Constitution

Taxing Internet Purchases is a Bad Idea

Amazon.com

We’re seeing more and more efforts to push for taxes to be collected on Internet purchases. Articles on this topic have been popping up all over the place lately (here, here, and here). The push makes sense in some minds. States with revenue issues need more revenue, and the Internet is the great untaxed frontier. (States with revenue issues more likely need a better fiscal policy more than they need added revenue, but that’s a huge topic for another post.)

You probably don’t have to wonder too much about whether or not I’d support the idea of taxing internet purchases. I’d oppose it primarily on the grounds that taxes are already too high, but there are other considerations as well. South Carolina’s Senator Jim DeMint addressed the issue recently and made the point that taxing Internet purchases would be unconstitutional:

Make no mistake: the online sales tax would be another unconstitutional mandate. If MFA [the Marketplace Fairness Act] becomes law, politicians in Washington would give California the right to force a business in another state to collect and pay California sales taxes.

The Fallacy of Legality

Governments do one thing well.  They make things illegal.  They have done so with startling efficiency since before the ink was really dry on the Constitution.  Unfortunately, despite their best efforts, they fail to understand the fallacy of legality.

The idea itself isn’t really that hard to comprehend.  Most know it on some level at least.  That idea is that the legality of an act only matters to those inclined to follow the law.  By definition, those that will run afoul of a law aren’t likely to follow laws in the first place.

Where the fallacy of legality kicks in is where government enacts laws in the name of public safety.  For example, take the old Texas law that forbid Suzanna Hupp from taking her gun into a diner where she was eating with her parents.  Hupp was inclined to follow the law because she was law abiding.  Unfortunately, George Hennard wasn’t so inclined.  He rammed his pick-up truck into the diner and began to shoot patrons.  Two of the dead were Hupp’s parents.

Honestly, this isn’t a difficult thing to comprehend.  Unfortunately, we see far too often that those we elect to “lead” don’t grasp the basic concept.

Laws exist as grounds for people to know what is acceptable and what isn’t, not as a way to hamstring the law abiding but as grounds for the non-law abiding to understand they are crossing the lines of decency.  They should serve as the expectations of what humans should do.

For example, laws against murder don’t hamstring the law abiding (despite smart remarks to the contrary).  Instead, the level an expectation that people should not kill and that those who fail to comply will be punished.

Understanding Freedom

Freedom shouldn’t be all that complicated.  Unfortunately, it apparently is.

Far to many people feel that freedom really only means freedom for the things they like.  Oh sure, the Second Amendment is sacrosanct, but the freedom to not have to hear Christianity rammed down someone’s throat?  No, that’s a whole other ballgame. The fact that the First Amendment prevents the establishment of a state religion - and Christianity is a relgion - appears lost on many of these folks.

For a nation to be free, and I mean truly free, then we must tolerate things which we may find objectionable.  Drug use, prostitution, alcohol consumption (and yes, there are people who still want alcohol prohibition), or whatever.  It doesn’t matter, because real freedom must mean that people have the freedom to do a certain amount of bad things.

Should that mean people are free to rape, murder, rob, or anything else?  Absolutely not. Those all involve violating the rights of another, and that should always be off limits. I can’t think of a living soul who argues otherwise though I’m sure such fools exist.

However, there are a lot of laws that dictate what I can and can’t do with my own body.  Take, for example, laws that prevent me from consuming raw milk.  Personally, I think it’s not a smart thing to do.  However, I still believe I should have the right to consume it if I so choose.  After all, consuming non-pastuerized milk hurts no one but myself.

Many people can see that, and agree with me.  However, many of those same people will argue that drug use is a whole other ball game.  After all, they say, drugs create a whole world of crime around it.  That is true…but only because of prohibition.  There is zero evidence that legalizing drugs would do anything but decrease the crime that surrounds drugs.

Why I Am A Gun Owner And You Should Be Too

I spent my Easter at a shooting range about an hour west of my home. My wife had to work and I did not have plans to see family, so had some extra time to occupy myself with. I decided to put that extra time to use breaking a shotgun I purchased about a month for home defense. While my shoulder handled the 2 1/2 inch target shells pretty well, the 3 inch magnum 00 buckshot I shot pretty much made it raw.

While on my way to and from the range is a drive down a Mississippi country highway that takes me through mostly timberland and cattle country. While on that drive I got to thinking why I love guns so much. Was it because I liked the sensation and the sounds and smells of an explosion? If it was, I can get that thrill by using fireworks and I don’t buy fireworks. While I do enjoy shooting, the enjoyment alone obviously can’t be the reason why. I’m also not a hunter, so obviously that’s not why I own guns. The reason why I own firearms is simply because I can.

All throughout history, what has distinguished a free man from a slave or even a subject is the ability to possess and own weapons, or as the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution puts it, “to keep and bear arms”. You’re probably asking yourself, “how is this relevant in an age of tanks, drones, jet fighters, and other high-tech weapons?” Well, all those fancy weapons are controlled by people and all people die just the same once you strip away all the fancy technology. There are numerous examples of that in the 20th and already in the 21st century from France to Afghanistan. Subduing a free people, especially a well-armed people, is still very difficult.

Now the three types of guns you should own are; a .22 Long Rifle caliber weapon for simple and cheap marksmanship practice, a home and/or self defense weapon(s), and a militia duty weapon (aka a homeland security rifle).

Predictions on the ObamaCare case

The case against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) — what we often refer to as ObamaCare — is in the books. Members of the Supreme Court will cast their initial votes today than begin their deliberations, issuing their rulings — likely in four parts — at the end of the term in June.

It’s hard to make predictions about which way a majority of the Supreme Court, particularly Justice Anthony Kennedy, is going to go on the individual mandate and severability. But as has been noted by Jim Antle and Stephen Richer, many legal pundits never took the case seriously and now seem out-of-touch due to how close the end result is likely to be, no matter whether liberty prevails or statism hacks away another limited government principle from the Constitution.

Admittedly, I wasn’t going to write any predictions about the case simply because I don’t want to get my hopes up. But over at the National Review, Daniel Foster has given his predictions based on what we read and heard from oral arguments. He believes the Supreme Court will overturn the mandate, but split on severability, which he says will lead to “Chief Justice Roberts ask[ing] one of the liberal justices to write the operative opinion as a way of extending an olive branch.”

So with that, here are my predictions. I really hope I’m not let down, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the court go the opposite way on severability. I think there is just too much concern in the mind of Justice Kennedy to sign off on the individual mandate.

Individualism and the Individual Mandate: Two Incompatible Concepts

For the last few days the Supreme Court has listened to a case in which they have been asked to decide the constitutionality of the individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act.

This case is not about health care. It’s not about lowering premiums or rectifying the problem of the uninsured shifting healthcare costs to the insured, it’s not about increasing access to health care. It is simply a debate between whether or not the federal government is adhering more to the principles of individualism or collectivism.

The individual mandate is based upon the principle of collectivism which is the opposite of the principle of individualism,which the federal government was originally founded upon. But over the course of the last 225 years after the Constitution was ratified more and more laws have been passed that were based upon the ideas of collectivism and most have been upheld as “constitutional” by the Supreme Court.

Ayn Rand wrote in her awesome essay, Textbook of Americanisms, that “Individualism holds that man has unalienable rights which can not be taken away from him by any other man, nor by any number, group or collective of men. Therefore each man exists for his own sake and not for the sake of the group.”

On the other hand the Individual Mandate which forces every American to purchase a product is based upon the ideas of collectivism because it’s the majority who are using the force of Government to coerce individuals to act in a certain way.

In Textbook of Americanisms, Ayn Rand explained what the principle of collectivism really boils down to:

ObamaCare goes on trial

Today, the Supreme Court will take up perhaps one of the most important cases we’ll see in our lifetime. Over the next three days, members of the nation’s High Court will hear arguments on the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), also known as ObamaCare.

While we’ve seen several important cases over the 20 years that have dealt with economic and civil liberties — including property rights, free speech, and habeas corpus, Department of Health and Human Services v. Florida deals directly with the limitations placed on Congress by the Constitution.

The question of whether or not ObamaCare is good policy is meaningless to the Supreme Court. The issue at hand isn’t that law won’t keep health insurance premiums, or because it raises taxes or that it is unpopular with the American public. The only thing that matters, or at least should matter, is the Constitution.

During today’s oral arguments, the Supreme Court will hear an hour of arguments on whether or not legal challenges to the individual mandate are barred by the Anti-Injunction Act. The reason for this question is because the penalities that would be imposed by the individual mandate won’t be in place until 2014. Since no one has been necessarily impacted by the policy, the theory is that the court could punt until it’s implement.

Santorum, Birth Control and Federalism

This past week in Arizona, the remaining contenders for the Republican presidential nomination gathered for the last debate before the Super Tuesday primaries. Not unexpectedly, considering the moderators of these debates tend to be members of the left-leaning national media, the questions directed at the Republican candidates were often premised on a liberal worldview. Maybe nowhere was that more obvious than in the media feeding frenzy surrounding the beliefs of former Sen. Rick Santorum regarding birth control.

As a member of the Catholic Church, Santorum adheres to the belief that abortion and even the use of birth control are immoral. The media has seized upon this as proof that, were Santorum to win the presidency, he would impose a theocracy upon America, the implication being that he would use government to block abortion and birth control to those that desire it. Mitt Romney, in a previous debate, was perplexed by the question of whether states have the right to ban birth control, correctly noting that no state was even considering such a move, so why bring it up?

While several of the candidates touched on it, this was a golden opportunity to discuss a subject of immense importance and one that too few Americans could define, much less elaborate upon…the doctrine of federalism.

Washington Post uncovers earmarks used near lawmakers personal property

The practice of earmarks has come under scrutiny in recent years and some members in both chambers have pushed for bans on the practice because of the propensity of their colleagues to use them for less than noble purposes. The House of Representatives did enact a moratorium, though it doesn’t seem to be all that effective.

Some say that restricting earmarks is unconstitutional because it cuts in on congressional spending authority in Article I, Section 8. Others say that earmarks represent a fraction of the budget and eliminating them does nothing in the way of restoring fiscal responsibility. The former has some merit, but we know how James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, felt about spending for pork projects. It’s hard to see that he would find funding peanut research meets any constitutional litmus test.

The latter is true; however, earmarks are the epitome of what is wrong with Washington, DC. Yes, reforming entitlements and cutting spend elsewhere is incredibly important, but earmarks are a symbolic part of the battle. If we can’t cut this fraction of spending out of the budget or reform the earmark process, are we naive enough to believe that we can reform entitlements?

Back in 2006, at the height of the discussion about ethics in Congress, Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) explained that earmarks are the “currency of corrpution.” Not only were members using them to steer business to donors and friends, they were being used by leadership of both parties to sway votes on legislation.

The State of Our Union is Dire

Tonight President Obama will deliver his third State of the Union address, but something that happened yesterday illustrates the true state of our union far better than anything you’ll hear tonight. As we reported yesterday, Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) was detained by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officials at the Nashville International Airport. Paul was detained by TSA officials after refusing an invasive full body pat-down following some kind of anomaly in the body scanner’s reading. Some might argue that there’s nothing to get worked up about here. After all, shouldn’t we expect senators to be treated like everyone else? But it is precisely because everyday citizens are subjected to these invasive procedures on a daily basis that Sen. Paul’s detention is so alarming. His high-profile detention by the TSA serves as a reminder that Americans are having their privacy violated every day on their way through the nation’s airports.

You probably won’t hear about Sen. Paul’s detention by the TSA in President Obama’s address tonight. You’re not likely to hear anything about it in the GOP response delivered by Governor Mitch Daniels (R-Ind.), nor even in the Tea Party response offered by businessman and former presidential candidate Herman Cain (R-Ga.). You probably won’t hear about the National Defense Authorization Act, the Stop Online Piracy Act, or any of the other manifold ways that Washington has undermined the Bill of Rights. But whether our politicians want to raise these issues or not, these are the issues that define the state of our union in the 21st century. And the state of our union is dire.


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