Limited Government

The Coase Theorem in Action: Exercise Edition

 Emily is the in-shape person on the right.

Crossposted from The Dangerous Servant.

My girlfriend Emily, fierce competitor and endurance athlete, celebrated her first “Whole Iron Woman” blog anniversary over the weekend — you can count that among one of many proud boyfriend moments!

While it’s a bit late for Valentine’s Day, gushing over one’s significant other is never out of style. Emily and I met several years ago when I was on hiatus from college and working as a bartender at a small, independent restaurant in Nashville. Unbeknownst to me, I waited on her and her family a time or two before we actually met. After being introduced by mutual friends, we went out a couple times (and by “went out” I mean I dragged her to my favorite dive bar, and then to my bi-weekly all-night poker game), and we eventually lost touch after she moved to New Jersey to work on statewide races.

Who Has The Party Delegates?

What all the GOP candidates are after, are so-called ‘delegates.’Elected officials that will broker the convention of either party this fall. Officials are parcelled by the amount of votes, the candidates receive in the primary.

During Michigan’s primary recently, for instance, there were 30 official delegates, state-wide. Two were ‘at-large’ candidates, which meant they could be assigned individually to any winning candidate. The other 28 were ‘proportional’ ones, alotted through 14 congressional districts. During the push for the nominations in Michigan last night, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum spent millions of dollars to influence the voting population; with TV ads, pamphlets, media, interviews, rallies, stickers, and much more. Michigan’s grand sum of politcal expenditure was near six million bucks.

Delegates are what really counts at the GOP convention. What looks to be happening, is that no clear winner will come out victorious. There’s a righteous number: 1444 delegates will win any nominee the victory-nod of the Republican National Committee. Nationwide, 2169 delegates are extended for contestation, until the RNC celebration in Tampa, Florida. From the RN Committee, an additional 117 delegates are added into the mix, ostensibly to keep debate lively and clear-up dead locks. So what appears, on first looks, to be a rather hot-headed and fast paced Republican rocket-launch to the RNC, is more like a jammed or misfired pistol in a duel.

Momentarily, Mitt Romney is in the lead, with 167 total delegates. Rick Santorum is second with roughly half, at 87. Newt Gingrich won only one state and has 32, while Ron Paul has 19 carefully collected delegations. The count may reshuffle at any moment, since constitutionalism and populism together, ring alarm-bells in states such as Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico.

Why The Libertarian-Conservative Alliance Can’t Survive Rick Santorum

Rick Santorum, after his recent wins in Minnesota, Colorado, and Missouri; appears to be the GOP frontrunner. If you look at Santorum’s record and rhetoric, he would appear to be the best fit for the Republican Party. Indeed, it is almost hard now not to imagine a scenario where Santorum is not the nominee.

However, if the GOP decides to nominates him, it will put an end to the fiction that the GOP is a limited government party. It will also put an end to what is left of the conservative-libertarian alliance.

Santorum is the only candidate running for president who is openly hostile to libertarianism. Santorum’s record is abysmal on fiscal issues. He voted for the Medicare prescription drug entitlement, No Child Left Behind, numerous earmarks and pork barrel projects, voted against NAFTA and is generally opposed to free trade. His proposals on foreign aid have won praise from Bono, the rest of the Third World poverty pimps, and their allied Tranzi NGOs. The Sweater Vest also wants to maintain a tax code that is riddled full of deductions and loopholes rewarding selected constituencies, instead of proposing a simpler system that is fairer to all. Rick Santorum, far from being the next Reagan, appears to be a compassionate conservative in the mold of George W. Bush. Finally, Rick Santorum last summer in a speech declared war on libertarians.

In a Pennsylvania Press Club luncheon in Harrisburg last summer, Santorum declared, “I am not a libertarian, and I fight very strongly against libertarian influence within the Republican Party and the conservative movement.”

The Road To Tax Reform: More Potholes Than I Like

Some panels are off in nowhere, little rooms here and there. Other panels are in giant ballrooms, like the Marshall Ballroom, second largest to the Marriott where all the major speakers are, well, speaking. (Perhaps “blustering” is a better word.) And sometimes, those ballrooms were not full. But then maybe I got there early.

It was certainly an illustrious panel, which explained why it began to fill up shortly after it officially began. It was chaired by Grover Norquist himself, President of Americans for Tax Reforms, and the legendary proponent of the “No New Taxes” Pledge he encouraged (some on the left would say “forced”) politicians to take up. To his right was Lew Uhler , chair of the National Tax Limitation Committee, and to his left were Benjamin Powell of the Independent Institute and Phil Kerpen, Vice President for Policy, of Americans For Prosperity. I went because the subtitle implied there was going to be a debate between supporters of the Flat Tax, Fair Tax, a VAT, and maybe even 9-9-9—and that plan’s author, Rich Lowrie, did show up in the audience. But there really wasn’t any debate on that front.

And let’s face it, what kind of debate can we really have on taxes? Even the left admits that the tax code we have now is horrifically complex, prone to corruption and gaming the system. Though they disagree about “broadening the base and lowering the rates,” I don’t think any sane American, left, right, or center, can look at the miasma we have now and say, “Yeah, it works.” For whom?

There were some interesting points to be made, but ultimately I didn’t think the solutions that Norquist posed during question time were all that good. But let’s focus on the interesting first:

Is Libertarianism Part of the Conservative Movement?

Last night I attended a debate held at the American Enterprise Institute between Jonah Goldberg of National Review Online (and the Institute itself), author of Liberal Fascism and other notable works, and Matt Welch, of reason fame and the author of The Declaration of Independents. The question posed by the debate has been argued over ever since Franklin Delano Roosevelt began the New Deal, and conservatives and libertarians—then known as “classical liberals”—allied in order to present a unified front to keeping the massive new nanny state at bay. It was reinforced in the fifties when William Buckley formed National Review, and presented his argument for a “fusionist” political movement. It’s been going on for a long time, and it will continue to go on long into the future. Despite the jokes about it, the debate did not solve the question for most people. I, however, left convinced more than ever that libertarianism and conservatism do not mix.

The death of Baseline Budgeting?

I didn’t put it in my “14 Fixes for our Messed up Country” list, since I thought it was long enough, but one of the things I really think needs to be reformed is the utterly insane institution of “baseline budgeting,” aka “Washington accounting,” aka “DC moonbattery.”

Apparently, though, according to CNS News (no, that’s not a typo) baseline budgeting might be on the ropes:

The House approved a potentially sweeping budget reform Friday that would force federal agencies to justify an annual increase, as opposed to getting an automatic increase under current budget law.

“What we are about to do could be the most responsible financial thing this Congress has done, this House has done in the whole last year,” Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) said before the vote. “It could be $1.4 trillion in cuts over the next 10 years and all we’re doing is just stopping the automatic increase.”

The Baseline Reform Act of 2012 passed the House by a near party-line vote of 235-177. However, the bill will likely have a difficult time passing the Democrat-controlled Senate.

Under current federal budget law, the amount of money a federal agency will automatically get for the next year is based on the current year’s amount, plus inflation, which is the “baseline” for the next budget year.

Read that last paragraph again, and then ask yourself: where, outside of the federal government, does that sort of accounting work? Do you ever give yourself a budget equal to last year plus inflation automatically? I don’t even think Warren Buffet, as wealthy as he is, does that, nor Mitt Romney. Probably not even Trump, but who really knows what the Donald does.

New York State commits economic suicide

It’s pretty hard to kill oneself when you’re already dead. I suppose some vampires have tried it, to end their miserable existence, but I don’t recall any zombies doing so. New York state may be the first to try, however.

The reason being is that Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (the Assembly being New York’s equivalent of a “House of Representatives”) has introduced a bill that will raise the state’s minimum wage from $7.50 an hour to $8.25 an hour:

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, joined by dozens of colleagues from his chamber controlled by Democrats, said census data show nearly half of the U.S. population has fallen into poverty or joined the ranks of the working poor. He said New York’s minimum wage has risen 10 cents in the last six years, it is lower here than in 18 other states, and increasing it is “a matter of human dignity.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has supported previous proposals to raise the minimum and his office will review this one through the legislative session, spokesman Matthew Wing said Monday

Scott Reif, spokesman for Republicans who control the Senate, said the Senate GOP would “continue to promote policies that encourage job growth and make New York a more business-friendly state, just as we did last year partnering with Governor Cuomo.”

The New York Farm Bureau and the state Business Council said raising the minimum wage would hurt small businesses, farms and nonprofits that are struggling to meet payrolls now. Farm Bureau President Dean Norton called it “a stealth tax.”

Citizens United and SOPA/PIPA

You know, letting corporations donate to political campaigns and have free speech rights will destroy the country. Giving corporations the right to speech, like us, is a monumental threat to democracy. They would make us all beholden to the 1%. They would buy campaigns, transform this country into a plutocracy or, worse yet, a full blown corporatocracy. Who knows what terrible things they could do to our country. Why, with their money and resources, they would be able to warp and corrupt public opinion, and turn them against the government. They might even lead a campaign to stop online censorship!

I find it somewhat amusing that the progressives who railed against Citizens United so furiously are now finding themselves the beneficiaries of that decision. Citizens United allowed corporations and such organizations as unions to spend money on political campaigns, though they could not be donated to political parties or candidates, and had to be spent separately. What else was the SOPA Strike Wednesday but a political campaign, with Hollywood on one end trying to use the political system to do away with due process in order to reap more profits, and tech companies and grassroots citizen-activists on the other trying to prevent such a mockery of law? I’m not a legal expert, but it would appear to me that if Citizens United hadn’t been decided the way it were, and the McCain-Feingold Act was still in place, this campaign might not have gotten off the ground, or if it did, it might not have been as wildly successful as it was.

It’s Working: #StopSOPA Protests Make Senators Back Off

Most times, petitions, protests, and the like to seem to have very little effect. People protested against the Iraq War, but we went in. People protested against TARP and the bailouts, but we bailed them out anyways. People protested against Obamacare, and it was passed anyways.

Today is different.

Judging from the news I’ve been seeing, it appears that the SOPA Strike is having an appreciable effect. I’ve already noted that Sens. Rubio and Cornyn, two sponsors, have switched sides on the bill. Declan MuCullough over at CNet reports that there is even more antipathy than I previously thought:

Rep. John Carter, [R-Mars? -Ed.] a Texas Republican who is listed as a SOPA sponsor, “reserves judgment on the final bill,” a spokesman told CNET today. “He’s certainly not saying pass the bill as-is — there are legitimate concerns in this bill.” (See CNET’s FAQ on the topic.)

[…]

The home pages of Craigslist and Google feature exhortations to contact members of Congress and urge them to vote against the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Senate version called Protect IP. Amazon.com and Yahoo’s Flickr have also joined in. (Craiglist’s snarky note: “Corporate paymasters, KEEP THOSE CLAMMY HANDS OFF THE INTERNET!”)

New York senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, both Democrats who are Protect IP sponsors, sent CNET a joint statement saying: “While the threat to tens of thousands of New York jobs due to online piracy is real and must be addressed, it must be done in a way that allows the Internet and our tech companies to continue to flourish.” They said they believe “both sides can come together on a solution that satisfies their respective concerns.”

Wikipedia to go dark to protest #SOPA?

There are very few petitions that I think will actually do something. Usually, I simply don’t bother. Nobody reads them or listens to them. However, there are exceptions, and here is one of them.

Apparently, Wikipedia is considering going dark to protest the censorship monstrosities “Stop Online Piracy Act” and “Protect IP Act,” and DemandProgress has a petition website up where you can pledge to donate $1 if they do go dark, or simply sign a nonmonetary petition to do so. I have pledged the money, not only because I oppose SOPA, but also because I have used Wikipedia a lot over the years, and I would like to give back to that community.

We’ve been over why SOPA is a bad idea here many times. There are sincere technological problems with SOPA, along with political issues. It’s a cure that’s worse than the disease. The backers behind SOPA are pirates themselves. Wikipedia would also not be alone in this, if it does go through. All of these are reasons why we need to do something about this bill, and do it now.

 


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