Thursday, May 27, 2010

Secession, or Jettison

When Bush was president, there were some hopeful signs on the subject of secession. It was when Bush was president that the Free State Project was initiated, and it was under President Bush that liberal pundits made their first, tentative explorations into the subjects of nullification and secession, subjects previously forbidden to liberals and progressives. The tentative progressive explorations all came to an abrupt halt when Obama was elected, of course, at which point conservatives started making the same explorations with regards to health care, explorations that were forbidden due to the war on terror.

But secession is not the only way to deal with irreconcilable differences between different states and regions of the country. Although there has been no noticeable exploration of this option, it should be possible to jettison a state that is more of a burden to the union than the rest of the states wish to bear.

This option is actually being discussed in the much looser federation known as the European Union, as Germans are, on average, quite displeased with the bailout of the Greek Government. Some talk about Greece withdrawing from the EU, some talk about Germany withdrawing from the EU, and some talk about kicking Greece out of the EU.

That last option could be applied to great effect in the United States.

California, for example, is a state in such severe financial disarray that it is actually in worse shape than Greece. It is practically inevitable that at some point the federal government will have to come in and rescue California from its massive structural deficits, and will have to do so more than once. Is it right that other states should have to shoulder that burden simply because California politicians are unable to resist giving the public employee union anything they desire?

Texas, where talk of secession was so notable that it made the news, is in much better shape financially. They are causing a controversy because they are getting unabashedly political in their choice of textbooks, and their decisions have an impact on the rest of the country. People in smaller states are quite displeased that their own textbook choices will be limited by manufacturers trying to please politicians in Texas.

There is no precedent for ejecting a state from the union, so every single action taken would be groundbreaking. It is possible that one could argue that under Article Five it is forbidden to eject a state on the grounds that doing so would deprive them of representation in the Senate. It is possible, but that is a weak argument given that the article is supposed to ensure that no state that is in the union lacks proper representation. Any state that is jettisoned is no longer a state.

The benefits to jettison can be immense. There is no way currently for people in one state to reject noxious politicians elected by another state. If jettison were implemented on, for example, Arizona’s new immigration bill, the result would mean the United States is permanently relieved from having John McCain taint the Senate any more.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Marginalizing Third Parties

The two parties, in collusion, have ever sought greater ways to limit outside competition. Ballot access laws, campaign finance laws, and safe districts have done much in this area, but even then third parties are still on the ballot. Occasionally a third party even garners more votes than the winning margin between the two approved candidates. Occasionally a third party even wins some office.

That situation is considered, by those who feel it is their right to rule others, intolerable. They really have no complaint, because in the few instances in which the rules could have applied to the major parties, the rules were waived. In 2004, the Republican Party held its convention rather late in the year to put it as close to September 11th as possible. As such, Bush was named the candidate after the filing deadline had passed in two states that Bush eventually carried. Had the law been enforced, Kerry would have won in 2004. In 2008, both the Republicans and the Democrats failed to file on time in Texas. Had the law been enforced, the Texas electoral votes would have gone to Bob Barr. Theoretically Democrats should have supported enforcing the law as written, since it would have enabled them to sail to an easy victory. In reality the Democratic Party leadership recognized a higher principle, that of maintaining the duopoly, and was willing to sacrifice victory in 2004 and risk sacrificing victory in 2008 to maintain their top positions.

It goes without saying that had a third party filed late, no such exception would be made.

But a way to truly disenfranchise third parties has reared its ugly head and is spreading, one state at a time, through the United States. Currently it is festering in California under the guise of California Proposition 14, the Top Two Primaries Act of 2010.

It purports to fight partisanship by putting all candidates in one primary, without regard for party. Anyone can vote for any parties candidates. The top two vote getters will proceed to the general election.

The minor argument against this proposition is that it will result in two Republicans running against each other in Republican Safe Districts, and two Democrats running against each other in Democrat Safe Districts. This will leave those in the out party having little choice.

The middle argument is that this will entrench incumbents even more. As has been shown in Louisiana, the only incumbent to lose after an approach like this was passed did so because redistricting had that incumbent lose to another incumbent.

The greatest argument is that this will destroy all third party electoral chances. As has been shown in Washington (the state), no third party candidates have been on the general election ballot since that state adopted this measure. California Proposition 14 would even eliminate the protest of a write in candidate, so any third party voter who continues to vote for a third party candidate will not have the vote counted and will have the ballot disqualified.

This measure is exactly what one would want to further entrench the duopoly. It is corruption manifest and must be defeated.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


There appears to be a debate in some libertarian circles on whether or not libertarians should embrace or reject the word "capitalism."

Those who would reject the word do so on the basis of the baggage that comes with the word. It was first popularized by Marx to describe not just the free market but also economies in which the government interferes in favor of businesses.

Those who would keep the word do so on the basis of there being no better single word. Other terms are less widely known or are more cumbersome. The word itself, they argue, actually describes best the economic system advocated by libertarians in spite of its baggage.

It really is a simple choice, and capitalism is the best word for a free market economic system, but if it is to be used it must be fought for. A simple pronouncement is far insufficient.

People are doing that. Garry Reed, the Libertarian News Examiner, did so recently with the article Corpratism – equally loved by left and right.

Those who would disparage Capitalism are always confusing it with other ideologies, including but not limited to Corporatism, Keynesianism, and Monetarism. Some go so far as to say Monetarism, the economic ideology of Friedman and the Chicago School, is a libertarian economic ideology.

A few moments of honest thought would dispel any confusion over whether or not these other ideologies are included in Capitalism as is meant by libertarians. Monetarism has a central bank. Corporatism has protective tariffs and bailouts. It's not even necessary to describe the many differences between Capitalism and Keynesianism. And yet the myths persist.

That is because detractors want to lay at the feet of Capitalism the faults of the other systems. In Corporatism, failing businesses get bailouts, in Capitalism they do not. Yet if the two are the same then bailouts are a feature of Capitalism. In Monetarism the dollar loses value every year to the point where a 2010 dollar is worth a few cents compared to a 1910 dollar. Yet if the two are the same then an inflationary monetary policy is a feature of Capitalism.

Every fault that detractors name in the real world, as opposed to pure theory, comes from departures from the free market and government interference in the free market. Therefore it is not the fault of the free market. The only way to blame Capitalism is if other ideologies are lumped together with it.

Those who wish to preserve the word "Capitalism" have the right idea, but they must remember that they must fight for it. It's a good word but it has to be defended. The attempts to add baggage to the word are continuous.

Update: It was pointed out that Marx only popularized the term "capitalism", he didn't coin the term. Correction noted.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Arizona's SB 1070 works perfectly

Even though it has not yet taken effect, and not yet faced the inevitable court challenges, Arizona's Senate Bill 1070 has worked very well. In fact it has worked far better than the original authors could have imagined. This may sound strange considering how little time it has had, but as Ayn Rand would point out, if you want to know if something is right ask yourself "by what standard?"

It's actually surprisingly obvious how this bill is a success. Across the country people are debating it, but they’re all either debating "white" versus "brown" or "legal" versus "illegal." Outside of a small handful of libertarian commentators, nobody is pointing out that this bill has established a legal precedent for "papers please."

Some will think that, due to not being of the ethnic group most likely to be targeted, that they are actually safe. But, given the need to not appear to be racially profiling, the police will have license to stop anybody, at any time, on the grounds of "suspicion." And given the overly wide leeway given to police to stop people on "suspicion" that means anybody can be stopped at any time.

This means that if someone fails to show proper respect, they can be asked to show their papers. If someone insults a cop, he can be asked to show his papers. If someone stares too long at a cop, he can be asked to show his papers. Already the crime of "contempt of cop" carries the high risk of being assaulted, and then arrested for "disorderly conduct", with the additional crime of "resisting arrest" and "assaulting a cop" for anyone who tries to resist this unlawful arrest. Now an additional charge can be tacked on.

According to the statute, failure to prove citizenship can carry a fine of up to $100 and 6 days in jail for first time offenders. Originally the bill carried a fine of up to $500 and 20 days in jail for first time offenders. Those who fail to carry documentation more often face steeper fines and sentences.

What remains to be seen is how this act will be enforced on legal citizens who are simultaneously guilty of "contempt of cop" and failure to carry sufficient documentation. Will this require all people in Arizona to carry full proof of citizenship at all times? Will this require all people in Arizona to show said paperwork to police on demand or pay the fine originally intended for illegal aliens?

This bill worked far better than intended. The popular debate focuses on the racial and immigration aspects, and ignores the fact that this implements "papers please."