must be given voluntarily and cheerfully. So, although I approve of helping the needy, I cannot condone the confiscation of other people’s wealth in order to provide for others. 

      The hallmark of libertarianism is that the only proper restriction on behavior is on behavior that is unjustly aggressive toward somebody else. I agree with that approach. I believe that it is both rational and biblically sound. It does not preclude defense, either self-defense by an individual or public defense if a territory is attacked. It does not preclude just punishment for crimes, since the person who committed the crime is the one who initiated force.

     I realize that this plank completely precludes our invasion of Iraq, which I supported at one time. I definitely am against Islamic terrorism, and I want to see it stopped, if possible. However, I no longer support the use of the military of the United States to interfere in another country’s affair’s through a pre-emptive invasion. There were many problems with the regime of Saddam Hussein, but it was the responsibility of the Iraqi people to deal with those problems.

     At first glance, the plank might seem to support so-called reporductive rights, which of course really means abortion, which of course I do not condone at all. Since I regard abortion as the initiation of force against an unborn baby, I think it is perfectly in keeping with libertarianism to oppose abortion. The official positon of the Libertarian Party is that the government should stay out of the matter of abortion completely. I hope that someday that position changes.

     Anyway, I like the way that this plank balances individual rights and individual responsibilities. Yes, you have many rights, but you do not have the right to violate any of my rights.  As my fifth grade teacher said, your right to use your fist stops at the tip of my nose.  I like the way the plank recognizes freedom but demands that people accept the consequences for their freedom. You can drop out of school, if you want, but don’t whine about not being able to get a job, and do not demand that somebody else provide you a living.

     If the people of our country were to adopt this plank wholesale, most, if not all, of our problems, as a country, would be solved. As for individual problems, well, those are for each person to solve for himself or herself (with the help of willing friends and family).

Written by ambrosianideas

December 29, 2009 at 8:38 am

Posted in Libertarian Party

Ebenezer Scrooge and Charity

with one comment

     Everyone knows that Ebenezer Scrooge was the meanest and most miserly man in the world.  For those who don’t know, I’m speaking of the main character in the novel A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.

     Scrooge says in the early part of the book that he pays enough in taxes to support the debtors’ prisons and the workhouses.  He has no obligation to take care of the poor or pay his clerk a good wage or even give a coin or two to a Christmas caroler, so he says.  The men who are collecting a fund for the poor point out that those institutions are not very pleasant.  In fact, many poor people, they claim, would rather die than go there.  So much for government provision for the poor!

     What’s interesting to me is that at the end of the story, after his reformation, Scrooge gives the charity collectors a large sum, raises his clerk’s salary, and promises to pay wahtever it takes to get Tiny Tim, the clerk’s crippled son, cured of his illness.  He even visits his nephew, who is the first person in the novel to hear Scrooge say, “Bah!  Humbug!”

     Notice that he doesn’t insist that everybody pay more taxes or that money be distributed thoughtlessly to whomever is thought to need it.  He supports private charity and takes care of his own circle of people.   I think that Dickens was absolutely correct in portraying voluntary charitable giving as the right way to live.  It’s not Scrooge’s business to make other people kind and generous. It is only his business to be so himself.  He does not expect the government to take care of the needy, as he did before. He takes it upon himself to use his wealth to help others.  I think that he is right.

Written by ambrosianideas

December 22, 2009 at 12:12 am

Judging a Judge

with one comment

     After reading comments from reader Scott Erb, I have decided to post some thoughts on what I would say to Judge Nina Gershon, the federal judge who recently ruled that the United States Congress was acting unconstitutionally when it decided not to give funds to ACORN, the community organization group that has made headlines over the last few years.

     If I were to meet Judge Gershon, I would treat her courteously and would show her the respect to which her office entitles her.  I would most likely listen more than talk, since she certainly knows more about the law (and perhpas other things) than I do. 

     If, however, she did ask me what I thought of her ruling, I would summon up the courage to say, “Your Honor, I have a completely opposite view from you regarding the proper way to interpret the Constitution and also regarding the role of the judiciary.  Therefore, I do not think that your ruling was correct.  However, given your approach to the Constitution and to the judicial branch’s role, I think you made a very sound ruling.

     “Then again, you could make just about any ruling you want, based on the way the judicial branch has redefined its role and re-envisioned the Constitution for the last 35 years or more.  All you ahve to do is determine how you want to rule and then say that something in the case “is equivalent to” or “amounts to” something that is clearly unconstitutional.  Perhaps you are right in saying that Congress’s defunding bill amounts to a bill of attainder, but I think not.  I would think that a bill of attainder would be an act that declared an entity guilty of crimes and that deprived them of property or liberty (or in severe cases, life) as a punishment.”

     Of course, she would probably already have interrupted me, but if not, I would say, “Your ruling strikes me as being just like many other rulings in recent times in which the judicial branch has set itself above the other two branches, rather than being equal to and in balance with  them, as the Constitution outlines.  It also strikes me as an example of writing laws from the bench, rather than allowing the Congress to write laws, as they are given power to do in the Constitution.”

     Then I would shut up and let her tell me why she thinks I am wrong.  I would probably learn a lot, but I doubt that I would change my mind.

     If I had the chance, I would ask her what I think is a simple question.  I would want to ask why she accepts the authority of Congress to give out money but rejects their authority to withhold money.  It seems to me that you cannot have the first without the second.  She would, I guess, have a good and interesting answer.

Written by ambrosianideas

December 17, 2009 at 7:14 am

The ACORN Case Revisited

with 3 comments

     A reader called Spherical Time pointed me to this article by Glenn Greenwald about the recent ACORN defunding case.   The article explains the case and the ruling better than the article I had read previously.  However, I have not changed my mind.

     There are several flaws in Greenwald’s (and Judge Gershon’s) thinking.  The most obvious one is that in order for the Congress to have violated the ban on bills of attainder, the Congress would have had to actually enact a bill of attainder.  No such bill was passed.  When the case is appealed, I predict that several judges and justices will point to the fact that no such bill of attainder can be produced as evidence.

     As always there are two sides to a court case, and the government’s side is that Congress was simply defunding an organization that it had previously chosen to fund.  It was not “punishing” them in the legal and judicial sense of the term.  That claim makes perfect sense.  They did not arrest anyone involved in ACORN or put anyone in jail.  Neither they did not fine them or confiscate their property.  They simply exercised their right, with the President’s approval, to discontinue giving them money.  (I predict that at least one judge or justice will point out that you cannot on the one hand grant that the Congress has the power to give away money but does not have the power to stop giving away money.)

     To take the view that the Congress found ACORN guilty of a crime and punished them by not continuing to disburse funds to them, you would have to first presume that any money that ACORN hoped to receive from the government was already their property and could not legally be taken away from them without due process.  To believe that it was already their property, one would have to assume that either Congress was naturally or constitutionally obligated to give it to them or that ACORN was naturally or constitutionally entitled to have it.  (Which is why I wrote in the earlier post that the ruling presumes a constitutional right for a private organization to receive government funds.)

     If they have no inherent or legal right to the money, then it is not a punishment to stop giving it to them.  (Would I be punishing my children if I stop giving them an allowance after they graduate from high school?  They would say yes.  I would say no, since I am not obligated to give them an allowance then, or now, for that matter.)

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     As for Greenwald’s comments at the bottom, they certainly do not apply to me.  I am against judicail activism–left, right, or middle.  It doesn’t matter.  Judges are not supposed to write laws.  They are supposed to settle legal disputes based on the text of the Constitution and on duly enacted laws.

     I for one would not care if a right-wing organization were defunded by Congress.  Congress has the power to give money or not to give money to whomever they choose for whatever reasons they choose.  My preference would be that no private organization get any money from the government, anyway.

     Besides, Greenwald’s argument cuts both ways.  Judge Nina Gershon was appointed by President Clinton.  It’s just as easy to say that her ruling was politically motivated as it is to say that opposition to her ruling is politically motivated.

Written by ambrosianideas

December 13, 2009 at 11:59 am

Rachel Porcaro’s Story

with 2 comments

     Before discussing the story, I want to first say that I hate the United States tax code and the IRS.  The entire system is unjust and, therefore, evil.  I pay taxes, both directly and indirectly, although I have mostly paid nothing in income tax, since I have generally been in a bracket that pays nothing.  So this is not about my resentment about having to pay income tax.  It is about my conviction that taxing people beyond what is absolutely necessary to carry on minimal government functions is equivalent to theft. 

     Now that I got that off my chest. . .

     A woman name Rachel Porcaro got audited by the IRS.  My heart really goes out to this woman.  She is a single mother of two kids who earns money by cutting hair at a big chain salon.  She makes very little money, so to make ends meet she lives with her parents.  Good for them for taking care of their daughter and their grandchildren!  That’s what family members should do.  Good for Ms Procaro for doing what she can to support herself and her children!  It is not easy.

     I qualify for the Earned Income Credit myself because I have three children and my salary is low enough to qualify.  I would rather not receive it, because I did not earn it.  It is an incentive given to poor people to encourage them to work.  I do not need that incentive, and I do not need to receive money from other people who worked to earn it.  For the first two years, my wife and I did not claim it, but the IRS corrected our tax return and sent it to us anyway.  I always give it to charity, since it does not rightly belong to me.

     What none of the articles about Rachel Porcaro are explaining is that she is, in effect, receiving other income than the meager salary she receives.  Her parents are providing housing at low rent and probably other benefits, too.  In essence she is part of a five-person household that includes her parents, herself, and her two children.  So the income of the household includes the money that her parents earn and the money that she earns, and that amount probably put them over the line of qualifying for the EIC.  At least that is what I’m guessing the IRS’s decision was based on.  (One article I read mentioned the involvement of her father’s accountant, which tells me that he is fairly well off.  I do not know many people with their own accountant, although I have known a couple of accountants.)

     I’m not saying that any of it is fair.  My first paragraph indicates how I feel about the IRS and the tax system in the United States.  However, I am guessing, without knowing the other side of the story, that the IRS treated the benefits that Ms Porcaro receives from her parents as unreported income.  They cannot live together as a family and then base their income on her salary alone–in order to get money that is meant for families that make a lot less.

     It’s easy to feel sympathy for Ms Porcaro when you hear her side of the story.  Even though I think the IRS probably had grounds for auditing her and finding her at fault, I still feel bad about the situation that she is in.  However, feeling bad about an individual situation should not determine policy.  Concluding what is fair and right for everyone should determine policy.

Written by ambrosianideas

December 12, 2009 at 2:18 pm

Posted in Taxation

A Consitutional Right to Funding?

with 116 comments

     Does a private organization have a consitutional right to get money from the United States Congress? A federal judge thinks so.  She must be reading a different Constitution than the one that I know about.  I see nowhere in the Consitution that the Congress is to fund any particular organization just because a judge says that it is “in the public’s best interest” to do so.  I wonder which public she was thinking of–the public that works and pays taxes or the public that gets “organized” by ACORN?  But that’s beside the point, for now.

     The irony is that the ruling was based on the doctrine of Separation of Powers.  But the judge herself is violating that doctrine by ordering the Congress to keep funding ACORN, since nowhere in the Constitution does it say that the Congress is beholden to some federal judge, as though she is Queen Elizabeth I commanding the Parliament to enact something or to reverse a prior act.

     Ignoring momentarily that it is wrong to spend taxpayers’ money to fund any private organization, cannot Congress do whatever it wants with the money that is under it’s authority and control?  If Congress has the power to give the money away, do they not also have the power to stop giving the money away–for whatever reason they deem appopriate?

     President Obama signed the law that activated the defunding.  So, you had a bill approved by Congress and signed into law by the president.  How did that violate the Constitution?  That’s exactly the procedure outlined by the Constitution.

     If any of my students were as bad at reading comprehension as this judge, I would give them a failing grade in reading, and I have never given a failing grade in reading.

Written by ambrosianideas

December 12, 2009 at 1:54 pm

Posted in United States Constitution

Tagged with

How to Create Jobs and Stimulate the Economy

with 9 comments

     To create jobs, you should first start a business.  

     Next, employ people to work in your business.  You might want to hire somebody to keep your books, somebody to run your office, a personal assistant, and some workers to produce the goods or provide the service that your business offers.

     Voila!  You have created jobs.  Real jobs.  The kind of jobs that fuel the economy and that are not just impressive-sounding titles in a government office that are financed by people with real jobs.

     Your workers are suppoting the government through the taxes that they pay on real money earned through producing something.  They are stimulating the economy by spending, investing and saving the real money that they are earning in producing something.  They are not just recycling money through the big-government, magic-money machine.  (In case you don’t realize it, there is no such thing.  It’s a liberal fantasy.)

     Furthermore, your employees are earning money rather than staying home and having money handed out to them after it is confiscated from those who are earning money.  Which means that they are not being a drain on public money.  They are stimulating the economy instead of stifling it.

     Any government body that wants to create jobs and stimulate the economy–sincerely wants to do so–will make it easy for you to start your business and to hire people.  It will keep your taxes low, will impose as few regulations as are absolutely necessary, will not give unfair advantages to your competitors, and will preserve a strong dollar by not printing money as though that’s all there is to producing money.   (Your parents taught you that it doesn’t grow on trees, right?)

     It’s really simple, so simple that millions of people miss it.  Too bad!  Too bad for all of us.

Written by ambrosianideas

December 5, 2009 at 1:49 pm

Posted in Jobs, Taxation

Tagged with ,