Posted tagged ‘libertarians’

Change You Can Believe In

December 7, 2012

Yesterday, Washington State began its new life with legalized marijuana.  Like so many other issues, legal cannabis was not completely legal yet.  As these complications are resolved, there may be a pathway created for other contentious issue to be resolved.  How?  Through discussion and data, not I’m right and your wrong.

The State of Washington says marijuana possession (less than 1 ounce) and use is ok.  Sale of marijuana, however, is not available yet.  Problem 1 – how does one get marihuana to possess and use?

The Federal Government lists marijuana  as a class 1 chemical (like cocaine) and completely illegal to possess.  Problem 2 – how does the Federal Government alter its view of marijuana, or how does it impose its view upon Washington State?

Smoking is dangerous to ones health.  Drunkenness (especially the fall down, don’t know where I am type) is no ones friend.  So why exactly would anyone want to see marijuana legal?

Legalization and use of marijuana, however, does not have to lead to lung cancer, nor does it have to lead to incapacitation.  It can but so can cigarettes and alcohol lead to the same fears.  In the end, it is about personal behavior and responsibility.

Social forces could emerge soon and paint marijuana as the beginning of a slippery slope.  The “father figures” will propose to strike down State laws on the basis that federal law trumps them.  The “father” knows best.  Conservatives but not necessarily libertarians, will line up with religious leaders and lament the threat to our children and society in general.  Super Pacs will pour in the money and this issue will become a proxy for Democrats “for” and Republicans “against”.  And once more the GOP will have misread the electorate.

Washington State’s marijuana law represents a chance to get criminal activity out of marijuana and a chance to raise tax revenues from a thankful group of users.  Like with alcohol, there should be sensible regulations and clear laws describing what abuse looks like.

If this transpires, it will be the type of change I can believe in.

 

 

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Comprehending the Incomprehensible

June 9, 2012

If you read American history, you will find out that the founding fathers were actually quite worried about Democracy.  Of course they did not want to return to a Monarchy.  But they reasoned, if the everyday man had a vote, he would certainly only vote in his own best interest (as best he understood them).  And by extension, the founders worried about State legislatures who would prostitute themselves to gain public support while pocketing rewards along the way.  The Founders said we must put on some controls.

Federal and States rights advocates were born at this point.

Today is not the same as the days of our founding fathers.   There are differences.  A lot more people have the right to vote.  Communications is 24/7.  Books, especially history books are everywhere.  And lest we forget, life has improved dramatically from the early days of the Country.  We are a wealthy nation.

Other things have not changed.  Behind every corner in Washington stands someone looking for favorable legislation.  These people seek some advantage that will preferentially allow them (or who they represent) to win at business or receive a favorable direct government payment.  You know, the “free lunch” crowd.

Political parties have continually evolved.  For example, the Republican Party is slowly but steadily being devoured by “ultra conservative/selectively libertarian” ideology.

They speak of rescuing America, of returning America to greatness, and of saving the Country for our grandchildren.  Who could be against that?  They exude energy and drive.  Yet, what they really advocate is hard to fathom.

They begin with huge government spending cuts.  Gone will be certain cabinet departments all together.  So what will the country look like afterwards?  For instance:

No Department of Education.  Instead there will be 50 States each with a full mandate to educate (or not) their own residents.  No national standards, no federal incentives for States or individuals.  Does this sound like a direction that would narrow social class differences?

No Department of Energy.  Again States would reign supreme.  Coal, oil, and natural gas would be there for the taking.  Industry could write the rules (if any were needed).

No Department of the Interior.  Land use would be the prerogative of each State.  Forget about State parks or National Parks.  The land is there to be put to productive use.

No Health and Human Services Department.  The poster child will be the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and as soon as possible most of the safety net legislation.  In their place would be the attitude that god takes care of those who take care of themselves.  The great satisfaction would be that none of ones money would be going to pay for others who do not work.  Rationing of health care would be clear on the basis of what you can afford.

Taxes.  This is a no brainer.  Taxes must be lowered.

So what is so incomprehensible about these ambitions?

The part that I can not understand is that most of these “ultra conservatives and selective libertarians” are personally (along with the children and their children) going to get screwed by these policy changes.  Nothing will happen day 1.  Slowly, however, the 320 million Americans will begin drifting in different directions.  The States that are already wealthy and doing well will most likely do better.  Those in the middle and those below average will begin to look more like third world countries.  Most State budgets will collapse as citizens try to apply the national approach to their State.  State services will collapse as budgets are cut.  Counties and Cities will be left to pick up the pieces.  Soon we will all be hunter-gatherers again.

Really?

Well I guess not.

The health care industry (doctors, hospitals, and drug companies) can not tolerate a disintegration of some central authority.  The sprawling national education industry (schools, faculty, and book makers) can not allow their cushy life to end.  The farming industry is not stupid.  They will arise and block any efforts to end subsidies.  And, watch out, the defense industry will rise in mass.  The $700+ billion corporate welfare program will rally workers, suppliers, and especially elected officials about why defense is good.  And so on.

Really what is incomprehensible is that the goals of the “ultra conservative and selectively libertarians” are utterly unachievable, and if they were, would leave more movement members suffering too.  Their mission would, if achieved, drive us all down a rat hole, but more ominously, is itself prime meat for being hijacked.

What is needed, however, is alternate strategies on how the Federal Government can do more for the country, not less.  How can the federal programs deliver more bang for our buck, not less, and not more bucks if at all possible.

In this search, for example, health care should be made available to all Americans affordably and with dignity.  Education should become the engine of the next century with all Americans able to participate.  The lands and natural resources should be harvested in a way that all Americans profit.

The wealthy backers and some of the clever ultra conservative/selective libertarian movement leaders will of course do well if their movement achieves its goals.  The incomprehensible part is that the rank and file members won’t.  Why do they want to follow the pied piper and not consider where the piper is taking them?

Where is the Ship Heading?

November 19, 2010

Cutting taxes is the Republican, Tea Party, Libertarian, and conservative mantra.  And who would not like to pay less in taxes?  Given the current magnitude of government spending and debt, cutting taxes is an impossibility.   Rearranging the deck chairs might give the appearance of tax cuts but the modern world demands certain government services and they cost money.  The Republican cabal are lying to us, unless…

Do the tax cutters want to do away with social security?  Or, would they wish for a country without Medicare or Medicaid?  How about cutting the $900 billion security (Homeland and Defense Department)?

Nips around the edges will not work mathematically, so cuts must be deep.  The stand by (and unprovable ahead of time) solution promises growth policies.  In theory if the economy grew vigorously, there would be inherently more tax revenues at what ever tax rate existed.  But if one simply looks around at which countries are growing, one sees only Germany with a US type economy and the rest look like China and India where wages are dirt cheap.

As an aside, it might be amusing for these conservatives to look more closely at Germany.  There they would see a country with a positive export balance engaged in trade of high tech and precision goods.  They would also see a country with a retirement system (read social security) and health care system (read Medicare for all) that provided old age security and health care better than the US.

Ranting continuously about cutting taxes without describing the future state offers Americans an illusion.  In 2010, the US is no longer the country it was in 1776 or even 1950.  Each country in the modern world, of which America is the richest member, has a social contract with their citizens.  All of these countries struggle to balance their books largely due to slow growth.

If the US chooses to balance its books by cutting the social safety net, two things will happen.  One day the gullible middle class will finally wake up and realize what Republicans have done, and the pendulum will dramatically shift.  The second thing will be a critical loss of confidence in any government action, and that will mark the end of the American Century and the rise of another global leader.

Republicans have a moral obligation to tell us where the ship is heading.

 

Freedoms By Any Other Name

September 12, 2010

A proponent for the Tea Party recently ranted that President Obama and his government were taking freedoms away from the people. The example she offered was schools (unidentified) that gave out condoms without telling the parent while at the same time would not provide aspirin without parent’s permission. At first blush, this seems wrong. But what part is wrong?

I concluded the Tea Party person was upset that a teen ager could get a condom without their parent knowing. This would presumably violate a household rule regarding sex. So giving out condoms would take some amount of “freedom” for running the household away from the parent. But whose freedoms count and what consequences result?

It is clear that it is in a child’s best interest that the parent be responsible to some age. Until that age, the child has in fact relinquished some amount of freedom to his parents. Curfews are a good example of common sense loss of freedoms. But, denying the availability of a condom does not equate.  There is no reason to believe the child will choose abstinence. And whether one likes it or not, unprotected sex leads to unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.

Checking with parents before administering any medication (including an aspirin) is quite different from denying medical help. Parental approval helps to avoid serious complications to adverse reactions some people have to common medicines. In my book the child needs the “freedom” that any medical care they receive will be with full disclosure.

When we hear the words “protecting my freedoms”, our senses should perk up. Tea Parties, Libertarians, and conservatives often speak of freedoms that provide them authority to do something that in the process encroaches on another person’s freedoms. No use of condom places the partner and future partners at risk of disease or pregnancy. Even with condom’s available, the teenager has the “freedom” to not use one. In essence the freedom to use or not to use a condom lies with the individual, not their parent.

Going to a doctor or visiting a hospital when one is sick are freedoms every individual holds. This means you can use doctors or hospitals or you can decline. That is your freedom of choice. Keeping your children or other family members from seeking medical help is not in your freedom, that is their choice (their freedom).

Health care access is another freedom all Americans should have. The rub with health care comes when we discuss how to pay for it. Is it ok to ration health care on the basis of ability to pay?

Health care freedom, that is the right to access, derives from the notion that the health care industry is built upon large doses of public financing such as funding for schools, roads, hospitals, etc. Basic coverage (such as that provided to Congress) is funded by taxpayers and the idea that one can draw the line and say this person or that one can be denied coverage (for any reason) is hard to understand. In essence, those who argue against national health care argue for a personal freedom (they do not want to pay) but to grant this freedom, they require many others to go without medical care for reasons other than personal choice.

Beware of those who cry freedom denied.

Disenchantment or Too Idealistic?

July 15, 2010

This fall’s election is looking, today, not so bright for Democrats. There are predictions that Republicans may actually win control of the House. In such an outcome, the Obama presidency effectively ends. The Country will still have him as President (and he can still run the executive branch intelligently), but there will be no more progressive legislation. You can also go to the bank that there will not be any movement on debt, still needed health care or social security reforms, or any progress on “don’t ask, don’t tell. After just two years have passed since the conclusion of a disastrous 8 years of the mean spirited, rich oriented Republican White House control, how can the electorate change back again?

Pundits say that “independent” voters are deserting the Obama/Democrats and strongly leaning “progressives” are not motivated enough to get out the Democratic vote. Union leaders say the Democrats have not done enough for them. Hispanics wonder out loud that immigration reform has not proceeded. And the gay/lesbian community is jumping on the “too little/too late” band wagon.  All these groups may stay home on election day.

There is an important principle buried in all this. If the man you elect does not perform, then voting him out of office next time, is every citizen’s right. And there are plenty of good reasons to dismiss this Congress (approval rating hovering around 20%), but one should ask whether there could be consequences to electing the opposition that could be worse than the positive message a voter was trying to send?

President Obama and the Democratic majorities in the House and Senate have hardly been a picture of brilliance or effectiveness. They have, however, been far closer to fairness and responsibleness that what we lived through during the Bush years. President Obama has not delivered on his promises (and can not claim he was thwarted by Congress), but Obama has achieved some very significant changes in domestic and foreign policy.  While not all that his zealous supporters may have wanted, Obama’s performance has been dramatically more progressive than President Bush’s record.

We could point out the unprecedented mess that President Obama inherited and that time is needed to fix the economy. Instead, I think the case is clear enough over what has been done versus what was done from 2000 to 2008. This is a proposition that “part of a loaf is better than none”.

Democrats can retain their majority if voters will stop and think of the consequences. “Disenchantment or Too Idealistic”, which may describe the state of mind of voters who elected Obama in 2008, they may be two sides of the same coin. Democrats must frame their campaigns on the proposition that their first term record is meager when standing alone, but still far superior to the entire George W Bush years.

Social Democracy?

July 14, 2010

Conservatives and Libertarians shutter at the idea of the US drifting towards European style social democracy. I am not sure whether it is the fear of a health care system that produces better results than the US and is available to all, or the government provided child care and paternity leave, or the never exhausting unemployment benefits, or the nice, neat, and clean parks and public transportation systems that scare some Americans. Is all this free?

Of course not. Europeans pay dearly for all these services, mostly in the form of taxes. Europeans are also paying for this life style with large government borrowings. It is this debt that has now brought forward the idea that Europe may itself go bankrupt if it doesn’t curb its spending.

The American press will have a field day with this prospect. “See we told you”, will be the boast of conservatives. “Nothing like America and the triumph of individual initiative”, will crow the Libertarians. But everyone better pay attention. People do not like giving up what they have.

The US has debt as large as Europe’s and obligations that will surely require significant changes in our taxes and our expenditures. So far, in situations like this, America rations on the basis of ability to pay. Not so in Europe and I would predict, not so soon in America. It is quite possible that the social order of America and Europe will drift closer over time.

The irony of the conservative and libertarian positions is that for many, if not most, their lot in life is comfortable. Further, they attained this comfortable status with the use of America’s common wealth (roads, schools, rivers, electrical grids, etc). More than that, they inherited the good life from previous generations who “won” world war II. Following WWII, there was almost no way for America to become a poor country. The country could spend and spend wastefully without worry. Today things are different.

The new day is coming. We must soon have far more fiscal discipline that we have seen in recent Administrations.  We must also share the fruits of our country far more equitably (like Europe), or we will see social chaos.

Tea Party Delusions

April 27, 2010

Tea Party members are said to be mostly educated, older, and relatively speaking well off Americans. They rail against taxes and government over reach. Their enemy is the Federal Government, their friend is the Constitution. Most adherents are pleasant and reasonable citizens on most all matters outside of politics. Why this huge change?

Last evening I was in the company of a couple I have known for over 40 years. They are descendants of Ukrainian immigrants who settled in Canada. Following their Canadian education, they relocated to the US and have lived here since. The husband had a successful career as a research chemists and his wife held a variety of jobs including running her own restaurant business. They are now ardent Tea Party believers. Why?

You get all the usual arguments. The debt is too large. Obama is a communists. (Why?) He has taken over banks and private industry. States rights are gone. The Constitution has been forgotten. The health care reform bill violates the Constitution. And, on and on.

If you try and discuss one of the issues like health care, the discussion descends. The debts too large, we have to balance the budget. Taxes are too high, we have to cut spending. Medicare and Medicaid, which are part of the US health care spend, are way underfunded already so how can you cut them? No answer,

In my opinion, at the heart of the Tea Party movement are citizens who see themselves on fixed income (even though compared to the average American they are well off). These Tea Party-ers feel the pinch of rising costs impinging on the good life they felt the American dream had promised.

The irony of the Tea Party is that it is all about them. If they were to somehow get relief from the tax burdens they decry, so many other people would immediately be adversely impacted.

The Tea Party is not about the Constitution, it is about “me”.