Saturday, January 19, 2019

Lessons from the government shutdown

John Stossel: Government shutdown lessons -- We could take a chainsaw to so much of government | Fox News:

January 17, 2019 - "This government shutdown is now longer than any in history. The media keep using the word 'crisis.' But ... I see people going about their business -- families eating in restaurants, employees going to work, children playing in playgrounds, etc. I have to ask: Where’s the crisis?...

"We need some government, limited government. But most of life, the best of life, goes on without government, many of the best parts in spite of government....

"Columnist Paul Krugman calls this shutdown, 'Trump’s big libertarian experiment.' But it’s not libertarian. Government’s excessive rules are still in effect, and eventually government workers will be paid for not working. That makes this a most un-libertarian experiment. But there are lessons to be learned.

"During a shutdown when Barack Obama was president, government officials were so eager to make a point by inconveniencing people that they even stopped visitors from entering public parks. Trump’s administration isn’t doing that, so PBS found a new crisis: 'Trash cans spilling … (P)ark services can’t clean up the mess until Congress and the president reach a spending deal,' reported NewsHour. But volunteers appeared to pick up some of the trash. Given a chance, private citizens often step in to do things government says only government can do.

"The Washington Post ran a front-page headline about farmers 'reeling … because they aren’t receiving government support checks.' But why do farmers even get 'support checks'?... Most fruit and vegetable farmers get no subsidies, yet there are no shortages of peaches, plums, green beans, etc. Subsidies are a scam created by politicians who get money from wheat, cotton, corn and soybean agribusinesses. Those farmers should suck it up and live without subsidies, too.

"During shutdowns, government tells 'nonessential workers' not to come to work. But if they’re nonessential, then why do we pay 400,000 of them?...  We could take a chainsaw to so much of government.

The New York Times shrieks, 'Shutdown Curtails FDA Food Inspections!' Only if you read on do you learn that meat and poultry inspection is done by the Department of Agriculture. They’re still working.... More important, meat is usually safe not because of government -- but because of competition. Food sellers worry about their reputations ... so they take many more safety measures than government requires. One meat producer told me that they employ 2,000 more safety inspectors than the law demands....

"Even security work is done better by the private sector. At San Francisco’s airport, security lines move faster. Passengers told me, 'The screeners are nicer!' The TSA even acknowledged that those screeners are better at finding contraband. That’s because San Francisco (Kansas City, Seattle and a dozen smaller airports) privatized the screening process....

"Private contractors are better because they must compete. Perform badly, and they get fired. But government never fires itself."

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Friday, January 18, 2019

Walker runs for B.C. Libertarians in Nanaimo

Nanaimo byelection candidate fights government intervention | Times Colonist - Carla Wilson:

"The B.C. Libertarian Party candidate in Nanaimo is urging citizens to rethink how much government they want in their lives.

"'I’m basically trying to get a message of freedom out there,' Bill Walker said. 'Take responsibility for yourself, your family, your community'....

"Walker, 60, has lived in Nanaimo for 25 years. He grew up in Vancouver and earned a bachelor’s degree in urban geography from McGill University. He has spent the bulk of his career as a mortgage broker and owns Coast Finance Corp. in Nanaimo. He also has a seven-room inn in Tofino.

"Walker joined the Libertarian Party five years ago. He said the party does not believe government should be intervening all the time. He also ran in the 2017 provincial election.

"There isn’t a campaign budget for the campaign, Walker said. He is being helped by a couple of friends.

"Walker, an advocate of private medical clinics in B.C., said such clinics would improve the public system by reducing waits. 'This is about freedom of choice.'

"He is opposed to government intervention in rental accommodation, saying that more rental properties could have been built in past years, and in favour of turning the Insurance Corp. of B.C. into a co-operative operation.

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Thursday, January 17, 2019

NC, Nevada Libertarians join park cleanup effort

Volunteers clean up Lake Mead in wake of government shutdown - Cristen Drummond, Las Vegas

January 12, 2019 - "The partial federal government shut down continues to impact national parks, including Lake Mead.... The Libertarian Party of Nevada organized a cleanup earlier today. About 40 people visited Boulder Beach on Jan. 12....

"The Libertarian Party of Nevada organized this call to action, but that didn't stop those with other political affiliations from helping out.

"This is one of many cleanups at national parks scheduled by libertarians around the country today. The libertarian party plans to organize another beach clean up next month, and may also go up to Mt. Charleston."
Read more:

NC Libertarians Clean Up National Parks During Shutdown - Ashley Claster, Spectrum News:

January 12, 2019 - "Trash is piling up in national parks across the country. The workers who usually clean it up are not on the clock because of the government shutdown....

"The Libertarian Party of North Carolina is helping fill the void. The party chair, Susan Hogarth, said it is up to the people who love the land to do what the government cannot.

"'A big thing for Libertarians is that people will take care of the things that are important to them,' Hogarth explained. 'So we want to be a part of that. In fact, we don't think the federal government should be owning park lands or any lands. So, as part of that, we'd like to show that it's possible for it to be taken care of without the government doing that job....

"'That's a really clean park anyway because the people, they really take care of it.... They care about it. They go running here and bicycling. So they do tend to throw their stuff away. But that means the trash cans are full,' Hogarth said.

"Libertarians coming from all parts of the state say they're here to show their commitment to the community..... Hogarth says the cleanup is a demonstration that the people who use these resources care about the land and will take care of it, even when state and federal agencies do not."
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Wednesday, January 16, 2019

5th Amendment covers biometric phone locks, California judge rules

Feds Can't Force You To Unlock Your iPhone With Finger Or Face, Judge Rules - Thomas Brewster, Forbes:

January 14, 2019 - "A California judge has ruled that American cops can’t force people to unlock a mobile phone with their face or finger....

""The order came from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in the denial of a search warrant ... filed as part of an investigation into a Facebook extortion crime, in which a victim was asked to pay up or have an 'embarassing' video of them publicly released. The cops had some suspects in mind and wanted to raid their property. In doing so, the feds also wanted to open up any phone on the premises via facial recognition, a fingerprint or an iris.

"While the judge agreed that investigators had shown probable cause to search the property ... judge Kandis Westmore ruled ... that the government did not have the right, even with a warrant, to force suspects to incriminate themselves by unlocking their devices with their biological features. Previously, courts had decided biometric features, unlike passcodes, were not 'testimonial' ... because a suspect would have to willingly and verbally give up a passcode, which is not the case with biometrics. A password was therefore deemed testimony, but body parts were not, and so not granted Fifth Amendment protections against self-incrimination....

“'If a person cannot be compelled to provide a passcode because it is a testimonial communication, a person cannot be compelled to provide one’s finger, thumb, iris, face, or other biometric feature to unlock that same device,' the judge wrote. 'The undersigned finds that a biometric feature is analogous to the 20 nonverbal, physiological responses elicited during a polygraph test, which are used to determine guilt or innocence, and are considered testimonial....'

"Andrew Crocker, senior staff attorney at the digital rights nonprofit Electronic Frontier Foundation, said the latest California ruling went a step further than he’d seen other courts go....

"The magistrate judge decision could, of course, be overturned by a district court judge, as happened in Illinois in 2017 with a similar ruling. The best advice for anyone concerned about government overreach into their smartphones: Stick to a strong alphanumeric passcode that you won’t be compelled to disclose."

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Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Rangers shut down Tennessee park cleanup

Libertarians told to stop cleaning Shiloh National Military Park - Adam Friedman, Jackson Sun:

January 14, 2019 - "Members of the Libertarian Party in West Tennessee thought it would be nice to help clean up Shiloh National Military Park since most of the park's staff has been put on leave because of the partial government shutdown.

"But after less than 30 minutes of groundskeeping, they were told to leave.

"'Every other effort to clean up the national parks, from Washington, D.C., to Yosemite, has been fine," Tennessee Delta Region Libertarian Party Co-Leader Victoria Lee said. 'But when we went to Shiloh, we were told we were not allowed to clean up the park.'

"Lee, along with 25 other Libertarian Party members, and their families, went to Shiloh on Sunday to help clear off walking paths and rake leaves.

"The clean up at Shiloh is part of a nationwide initiative by the Libertarian Party to help clean up national parks around the country.

"'This is all in order to prove that volunteerism works,' Tennessee Delta Region Libertarian Party Co-Leader Marcus Baker said. 'Government isn't needed for everything; there are volunteers out there who can handle certain things. We all like keeping our national parks clean, simple as that.'

"A Shiloh National Military Park ranger can be heard saying in the video that he understands that the volunteers are trying to help but that volunteers can't clean up without a signed volunteer liability waiver.

"The Jackson Sun reached out to Shiloh National Park but has not received a response."

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Monday, January 14, 2019

Hot Air covers Libertarian park cleanup efforts

Libertarian Party organizes national park cleanups - Taylor Millard, Hot Air:

January 13, 2019 - "Republicans and Democrats may be sniping at each other over the partial government shutdown, but it’s the Libertarian Party which is putting words to action. Libertarians have organized multiple national park cleanups over the last week to show maybe the government isn’t needed to provide services.

"Libertarian Party National Committee Chair Nicholas Sarwark....'As Libertarians, we advocate replacing federal taxpayer funding for many services with private charity or privatization. We wanted to show how this could be accomplished by volunteering in our local communities. We know that people are inherently generous with their time and energy. We want to set an example by calling on the public to join us in maintaining our beautiful parks and landmarks this weekend and throughout the government shutdown.'

"The first cleanup was organized last Sunday with LP members, libertarians, anarchists, agorists, voluntarists, and more gathering at the National Mall in Washington D.C..... Libertarian Party members are also organizing national park cleanups in Ohio....

"This is probably one of the best ideas the Libertarian Party has ever had... It sends a clear message to others – and hopefully politicians – on how it’s a-OK to loosen the stranglehold the government has on our lives. There’s something to be said about this and for the ambitiousness of the LP to go, 'there’s a problem, we’ll organize, and solve the problem.'

"What’s going to be curious to see is how the Libertarian Party uses this momentum to advance its agenda in the future. The biggest critique I’ve had of the LP – as a small-l libertarian who isn’t a member of the party – is its seeming disorganization. The park cleanup shows the party is more organized than people realized and it also goes a long way to show people who may not hold to the ideology how free markets can easily replace what the government has seized.

"It will also be curious to see what happens once the rest of the government re-opens. Will there be a push to privatize the National Park System or, at least, part of it ... ? Will more people start voting for Libertarian Party candidates in local, state, and federal elections? I don’t expect the government to suddenly give up power, but if there’s enough of a push it might happen in the future.

"This is the long-term strategy by the Libertarians. Kudos to them for showing it works."

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Sunday, January 13, 2019

BBC TV's Yes Minister a primer on civil service

The BBC's "Yes Minister" Is Everything You Need to Know about Government - Foundation for Economic Education - Bill Wirtz:

November 18, 2018 - "The British satire show Yes Minister was unique in its display of the inner workings of government. It's as up to date as ever.

"The series ... on BBC Two between 1980 and 1988 ... has in its core the characters of Jim Hacker (the minister), Sir Humphrey Appleby (permanent secretary), and Bernard Woolley (Hacker's principal private secretary). Hacker plays the role of minister of administrative affairs, making him responsible for the British civil service and any type of reforms deemed necessary for the inner workings of the government. He is what Americans would probably describe as a 'dork': he's unable to understand the intrigue of the civil service, optimistic about his actual power, and easily swayed........

"Sir Humphrey represents the civil service: he is stubborn and opinionated, and manages to protect his interests and those of the bureaucrats with ingenious wit and plot. Humphrey characteristically says 'Yes Minister' repeatedly, though he's clearly understood to mean 'No.' Bernard ... is easily broken by Sir Humphrey and ... is also used to parody the civil service: he constantly chips in with unnecessary knowledge....

"The questions Yes Minister asks are not impertinent: Are long-term appointments of top-class civil servants really a good idea?...

"In 2015, the United States employed a total of almost 22 million government employees in federal, state, and local government.... Civil servants aren't only employees; they are, in fact, employees who vote for their bosses in significant numbers. All of the 22 million government employees vote, and they are closely associated with people (in this case their own families) who share their financial interests. When politicians do not exchange civil servants as they take office, they can get stuck with hostile and powerful bureaucrats who lobby for their own interests....

"Yes Minister shows how fear-mongering and delay are among the civil service’s tactics to stay in power. In fact, Jim Hacker continuously gets confronted with the wrath of the Deep State as soon as he tries to reform any of it.....

"[I]n today's Britain, a show like Yes Minister would be unlikely to be produced. The BBC would be worried about offending people or even ... undermining public faith in the institutions of the country."

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Saturday, January 12, 2019

Government shutdown as "libertarian experiment"

The Libertarian Experiment That Isn’t | Cato @ Liberty - Ryan Bourne:

January 11, 2018 - "According to Paul Krugman, the government shutdown amounts to a potentially big libertarian experiment. With nine departments and multiple agencies closed, maybe for months, the New York Times columnist and Nobel laureate envisages a coming test of whether the country can live without the Food and Drug Administration, the Small Business Administration and farm subsidies....

"As the vast majority of the U.S. population go about their daily lives, barely noticing that 25 percent of federal discretionary spending has been paused, it’s certainly possible many will wonder why debt is being racked up for programs that have no noticeable effect on their well-being. Who knows, many employees, businesses and farms may also reconsider the wisdom of placing their livelihoods at the whims of the political process.

"Better still, the shutdown may bring attention to these otherwise rarely-scrutinized programs. If major columnists continue identifying Cato as proponents of scrapping things such as farm subsidies and small business cronyism, linking to our research on the damaging economic, political, and social consequences of existing provisions, the shutdown could serve a useful public education role too!

"But ... shutdowns appear not to change much in regards the size and scope of government in the long term, yet bring chaos, ill-feeling and uncertainty in the short....

"Libertarians are indeed confident that, as in countries such as New Zealand, scrapping agricultural subsidies would deliver a more efficient industry, taxpayer savings, and a bigger economy. But ... temporary suspension of promised support is not an environment conducive to farmers making long-term crop or farm ownership decisions, private companies banding to form market-based food safety certification agencies, or small businesses sourcing new finance.

"Yes, economic actors will take steps to mitigate the effects of disruption. But knowing government will eventually reopen, there is little to no incentive for the new institutions to develop or businesses and farms to undertake the structural change we would see if government absented from these roles. Instead, ... [t]he natural priority for those farms, businesses and federal employees right now is to lobby successfully for the government to reopen and their payments to start flowing again....

"In fact, ... a host of other areas likely to be noticeably affected by a sustained shutdown – security screening at airports, air traffic control, and the management of national parks – are better managed in other countries with more private sector involvement. If the shutdown brings attention to this, then great.

"Overall though, libertarians are fully aware that for the real policy experiments we desire, the public and/or politicians must be convinced of the necessity or desirability for permanent policy change in a market-based direction. The best chance for success with that is in an environment where those affected can adjust in an orderly manner, and replacement private-sector institutions have time to develop."

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Libertarians cleaning Ohio & California parks

Libertarians plan to clean-up Hopewell National Park as government shutdown continues | WSYX TV6 Columbus - Geoffrey Redick:

January 8, 2019 - "Kryssi Wichers' car is covered with Libertarian Party stickers, and she ran as a Libertarian candidate.... On Saturday, her political party will host a 'National Park Clean Up' event, ... part of a larger statewide effort being sponsored by the Libertarian Party.... Libertarians are cleaning up the parks, since national park rangers are on furlough during the 17 day-long government shutdown....

"Wichers says trash bags, bottled water and potentially snacks will be provided during the clean-up. The 'National Park Clean Up' event will be held from 11:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. Saturday at Hopewell Culture National Historical Park on Route 104 just north of Chillicothe. Anyone is welcome to attend, and participants do not have to be a member or supporter of the Libertarian Party to pitch in."
Read more:

Libertarian Party organizes Yosemite cleanup | Local | - Julissa Savala, Hanford Sentinel:

January 9, 2019 - "Reports of trash piling up and human feces littering the state’s most beautiful national parkland [are] why the Libertarian Party of Kings County is taking measures into its own hands.... [M]embers are organizing trash pick-up days at national parks in Central California and are asking for help from every community member willing to do what the government can’t during a shutdown....

"Kalish Morrow, chair of Libertarian Party of Kings County, said [that] since the government shutdown began on Dec. 22, some Libertarian groups around the nation ... have volunteered to help pitch in with cleaning up, such as around the National Mall in Washington, D.C., and Lake Mead in Nevada.... Due to the shutdown, funding for national parks ... has been slashed, leaving them with little to no restroom facilities and essential custodial services. Visitors have flooded the parks, taking advantage of free entry...

"The Libertarian Party of Kings County will be at Yosemite National Park on Sunday, Jan. 13, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. for a cleanup effort. Members and others who are interested will meet in Hanford that morning and caravan up to the park."
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Thursday, January 10, 2019

Libertarians clean up Washington D.C.

Libertarians step in to clean up Washington during government shutdown - Steve Goodale, Newsgrowl:

January 7, 2019 - "Dozens of Libertarian Party members met on the National Mall in Washington, DC yesterday to pick up the litter and garbage piling up around some of America’s most famous monuments. With no regular litter collection happening on federally-owned land during the government shutdown, the burden of keeping much of the city clean has fallen to private citizens.

"Officially sponsored by the Libertarian Party of DC and the Libertarian Party of Northern Virginia, the event drew patriotic LP members from as far away as Pennsylvania. A total of seven teams, each equipped with a roll of garbage bags, fanned out across the Mall on different pre-assigned routes.

"Effort was concentrated on areas most likely to be visited by tourists, which included the Mall itself, the Capitol building, the Lincoln Memorial, and the various war monuments in the area.

"Besides general litter, the Libertarians found debris left over from protesters, and even a bottle of human urine....

“'It’s an example of us practicing what we preach. We want the private sector to step up when government can’t, so that’s what we’re doing here,' said LP of DC chairman and Libertarian National Committee member Joe Bishop-Henchman.

"Libertarian Party national membership manager Jess Mears ... explained. 'Obviously, the federal government does maintain the parks. While it is shut down right now, we’re trying to exemplify other ways that we could have these services without federal dollars contributing to them. Also,' she added, 'it’s getting your hands dirty in politics. Literally'....

"After completely filling a van with full garbage bags a pickup truck was brought in to take away the remainder.

"With no end [to] the government shutdown in sight, provisional plans for the Libertarians to return to the same area next week are in discussion.

"'I think we all have a mutual responsibility to take care of our public spaces, and government doesn’t necessarily need to pay for that,' said participant Ethan Bishop-Henchman. 'It’s definitely not paying for it right now.'”

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Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Private sector maintaining Yellowstone Park

Private Companies Are Paying to Keep Yellowstone Clean During Shutdown - Hit & Run : - Eric Boehm:

January 7, 2019 - "Nearly three weeks into the government shutdown, some of America's national parks are starting to get a bit rank [with] no employees to empty trash bins or clean toilets...

"But at Yellowstone National Park, National Public Radio reports, local businesses are chipping in to make sure the bathrooms get cleaned, the roads get plowed, and the tourists keep coming. Even in the middle of winter, the park gets an estimated 20,000 visitors per month....

"Xanterra Parks and Resorts, which runs the only hotels inside Yellowstone that remain open during the winter, is leading the effort to cover the $7,500 daily tab for keeping the roads plowed and the snowmobile trails groomed during the shutdown, according to NPR. Thirteen other private businesses that offer tours of the park are chipping in $300 a day to help cover that expense....

"Xanterra has some of its own employees assigned to clean park bathrooms during the shutdown, and snowmobile tour guides are packing their own toilet paper for customers to use....

"According to the National Park Service, the 331 million visitors to national parks during 2017 contributed an estimated $18.2 billion to local economies within 60 miles of the parks. All that spending supported 306,000 jobs. The federal government spends about $3 billion on the National Park Service each year, but those private economies based in and around the parks [are] six times larger. That's a powerful incentive to keep things running even if the government isn't.

"There's also probably a useful lesson here about what the privatization of national parks would look like. Rather than the corporatized dystopia of environmentalist nightmares, removing the government from the equation would allow businesses that have a vested interest in maintaining and protecting America's natural splendor to do exactly that — and would prevent the parks from being caught up in the unrelated drama of whatever nonsense is happening in Washington, D.C."

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Tuesday, January 8, 2019

DC think tank warns of climate action costs

CEI warns lawmakers that a 'Green New Deal' would risk a humanitarian crisis - John Siciliano, Washington Examiner:

January 8, 2019 - "A prominent libertarian think tank is warning Congress that a real humanitarian crisis, in the U.S. and abroad, would follow if lawmakers move forward with proposals like the progressive-backed 'Green New Deal' that would restrict access to fossil fuels and thus raise the cost of living.

"The Competitive Enterprise Institute on Tuesday released its wish list of recommendations for the new 116th Congress, calling on the leadership in the House and Senate to apply a 'do no harm' principle before moving forward with climate legislation.... The group challenges the renewable energy mandate of the Green New Deal, which is being pushed in the House by left-leaning freshmen....

"CEI ... had been subpoenaed as part of an investigation launched by Democratic attorneys general in recent years into whether ExxonMobil had suppressed climate data from its own scientists. The attorneys general wanted documentation on how the think tank advised energy firms like Exxon on climate change. CEI fought the subpoena requests in court, arguing that it infringed on the organization's constitutional speech protections.

"The Green New Deal calls for ... a phase-out of fossil fuels, transitioning to renewable energy in order to cut greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change. Such a plan would drive up prices for low-income households, while raising 'serious humanitarian concerns,' says the group.... The result would be that low-income households would have to cut back on spending on food, medicine, education, and more.

"The recommendations also say that moving ahead with the goals of the Paris climate change accord — limiting global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius — cannot be achieved without painful cuts in developing countries’ use of fossil fuels like gasoline, coal, and oil. Likewise, the cuts in fossil energy use would make developing nations more dependent on expensive renewable energy, affecting the health and well-being of people across the globe, according to CEI.

"The group ... wants lawmakers to ... hobble EPA’s authority by making changes to the Clean Air Act, which. .. would make it harder for the agency to revisit climate regulations in the future.... The group also wants Congress to ... pass legislation that freezes and then sunsets the nation’s ethanol mandate and biofuel program, known as the Renewable Fuel Standard, in 2022."

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Monday, January 7, 2019

Maine Libertarians regain party status for 2019

Libertarians are alive and kicking - The Ellsworth American (letter) - Chris Lyons, Jim Baines, & Jesse McNally, Libertarian Party of Maine:

January 4, 2019 - "While the state of Maine disqualified the Libertarian Party as an officially recognized party in late November, that was a temporary status. The party regained recognized status on Dec. 11, after party members filed the necessary paperwork.

"The state requires 10,000 voting registrants to maintain permanent status, or the party has to file a 'Declaration of Intent to Form a Party by Party Enrollment.' Only 10 registered voters are required by the state to sign the form, which was submitted on Dec. 3 (the first day of eligibility), and approved by the state on Dec. 11. The state now requires the Libertarians to reach 5,000 registrants by Jan. 2, 2020, and 10,000 registered Libertarians must vote on Election Day 2020 to maintain official status.

"'The drive for permanent recognition now begins,' says Vice Chairman Jim Baines of Hampden. 'We have new and growing leadership that was just voted in this year, and we’re stepping up a campaign to let Mainers know we’re here, we’re organized, and we care about everything they care about — freedom to make your own decisions, both financial and personal. We’re also tired of seeing wasteful government spending, and neither old party cares to do anything about that.'

"The Libertarian Party also is looking to the courts to reinstate the roughly 6,000 existing registered Libertarians, whom the state unenrolled last month. Just the same, anyone can register as a Libertarian, provided they do so on new registration cards that will come out in the next month. The Libertarians will be printing up their own cards."

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Sunday, January 6, 2019

Is "tu quoque" really a logical fallacy?

by George J. Dance

GD's Political Animal is meant to be a newshub, bringing you the top stories (from a libertarian point of view) each day. As such, most of the articles on it are quotes from other media. Occasionally, though, I've slipped in a few things I've written. Encouraged by the reaction, and wanting to do more writing, I've decided to spend more time to using GDPA as a traditional blog: a place to record  my own thoughts, whether they're libertarian or political or not, on what I'm thinking of that day. Not necessarily Sundays, of course: that will still be the day for libertarian-oriented arts, entertainment, and "light" stories. Those articles will not be boosted on Facebook, except the 3 or 4 groups where I'm actively involved.

In a day, I think about  dozens of things; the topic is determined solely by when I start writing. Today, I was thinking about logic, and, specifically, the idea of tu quoque.

"Tu quoque" is a Latin term that translates as "you too." It is the name of a line of argument that is considered a logical fallacy. Here is a standard explanation, from Wikipedia:
Tu quoque ... or the appeal to hypocrisy, is a fallacy that intends to discredit the opponent's argument by asserting the opponent's failure to act consistently in accordance with its conclusion(s)... An example would be:

Peter: "Bill is guilty of defrauding the government out of tax dollars."
Bill: "How can you say that when you yourself have 20 outstanding parking tickets?"
Wikipedia adds that tu quoque "is a fallacy because the moral character or actions of the opponent are generally irrelevant to the logic of the argument." It also calls it a "red herring"(a diversion) and an "ad hominem" (an attack on the person making the argument rather than the argument), but those two objections to it reduce to the first one: a statement can be a red herring or an ad hominem only if it is irrelevant to an argument.

So, then, a tu quoque is a fallacy only if it is irrelevant to an argument. A moral argument, though, is an argument about morality (what people ought to do and not do); and a person's actions (what he does and does not do) reflect his moral beliefs (what he believes people ought to do and not do). So: a tu quoque is not a fallacy in a moral argument.

Consider the above example. Peter's parking tickets are indeed irrelevant to whether Bill is withholding money from the government. But Peter is not just saying that Bill is withholding money from the government. By his use of the terms "guilty" and "defrauding," he is relying on (or smuggling in) tacit moral premises to imply a few equally tacit conclusions:
  1. It is morally wrong to commit fraud.
  2. Withholding money from the government is fraud.
  3. Therefore, Bill is guilty of fraud.
  4. Therefore, Bill should stop withholding money from the government; and
  5. Therefore, the rest of us should think badly of Bill for withholding that money.
That is the argument that Bill is addressing. He is in fact challenging Peter's premises, with a similarly tacit argument.
  1. By not paying his parking tickets, Peter is also withholding money from the government.
  2. Therefore, if Peter believed his second premise were true, he would pay his parking tickets (by his first premise).
  3. Therefore, Peter does not believe one of those two premises. Peter's argument contains a false premise, by his own admission.
That puts the onus back on Peter. Moral rules are "universalizable," which is just a fancy term meaning that they are rules not about what Bill should do or not do, but what people (ie, everyone) should do or not do. The principle of universalizability states that the moral rules that apply to one person apply to every other person, except where there is a good moral reason for treating them differently.

In order to save his argument, Peter has to justify such a difference in treatment. He can argue either that not paying parking tickets is different from not paying taxes, or that different rules should apply to Peter and Bill. On the other hand, by simply claiming a fallacy on Bill's part, Peter has to do nothing at all: he wins his point without having to make it; Bill loses to a bad argument, that Peter did not prove (or even properly make).

To repeat: tu quoque is not a fallacy in a moral argument; falsely labelling it as such is itself fallacios.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Alternet revives "libertarianism is racism" smear

Here’s why this economist believes libertarianism is essentially a form of white supremacy – - Cody Fenwick:

January 3, 2019 - [I]n a recent Twitter discussion on several different economics themes, documented by economist Brad DeLong, Marshall Steinbaum offered a theory.... The discussants were debating the merit of anti-monopolistic policies and to what extent it could be useful to frame the messaging around the topic in a way that would get libertarians on board.

“'You might have noticed that I don’t particularly care about "winning over" libertarians given their longstanding intellectual commitments,' Steinbaum, research director at the Roosevelt institute, said. 'If it is self-defeating to refuse to ally with white supremacy, then fine.'

“'Are you equating libertarianism with white supremacy?' asked E. Glenn Weyl, founder of RadicalxChange.

“'I am indeed, with much in the historical record to back me up. For example: "the United States, with trivial exceptions, has never been a colonial country.' —Milton Friedman," replied Steinbaum. 'There are flavors, but they all serve one another’s purposes and are part of the same political movement, yes.'

"Weyl, for one, outright rejected the view: 'Marshall is equating libertarianism with white supremacy. I think this is roughly equivalent to equating socialism with Stalinism, conservatism with Nazism or Islam with terrorism. This attitude of some of the left is unbelievably destructive and dangerous.'

"But DeLong, noting that he does not always agree with Steinbaum, argued persuasively for his point of view in a follow-up blog post. Libertarianism, he wrote, 'is a Frankenstein’s monster that got its lightning-bolt juice from massive resistance to the Civil Rights Movement'....

"DeLong pointed out that when Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) first entered national politics, he sparked a backlash by saying he opposed the 1964 Civil Rights Act because it restricted private businesses’ right to engage in racist discrimination. Paul has since avoided discussion of this view, but it remains a revealing episode of his thinking....

"In principle, of course, anyone might discriminate against anyone else at public accommodations in Paul’s view. But we know how this plays out: White people use their property rights and 'freedom' from government regulation to further marginalize and oppress the black minority. Thinking that this is a world more in line with the ideal of 'freedom,' rather than a world in which fair treatment can be more readily enforced, is an unavoidably white supremacist idea.

"It’s also worth noting that Ron Paul, the senator’s father and  predecessor in the Senate and at the forefront of national libertarianism, was caught having published wildly racist remarks in his own personal newsletter."

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UPDATE: The AlterNet article was reprinted January 4, 2019, by Salon, under the title "Here’s why economist Brad DeLong believes libertarianism is essentially a form of white supremacy"

Friday, January 4, 2019

People's Party organized in all federal ridings

Bernier says People's Party set up in all 338 ridings ahead of 2019 election | National Observer - Canadian Press:

January 2, 2019 - "The People's Party of Canada says it has reached its goal of setting up 338 riding associations as it sets its sights on being a competitive force in the upcoming federal election.

"In an email to supporters, leader Maxime Bernier says the move amounts to a "gift of hope" for Canadians seeking to bring back freedom, responsibility, fairness and respect to the country....

"The party's platform is still being finalized, but its website says positions taken by Bernier in the Conservative leadership race — such as a pitch to phase out supply management for the dairy sector — will form the basis for its policies.

"Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer defeated Bernier for the federal Tory leadership by a slim margin in May 2017.

"Bernier has accused the Tories of abandoning conservatives, adding the party has 'nothing of substance' to offer Canadians seeking a political alternative."

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Thursday, January 3, 2019

Sanford warns of debt crisis in farewell address

Rep. Mark Sanford Cautions of ‘Hitler-like’ Figure in Parting Address - Emily Kopp, Roll Call:

December 27, 2018 - "Outgoing Republican Rep. Mark Sanford cautioned his constituents on the rise of a 'Hitler-like character' in a parting address on Wednesday. Though a frequent critic of President Donald Trump, the South Carolinian clarified he was not likening the leader of the Republican Party to Nazi Germany’s Adolf Hitler. But he warned the 'forces at play' in contemporary politics 'could lead to a future Hitler-like character if we don’t watch out.'

"'Washington cannot continue to do business as it now does and have our republic survive,' Sanford said in reference to the national debt. 'As open political systems become cumbersome and inefficient, inevitably a strong man comes along and offers easy promises. He says that he can take care of it for us. People desperate for a change accept his offer. They have to give up a few freedoms in the equation to get more security,” Sanford said.....

"The impending government shutdown prevented Sanford from delivering the address on the House floor last week, but the departing congressman and former governor posted the speech to Facebook.

"State Rep. Katie Arrington ousted Sanford in a primary battle earlier this year where support for Trump was a decisive fault line.... Trump endorsed Arrington on Election Day, slamming Sanford [and] mocked Sanford’s subsequent defeat at a private meeting with Congressional Republicans....

"In his parting speech, Sanford described the difference between Trump's politics and his own deeply conservative views as the 'soothing promises of populism' versus the 'real math' of budget austerity. Sanford said his career had been defined by the issue of national debt.

''More than anything, these last 25 years have been about trying in some small way to affect the trajectory of government spending,' he said.

"Sanford delivered a dramatic prediction about the future of the economy, arguing that government [deficit] spending could lead to inflation, which would erode 'our way of life.' 'I believe that we are marching our way toward the most predictable financial and economic crisis in the history of our republic,' he said. 'If we don’t change course soon, markets will do it for us.'

"Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., a fellow member of the Freedom Caucus, would 'carry the flag forward in this eternal battle,' he said.

"Sanford’s challenger Arrington lost to Democrat Joe Cunningham in the November general election."

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Wednesday, January 2, 2019

"A global backlash against climate-change taxes"

France’s protesters are part of a global backlash against climate-change taxes - The Washington Post - Steven Mufson & James McAuley:

December 4, 2018 - "The single most effective weapon in the fight against climate change is the tax code — imposing costs on those who emit greenhouse gases, economists say. But as French President Emmanuel Macron learned over the past three weeks, implementing such taxes can be politically explosive.

"France delayed for six months [and later abandoned - gd] a plan to raise already steep taxes on diesel fuel by 24 cents a gallon and gasoline by about 12 cents a gallon. Macron [had] argued that the taxes were needed to curb climate change by weaning motorists off petroleum products, but violent demonstrations in the streets of Paris and other French cities forced him to backtrack — at least for now.... It was a setback for the French president, who has been trying to carry the torch of climate action in the wake of the Paris accords....

"Leaders in the United States, Canada, Australia and elsewhere have found their carbon pricing efforts running into fierce opposition....

"In the United States ... energy-related taxes are among the lowest in the developed world.... Bill Clinton proposed a tax on the heat content of fuels as part of his first budget in 1993. Known as the BTU tax, for British thermal unit, it would have raised $70 billion over five years while increasing gasoline prices no more than 7.5 cents a gallon. But Clinton was forced to retreat in the face of a rebellion in his own party.... The state of Washington has also tried — and failed twice — to win support for a carbon tax or carbon 'fee'....

"To be sure, some climate-conscious countries have adopted carbon taxes, including Chile, Spain, Ukraine, Ireland and nations in Scandinavia. [But] Only around 12 percent of global emissions are covered by pricing programs such as taxes ... or permit trading....

"But Canada is about to offer a test case. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has unveiled a 'backstop' carbon tax of $20 a ton ... for the four Canadian provinces that do not already have one. Trudeau was elected partly on a promise of this sort of measure, but it’s costing him more political capital than expected. Conservative premiers oppose the plan, which looks set to become an election issue.

"Trudeau’s policy, however, is designed to withstand criticism. About 90 percent of the revenue from the backstop tax will be paid back to Canadians in the form of annual 'climate action incentive' payments. Because of the progressive tax rates, about 70 percent of Canadians will get back more than they paid....

"The first checks will arrive shortly before Canadian elections."

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Tuesday, January 1, 2019

In praise of the public domain

by George J. Dance

January 1, 2019 - In Canada, January 1 is Public Domain Day, the day when works of art lose their copyright status and pass into the public domain. "Public domain" means that the art no longer has an owner who can charge (and therefore exclude) those who want to experience it. Physical copies are still owned; but anyone in the world - teacher, humble blogger, or even small press owner - can make their own copies without having to pay royalties for the privilege.

Public Domain Day happens today in the United States, as well, but there it is more momentous. January 1, 2019 is the first Public Domain Day in the U.S. in 20 years: the very first since the rise of the internet.

The concept of a 'public domain' has a long pedigree, reaching back to the Roman legal concepts of res nullus (things that cannot be owned) and res communes (things owned in common). In modern law, though, it is treated as a mere negative: the things to which property law does not apply. The term itself was coined by French poet Alfred de Vigny, who equated the end of a work's copyright with it falling "into the sinkhole of public domain." "Sinkhole" was a good description; For most books, songs and poems, the lack of copyright meant that no one would publish them; a work that fell into the public domain could well and truly disappear.

However, the internet changed all that. Project Gutenberg began putting the literary canon online – Internet Archive began doing the same for the rest of pre-1923 writing – Wikimedia Commons did the same for paintings and music. Today, rather than being lost to us, public domain works are available and freely accessible to billions.  

Simultaneous with the rise of the net in the 1990s, copyright holders began pushing to extend their copyrights. In 1995 the United Kingdom increased its copyright term, from life plus 50 to life plus 70 years. The United States followed suit in 1998 with its own 20-year increase, from 75 to 95 years. The British law was retroactive, declaring works already in the public domain (some already republished) back in copyright (and those published works therefore illegal). However, as the U.S. Constitution forbids ex post facto punishments, Congress had to be content with freezing copyrights for 20 years, effectively banning Public Domain Day for that time.

Canada has been under considerable pressure (most recently with the Trans-Pacific Partnership) to increase its own term. Thankfully, that pressure failed; not least, because such extensions of copyright are indefensible. A libertarian can accept the idea of giving a work's creator a right to use and profit from his work, even for life; and adding an extra fixed term protects his dependents from his accidental death. (For example, if a writer dies at 30, Canadian law lets his heirs collect royalties as if he had lived to 80.) But there is no justification for forcing consumers to pay royalties to a creator's grandchildren.  

Yet copyright advocates continued to demand more for another decade. Some, like Sonny Bono (a main proponent of the 1998 law), even argued for perpetual copyrights that would never expire. Perpetual copyright is also forbidden by the U.S. Constitution, which empowers Congress to grant patents and copyrights for "a limited time" only; Bono and his ilk hoped to circumvent that by passing further 20-year extensions every 20 years, meaning that the next increase had to happen by 2018.

Fortunately, the internet changed all that, too. The tipping point came in 2012, when Congress debated the Stop Internet Piracy Act (SOPA), which would have forced ISPs to black out websites accused of copyright violation and blacklist the site owners. Online opposition to SOPA was massive and widespread, and in addition backed by big sites like google and Wikipedia. For once the big money pushing to expand copyright was balanced by big money pushing back. "The defeat of SOPA was so complete," says website Ars Technica, "that it has essentially ended efforts by copyright interests to expand copyright protection via legislation."

Which is why the U.S. enjoyed a Public Domain Day this year. American copyright law today is far from perfect, and in many respects not even very good. But at least this day can remind Americans that, thankfully, their government no longer has carte blanche to make it worse.