Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The meaning of a free society

Hi, my name is Thomas Bell, and I will be appearing as a guest columnist for the Sun once or twice per month. I'll be giving you my opinion about different subjects, from my point of view.

I have a different outlook from the liberal v. conservative claptrap. I fall outside of the left v. right political line. My philosophy is simple. I believe in the philosophy of liberty. I believe in the mindset of being free. In other words, I want to live in a free society.

Some of you may ask, "What is a free society?" A free society is a philosophy that holds that people shall have the right to exercise unlimited freedom in their own lives, freedom to live in whatever manner they choose, freedom to pursue their own goals, so long as they do not forcibly interfere with the equal rights of others to exercise that same freedom. As long as they don't hurt each other, the people should do anything they want.

In other words, as long as a person doesn't murder, rape, burglarize, defraud, trespass, steal, or inflict any other acts of violence against another person's life, liberty, or property, the government should leave him or her alone. In fact, the only purpose of government is to secure individuals rights and to prosecute people who violate those rights.

A radical idea? It is the same thing that Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence.

Since you have liberty, you have to be responsible. Individual liberty and personal responsibility are opposite sides of the same coin. If you want liberty, you have to take responsibility for your actions, and vice-versa. Since the only role of government in a free society is to secure your rights, you have to be responsible if your decisions and/or actions are unwise.

While most people are just and honorable, some people are evil, and you have to protect yourself from the latter. In a free society, you have the right to use the tools in order for you to protect yourself. If you wait for the police to show, the criminal has won, and you will lose.

What are some other specific applications of libertarian principles to real-world problems?

Education: complete separation between school and state, including repealing of school compulsory-attendance laws. This would mean a completely free market in education, in which parents, not government, would decide the best educational vehicles for their children, and the schools will be more competitive to meet their demands.

Welfare: immediate repeal of all welfare mainly on moral grounds, but also on the terribly destructive aspects of government welfare programs. Stealing is stealing, and it's against God's Eight Commandment, whether it's stealing from others to give to yourself, stealing from the young to give to the old, or stealing from the rich to give to the poor.

Health Care: the crises in health care, especially with respect to ever-rising prices, is due to heavy government involvement. These laws and programs should be repealed in favor of a totally free market in health care.

Foreign Policy: oppose involvement in foreign wars as well as all foreign aid. The foreign policy concept is nonintervention, the same concept as the Framers envisioned. The U.S. government should be limited to protecting the country from invasion, but should stay out of the affairs of other nations. The people involved in trade, however, will go out into the world and interact with the rest of the world's society.

Taxes: and if these government programs don't exist, you won't need to pay any income tax, or any tax (remember God's Commandment against stealing?). Pay for the limited government functions with voluntary charity (2 Corinthians 9:7). Repeal the IRS and the income tax and leave people free to keep the fruits of their earnings and decide for themselves how to dispose of their wealth (e.g., keep it, loan it, donate it, give it away, or destroy it)

We just scratched the surface. With the exception of slavery and several minor exceptions, the philosophy on which the United States was founded through around 125 years was a free society. In 1890 America, the following government programs were virtually nonexistent: income taxation, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, economic regulation, occupational licensure, a Federal Reserve System and fiat-paper money, immigration controls, and gun controls. And the nation flourished.

In the 20th century, the American people abandoned their principles of liberty in favor of a socialistic welfare state and the controlled and regulated society. And the rest is history. I want to reverse this trend.

A free society is the most practical, moral, humanitarian, and ethical. The controlled and regulated society is intellectual sloth.

Now, I tackle local, state, and national issues. Some may agree with some issues, while others may disagree with others. But I am consistent: I believe in individual liberty, personal responsibility, and limited government, and I am for those issues that agree with the aforementioned principles, and I am against those issues that agree with the opposite.

However, if I can start a lively debate, especially about liberty, I accomplished my goal.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Immigration fills the gaps

In looking at the supply-and-demand scale for lower-wage workers, the supply is shrinking, but the demand is rising. So a comprehensive immigration reform is at the front of the table. However, the conservative majority we had in Congress before January voted to keep immigration in check. Thus, the supply side was lacking.

Since January, the momentum had shifted to the left, and so immigration reform is about to change, and not a moment too soon. But today, the anti-immigrant laws still stand in all 50 states.

Take Colorado for example. According to the Rutland Herald, prison inmates in Colorado will replace immigrants on Colorado farms. Why? Because the immigrants are no longer coming to Colorado because of stringent anti-immigrant legislation enacted by the state. I suppose the convicts are the people whom the anti-immigrant crowd feels have had their jobs stolen by illegal aliens.

Isn’t it ironic? Prior to the anti-immigrant legislation, there were two willing participants to employment contracts — the farm owner and the immigrant. Both sides were willing to enter into a labor agreement with each other because from their own individual perspective, they both benefited from the exchange. While we do not know the precise reasons each of them entered into the exchange, we do know that they each gave up something they valued less for something they valued more. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have entered into the exchange.

The farmer valued the work he received from the immigrants more highly than he did the money he was paying them. This is not surprising, given that immigrants are customarily very hard workers. The immigrants valued the money they received from the farmer more highly than they did the time and energy expended in doing the work. They customarily would use the money to support their families back in Mexico.

Now, as a result of the state’s anti-immigration legislation, the workers are going elsewhere in the United States where their labor is more appreciated, causing no small amount of pain for Colorado farmers who now don’t have enough workers to harvest their crops. As Colorado farmer Joe Pisciotta Jr. put it, “It’s very frustrating. I’m definitely going to lose customers. We’ve never had an issue like this. With all of us trying to get enough workers on our farms, I’m worried this is going to turn into farmer against farmer.”

But hey, surely those Colorado convicts, who will be paid at the generous rate of 60 cents a day, will be just as hard-working as those Mexican immigrants, right? And perhaps Colorado officials can persuade federal officials to help out. Isn’t Colorado where Zacharias Moussaoui, Ramzi Yousef, Terry Nichols, and Theodore Kaczynski are incarcerated? I’d bet that they’d love the opportunity to pick crops on those Colorado farms.

Why don't we repeal the anti-immigrant laws Congress had just enacted, both Colorado and nationally. Then, the supply-and-demand scale would be back on balance.

Monday, March 12, 2007

The 2nd Amendment means individual rights

Last Friday, in a surprise decision, the D.C. Court of Appeals overturned D.C.'s longstanding ban on the ownership of firearms. In Parker v. District of Columbia [.pdf], the court rejects the District's view that the 2nd Amendment was intended only to protect the right of the National Guard to possess weapons, holding instead that the right to bear arms is a fundamental right belonging to all individuals.

Before we go any further, let's take a look at the 2nd Amendment. This Amendment, as passed by the House and Senate and later ratified by the states, reads in full:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

There are 2 clauses of the 2nd Amendment, the first starting with "A well regulated Militia" (WRM), and the second starting with "the right of the people" (ROP). What clause is a sentence by itself? The answer is ROP. WRM is just a noun and a participle used as an adjective modifying that noun. So the independent superior clause is ROP; the dependent inferior clause is WRM.

But the gun-control crowds want to focus on the first clause, saying that a "militia" means an organized group like the National Guard.

Let's look up "militia" in the dictionary. There are two meanings for "militia": first, it is "a part of the organized arm forces...", and second, it is "the whole body of able-bodied male [sic] citizens...". When looking at the second clause, the second meaning works best.

And looking at the whole Bill of Rights, the Supreme court decided, in United States v. Verdugo-Urquidez, the phrase "the people" in the Constitution means the people of the United States, and the phrase "right of the people" means right of the individual; "group right" is an oxymoron. And the last 4 words of the Amendment, who do they refer? Looking at the Preamble to the Bill of Rights, those last 4 words are meant for the government. The Bill of Rights doesn't grant rights to the people, it restricts government powers from interfering with the unalienable rights of the people. There is a difference.

However, the District's lead attorney, Linda Singer, said that the decision was a "huge setback" because "we've been making progress on bringing down crime and gun violence, and this sends us in a different direction."

Exactly which planet has Singer been living on? Washington D.C. has long been one of the leading cities of the world for gun-related murders. All that the ban has accomplished is to prevent peaceful and law-abiding people from defending themselves against violent criminals who don't give a hoot about obeying gun-control laws.

As you see, Washington has the most restrictive gun-laws in the country, and the highest violent-crime rate thereof, while Vermont has the laxest gun-laws in the country, and the lowest violent-crime rate thereof. That's why John Lott's book title is the truth.

And while self-defense against violent criminals is an important reason for the right to keep and bear arms, we should keep in mind the ultimate purpose of the 2nd Amendment is to ensure against tyranny on the part of the federal government. As Ninth Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski put it in his dissenting opinion in Silveira v. Lockyer:

My excellent colleagues have forgotten these bitter lessons of history. The prospect of tyranny may not grab the headlines the way vivid stories of gun crime routinely do. But few saw the Third Reich coming until it was too late. The Second Amendment is a doomsday provision, one designed for those exceptionally rare circumstances where all other rights have failed--where the government refuses to stand for reelection and silences those who protest; where courts have lost the courage to oppose, or can find no one to enforce their decrees. However improbable these contingencies may seem today, facing them unprepared is a mistake a free people get to make only once.

I hope and pray the Supreme Court doesn't overturn the D.C. Court of Appeals' decision.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Rearranging the tax system

I am always amused when the other party is in power, and then they try to take a different but better approach in doing your taxes. However, between Democrats and Republicans, Democrats as a whole would make you pay a larger percentage in taxes. Representative Charles Rangel, a New York Democrat, wants to do something different, but James Pethokoukis, a senior writer from U.S. News & World Report and author on this column, is not exactly sure. But Pethokoukis can take a guess.

One thing might be more taxpayers could pay the top 35%(?) on their earnings. If (hypothetically) the top 1% pays the top 35% before, then now (hypothetically) the top 1.5% would be required to pay the top rate. I really don't know who pays, or how much.

Or the taxpayers might lose the deductions that they once had before, like lowering the mortgage interest deduction limit.

Bush' plan is to repeal the alternative minimum tax, but shifting around the tax structure so that the taxpayer would make his taxes "revenue neutral".

But Congress will have a different plan.

It is no wonder why the tax code is too burdensome for the average taxpayer to comprehend!

By the way, I am not a taxpayer; I am a nontaxpayer. They are polar opposites as far as the IRS is concerned. On a related note, tax-honesty advocate Edward Brown is offering his home, worth over $1,000,000, for the first person who can show the law requiring Brown (or most Americans) to file a tax return and pay taxes. This offer has been standing for more than two weeks! But as of today, there are no takers. Could it be there is no law???

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Freedom to choose, except for real estate

The Internet is a wonderful tool to allow people to buy or sell merchandise. It reduces transaction costs immensely because they can find each other easily. And if one seller doesn't have what a buyer wants, it only costs a few seconds and a mouse click to find another buyer.

Except for real estate. The Fair Housing Act of 1968 makes it illegal for those who sell or rent housing to discriminate against buyers or renters. The law is so odious that the mere hinting you won't buy or rent to a person or family whose characteristics you don't approve, you will wind up in jail and/or pay a hefty fine.

For example, if a landlord were to advertise that he has a house that's "great for a stable family", that could be interpreted to mean gays are not welcome. Or if an ad pictured people enjoying a pool party, but the photo didn't show anyone from different minority groups, that could be a hidden message that whites are preferred. Anybody who sells or rents real estate must be constantly alerted to be sure he doesn't go afoul of this vague but aggressively enforced law.

Now, what has got the pro-fair housing's feathers in a ruffle is sellers who advertise on the Internet sites. One such site is Craigslist. Sometimes ads run by Craigslist violate laws forbidding seller preference--for example, one by a woman with an apartment to rent specifying that she wants a young, single female tenant. The Fair Housing Act specifically states that no discrimination is allowed, and that woman (and Craigslist) is flagrantly violating that law. And court decisions have thus far held that Internet sites are immune from liability for the speech of those who posted on them use.

The underlining principle that buyers and their lawyers forget is this: is there any harm if we delete the Fair Housing Act? If buyers don't buy real estate on account of some asinine excuse, that is their right. Why don't we give the same freedom to sellers? If a buyer doesn't buy real estate that you are selling, you just move along for another buyer.

Anyway, it is the concept of supply-and-demand. Most housing sellers don't turn away prospective customers. And if, for whatever reason, a landlord wants to rent to tenants with certain characteristics, that is no business of the government.

As for you who are really worried about some sellers who won't sell to certain buyers, just turn on your computer and look for a seller who will sell them. It won't be too difficult, and you will be erecting the valued principle of freedom to choose.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Before, it was hate crimes; now it is hate titles

Back in the day (around the 90s or something), the government had a new crime in the books, called "hate laws" or "hate speech", when the judge added more money to the fines, and/or more years to the sentence...simply for a thought. Now, it's against the law for someone to address someone else with a certain title. New York City banned the N-word in public conversation. The "offense" has no penalty as of yet, but if the people (mainly blacks) keep using the term, the penalty isn't out of the question.

Now I personally don't like using it, and it isn't a part of my everyday speech. The paper said, and I agree, that the N-word is the most vulgar phrase in the English language. But I also don't use the F-word, or the D-word, or the P-word, or the C-word; I believe that it makes someone look intelligent saying the proper words. But I don't call the law if someone else uses the aforementioned words. Besides, for me, the N-word means a low-life person, usually black, but not quite. My ex-girlfriend used to date a white convict, with a foul mouth and a mean spirit. That man (sic) was the epiphany of the N-word.

There is an old children's saying: "Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me." It is just words. If the N-word (et al) offends you, then leave. If you are big and brave enough, say something offensive back to the guilty person, but don't involve the law. Involving the police makes you look like a "P-word". But, as government (and some people) goes, some people (usually blacks) keep saying it, other people get offended by it, government starts a penalty, the police looks for people to say the word, this police arrest the perpetrator...and America is turning more and more to a police state...for something they said.