Saturday, August 3, 2013

Sen. Colbeck - Please Remove Your Knife From My Back

State Senator Pat Colbeck - the self-styled Tea Party darling - has lied (again) to grassroots activists like you and me.

On July 31st, Sen. Colbeck introduced SB 459 - a bill which he claims is a "free market solution" - but actually implements Obamacare in Michigan.

Colbeck's bill:

  • restricts your options when shopping for health plans
  • sets up state-licensed insurance exchanges
  • creates a new state-run "low-income trust fund"
  • allows this "trust fund" to "receive money or assets from any source" - including the federal government
  • gives a government bureaucrat the sole discretionary power to direct the investment of funds for the "trust fund"
Go ahead and ask Detroit's pensioners how well government bureaucrats invested their retirement funds.

Colbeck wants to have it both ways. On the one hand, he wants us to believe that he's a "problem-solver" with "free market solutions" to high health care costs. On the other, he tells us that "we have to work within the constraints" created by the Obamacare law.

A real free market solution to health care wouldn't impose more government controls on the health insurance industry - it would nullify Obamacare and other federal restrictions on your health care, instead of "working within the constraints" of those unconstitutional laws.

If you don't believe what I have to say about Colbeck's new bill, then I dare you to read it for yourself and come to a conclusion different from my own.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Holding Kerry Bentivolio Accountable

A productive way for me to get my trouble-making itch taken care of
For every single belief you have about politics, I want you to ask yourself: "How does it benefit politicians if I believe this?" They want you to fall for lies like the lesser-of-two-evils argument, the pragmatist's excuse ("it's not politically possible"), and my all-time favorite "don't cause a ruckus - just talk to me personally if you have any issues."

Why? Because they don't want to be held accountable for their votes - and in Kerry Bentivolio's case, he doesn't want to be held accountable for his broken campaign promises.

A broken campaign promise is fraud, since it is an implicit contract made with donors, volunteers, and voters that is then broken. It should be prosecuted as such - but of course politicians have made an exception in the legal code for themselves. But more to the point, breaking a campaign promise is profoundly immoral.

A broken campaign promise is a lie which, in turn, is an evasion of reality made on part of the liar - and because recognizing reality is so important to each and every individual's survival and flourishing, it is never moral to fake or evade reality.* A lie becomes worse when it is used to defraud others of their time, effort, money, prestige, and votes - and that is exactly what Kerry Bentivolio did on a mass scale to those who volunteered for him, donated money to his campaign, endorsed him, and voted for him when he made campaign promises that he could not keep.

Rather than sit idly while politicians get away with mass deception, it is time activists go to war against their lies. Politicians are such concrete-bound, Pavlovian animals that the only thing they seem to understand is their short-term future. Politicians rarely look beyond their next re-election. That's why it's necessary for activists to hit the politicians where it hurts, by letting them know that they will suffer political consequences if they break their promises.

All that it would take in order to completely change the political dynamic would be an irate, tireless minority of the American population, say just 3%, dedicated to putting pressure on politicians. I plan to lead by example.

That is why I promise to follow Kerry Bentivolio's mobile office whenever and wherever it stops inside the Wayne 11th District.

* For more on the morality of honesty, I suggest budding philosophers check out Tara Smith's Ayn Rand's Normative Ethics: The Virtuous Egoist and the Ayn Rand Lexicon entries for Honesty and Evasion.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

RINO Randy Exposed

"Republicans should not be afraid of raising taxes." - Randy Richardville

Michigan Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, better known as "RINO Randy," went to a meeting of a group of Republicans in Gross Pointe, which is well outside of his district - but chock-full of rich folks - to give a speech about how great he and Governor Rick "Turncoat" Snyder are.

Well, a friend of mine let me know about this event, so I decided to attend it with a camcorder and a few friendly political activists. We went armed with knowledge of his voting record and a determination to get him to answer some questions.

Our main goals were to challenge him for supporting:
  • A massive sales tax hike that he proposed, which would make Michigan the highest sales tax state in the union.
  • Various handouts to special interest groups, including the direct cash handout to the film industry that he sponsored and was signed into law by Governor "Turncoat" Snyder (imagine: "Republicans" supporting robbing taxpayers to pay for Michael Moore's movies).
  • Implementing Obamacare in the state of Michigan.
Here is how it went:

Unfortunately, my camera ended up going into "sleep" mode after I set it down, so it ceased recording. I'm still kicking myself for not making sure it's on - because I missed recording him saying gems such as "Republicans should not be afraid of raising taxes."

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Problem With Anarchy

Even the anarchists admit that a free market in the provision of laws will lead to rights-violating laws if that's what people demand; see, for example, Roderick Long's defense of anarchism:

Another worry that Bidinotto has — and this is sort of the opposite of the worry that the rich will rule — is: well, look, isn't Mises right, that the market is like a big democracy, where there is consumer sovereignty, and the masses get whatever they want? That's great when it's refrigerators and cars and so forth. But surely that's not a good thing when it's laws. Because, after all, the masses are a bunch of ignorant, intolerant fools, and if they just get whatever laws they want, who knows what horrible things they will make.
Of course, the difference between economic democracy of the Mises sort and political democracy is: well, yeah, they get whatever they want, but they're going to have to pay for it. Now, it's perfectly true that if you have people who are fanatical enough about wanting to impose some wretched thing on other people, if you've got a large enough group of people who are fanatical enough about this, then anarchy might not lead to libertarian results.
If you live in California, you've got enough people who are absolutely fanatical about banning smoking, or maybe if you're in Alabama, and it's homosexuality instead of smoking they want to ban (neither one would ban the other, I think) — in that case, it might happen that they're so fanatical about it that they would ban it. But remember that they are going to have to be paying for this. So when you get your monthly premium, you see: well, here's your basic service — protecting you against aggression; oh, and then here's also your extended service, and the extra fee for that — peering in your neighbors' windows to make sure that they're not — either the tobacco or the homosexuality or whatever it is you're worried about. Now the really fanatical people will say, "Yes, I'm going to shell out the extra money for this." (Of course, if they're that fanatical, they're probably going to be trouble under minarchy, too.) But if they're not that fanatical, they'll say, "Well, if all I have to do is go into a voting booth and vote for these laws restricting other people's freedom, well, heck, I'd go in, it's pretty easy to go in and vote for it." But if they actually have to pay for it — "Gee, I don't know. Maybe I can reconcile myself to this."

The solution to this is, of course, neither democracy nor free market anarchy but rather republicanism, or a system of government based on the rule of law.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Backstabbing Bentivolio

Like most politicians, Congressman Kerry Bentivolio talks the talk but doesn't walk the walk.

Early in 2012, I joined Kerry Bentivolio's campaign as a volunteer and eventually became his Volunteer Coordinator for Livonia. I put in countless hours of legwork for him, gathering petition signatures to put him on the ballot, knocking on strangers' doors and calling likely voters encouraging them to go out and vote for Bentivolio.

Normally I am not enthusiastic about politicians - but Bentivolio seemed different. After all, he primary-challenged Thaddeus McCotter for campaigning on one set of principles but voting on a completely different set of principles. He promised to take his oath to uphold the Constitution seriously and said that he would never vote to raise the debt ceiling. He even took the Republican Liberty Caucus's pledge to always stand for fiscal responsibility, limited government, and personal freedom. I really believed Bentivolio would be our district's "Mr. Smith goes to Washington."

However, in a move accurately dubbed "Bentivolio's betrayal" by many of his ex-supporters, within a month of being sworn into office the Congressman violated his campaign promises by not only voting to raise the debt ceiling - but voting to temporarily suspend it. Not only was that fiscally irresponsible, but it also was plainly unconstitutional, seeing as Article 1 Section 8 of the US Constitution plainly gives the power to borrow money to Congress - not the President.

More recently, despite all of his rhetoric attacking Obamacare and government-run health care, Congressman Bentivolio again violated his campaign promises when he voted for the continuing resolution funding Obamacare. It appears that either Bentivolio is in way over his head and is receiving poor advice from his staffers or he is a sell-out.

Either way, he is rapidly losing the support of the liberty movement, which helped him get elected. Many of his former supporters, volunteers, and donors have expressed serious disappointment with his voting record. I hope he'll realize the error of his ways soon and change course - or else all the effort I and many other volunteers put into his campaign will be wasted.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

End & Replace The Prison System

There are numerous components to controlling crime, including providing rehabilitation and psychiatric treatment for criminals, improving the efficacy of police and courts in catching criminals, deterring criminals by allowing individuals to protect themselves with any means necessary (including guns), and using forms of punishment which efficiently deter crime. By "efficient" I mean punishments that offer the greatest deterrent at the lowest cost. There are a wide variety of views people hold on these above methods of controlling crime, but one which is almost never challenged is the use of incarceration as punishment.

Incarceration is the chief form of punishment used in the United States and most of the developed world. Unfortunately, incarceration is a pricey way of deterring criminals: ultimately it is a maximum cost method which yields minimum results. Imprisoning, feeding, clothing, educating, and medicating someone for months or years at a time is an expensive form of punishment with little deterrent.

The United States have less than 5% of the world's population - but almost 25% of the world's prison population. Consequently, the cost of the prison system in the United States is enormous. Part of the problem is that the US punishes too many nonviolent crimes with incarceration - some of which aren't even legitimately crimes. But ending the drug war would deal with only part of the problem - doing so would reduce costs to taxpayers to run prisons but it would not do much to increase deterrents against real crimes such as theft, robbery, fraud, rape, and murder. The effect that transferring police and court resources formerly dedicated to catching pot-heads to deterring real crime would have would be marginal at best.

Partially this stems from prison labor unions, private prisons, and private businesses servicing prisons, which all have a financial incentive to lobby for criminalizing more activity and using the expensive method of incarceration as a tool to punish those crimes. Creating a government program with a cost dispersed among millions of taxpayers but benefiting a small and concentrated special interest group almost always proves to be bad public policy because small and concentrated special interest groups will have greater incentives to lobby for expanding and creating new government programs than taxpayers will have to lobby against them.

There are three methods for punishing crime that should be used in lieu of incarceration: restitution to victims of the crime and to police and courts for their efforts in apprehending the criminal; corporal punishment used with varying degrees of severity up to public whippings or canings based on the severity of the crime; and capital punishment used to deter the severest of crimes and to end the lives of criminals too dangerous to be left roaming in society.

Restitution to the victims of crimes should be a no-brainer, especially for crimes like theft and fraud, since it simultaneously imposes a cost on the criminal and a benefit for the victim. Of course, the greater the cost of the punishment to criminals, the greater its deterrent. That's why the cost of restitution should vary with the severity of the crime. In addition to restitution to victims, criminals should be forced to partially if not fully pay for the costs imposed on courts and police for apprehending and convicting them. Thus, restitution meets our criteria of being a highly efficient means of reducing crime.

However, there are more serious crimes that cannot be adequately deterred with mere restitution - crimes such as assault, armed robbery, and mass fraud (e.g. Bernie Madoff); crimes which cannot be quantified or are too costly for the victims to be repaid through mere financial means. In these cases, corporal punishment should be seriously considered as an alternative to prison. Corporal punishment, such as whipping and caning, provides a much more drastic and immediate deterrent to often very shortsighted criminals. And again, the degree of the punishment should vary with the degree of the crime. Public corporal punishment should be reserved for the most severe cases - since it would be the most humiliating and thus the most deterring.

Finally, the severest of all punishments and thereby the greatest crime deterrent, the death penalty, should be reserved for the most extreme crimes such as murder. Such capital punishment, however, needs to be used carefully in order to prevent innocents from being sentenced to death. However, in addition to just those who commit murder, the death penalty should be an option open to permanently end the life of someone who represents a constant threat to society. For example, there should be no question that a serial rapist who has shown to be unreformable through other methods of crime control such as restitution, corporal punishment, and rehabilitation should be put to death.

Ultimately, the government, being tasked with defending the rights of individuals, should take whatever steps necessary to control crime. There are many legitimate ways to control crime, including the use of softer measures such as rehabilitation and psychiatric treatment as well as the use of non-judicial methods such as increasing gun ownership and improving economic opportunities. But when it comes to what should be done with criminals once they are convicted, incarceration proves to be a weak but high cost deterrent which cannot match the efficiency of restitution, corporal punishment, and capital punishment.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Livonia's Bogus School Bond Proposal: Maximum Cost For Minimum Benefit

On May 7th, Livonia residents will vote on a school bond proposal, a bond proposal which asks the voters of Livonia to borrow $195 million for the construction of new buildings and the remodeling of old ones. Of course it's "for the children." The catch?

The real price-tag will be $370 million - $195 million in principle and $175 million in interest, according to a projection done by Stauder, Barch & Associates, Inc. That means that almost half, 47%, of what will come out of each taxpayer's pocket will go to big financial firms and bond-dealers, not Livonia schools or children.

Moreover, school enrollment in Livonia has shrunk by almost 3,000 students since 2000 - from 18,500 to a little over 15,500 in 2012. These trends are expected to continue. Instead of spending more money, schools should be cutting spending to reflect lower enrollment.

With Livonia having less than 100,000 residents, this school bond proposal will cost more than $3,700 per Livonian. That is a heavy burden to put on taxpayers - especially on those who will be paying the bulk of the new taxes: small businesses which create jobs and provide services in our city.

The bottom line is that this school bond proposal will grease the palms of big financial firms and bond-dealers as well as construction companies and big union bosses who will do the building and remodeling, at the expense of families and small businesses struggling to make ends meet.