Category Archives: Role of government

Small and weak government?

Do corporations prefer the marketplace or a large and powerful government?

A letter in the Wichita Eagle criticized the marketplace and the power that corporations purportedly hold over it. (Government needed, February 28, 2016). This letter refers to an op-ed by Charles Koch (Charles G. Koch: Sanders and I agree on a few issues, February 19, 2016, originally published in the Washington Post)

A few remarks:

The letter-writer states: “It was also no surprise to read that his solution is very small and weak government.” Reading the Koch op-ed to which the letter-writer refers, I didn’t see a call for weak government. Generally, libertarians favor a limited government that is strong in protecting our rights and liberties and exercising the enumerated powers outlined in the Constitution. A limited government is very different from a weak government.

The letter-writer states: “The very, very rich people and corporations do not check themselves. The marketplace system they embrace as the sole solution encourages the accumulation of more and more wealth and power — and using that power to accumulate more wealth.” With a few exceptions, corporations do not embrace the marketplace, if by marketplace the writer means a system of free markets. Instead, as Charles Koch correctly notes, most corporations seek to constrain and limit the power of free markets. Milton Friedman diagnosed the situation correctly: “The great virtue of free enterprise is that it forces existing businesses to meet the test of the market continuously, to produce products that meet consumer demands at lowest cost, or else be driven from the market. It is a profit-and-loss system. Naturally, existing businesses generally prefer to keep out competitors in other ways. That is why the business community, despite its rhetoric, has so often been a major enemy of truly free enterprise.”

It’s difficult to do the things that Friedman says business must do in a market economy — innovate, be customer-focused, and be efficient. It’s far easier to hire lobbyists at the federal, state, and local levels to gain an advantage over your competitors. The harm of this system of cronyism is explained by Koch: “Perversely, this regulatory burden falls hardest on small companies, innovators and the poor, while benefiting many large companies like ours. This unfairly benefits established firms and penalizes new entrants, contributing to a two-tiered society.” It is government, not markets, that are creating two tiers of society.

Another complaint of the writer is that the rich “fund the multitude of foundations and university professors to pitch their philosophy attacking public schools and other public services.” Well, some rich people do, and thank goodness for them. If not for the generosity of Koch and a few others in founding organizations like The Cato Institute, there might be few sources of information besides a self-serving government or those who benefit from an expansive, meddling government. The latter are the corporations that the letter-writer complains use the marketplace to gain more wealth and power, but in reality are using government to do this.

As far as funding university professors, this serves as a useful and valuable check to the multitudes of taxpayer-funded public university professors who indoctrinate and condition students to embrace more government. Shouldn’t college students be exposed to a variety of views? That doesn’t seem to be what students are receiving: “Academics, on average, lean to the left. A survey being released today suggests that they are moving even more in that direction. Among full-time faculty members at four-year colleges and universities, the percentage identifying as ‘far left’ or liberal has increased notably in the last three years, while the percentage identifying in three other political categories has declined.” (Moving Further to the Left, Inside Higher Ed, October 24, 2012)

If you can’t get a cop in Wichita

It could be that the officers are busy protecting the city from the illegal playing of poker.

This is an area ripe for reform. Why is playing poker for money on east Kellogg illegal? At one time the state thought it had to protect us from gambling because it was sinful. That argument has faded as states across the nation have sanctioned casinos. Kansas is unique — at least at the time of the start of non-Indian casino gambling in the state — in that the casinos are actually owned by the state.

So if the state of Kansas owns casinos, and if the state profits from casinos, how can the state object to gambling on any moral ground? It can’t. Whatever the merits of the arguments against gambling, the state discarded them in exchange for money. Now the state continues to prohibit non-casino gambling because it is competition to Kansas state sanctioned gambling.

See KWCH News: Seven arrested following investigation at SE Wichita poker room.

Friedman: Laws that do harm

As we approach another birthday of Milton Friedman, here’s his column from Newsweek in 1982 that explains that despite good intentions, the result of government intervention often harms those it is intended to help.

There is a sure-fire way to predict the consequences of a government social program adopted to achieve worthy ends. Find out what the well-meaning, public-interested persons who advocated its adoption expected it to accomplish. Then reverse those expectations. You will have an accurate prediction of actual results.

To illustrate on the broadest level, idealists from Marx to Lenin and the subsequent fellow travelers claimed that communism would enhance both freedom and prosperity and lead to the “withering away of the state.” We all know the results in the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China: misery, slavery and a more powerful and all-encompassing government than the world had ever seen.

Continue reading Friedman: Laws that do harm

Franklin Roosevelt, contributor to modern nanny state

If you’ve wondered what was the genesis of the modern nanny state, listen to this speech by Franklin Delano Roosevelt. It’s part of his State of the Union Address from 1944.

The purpose of the original Bill of Rights is to protect our freedoms from government. But to provide the things Roosevelt calls for — food, clothing, a decent home, adequate medical care, and a good education — requires an expansive government. These rights are called positive rights because they require action by the government, in contrast to the negative rights found in the Bill of Rights. Richard A. Epstein explains the consequences of the “Roosevelt Rights”:

All of these are positive rights, which means necessarily that some unidentified individuals or groups have the duty to provide decent wages, home, health, and education to the people. The individual so taxed can discharge that duty only by forfeiting his own right to reap the fruits of his own labor. Yet the incidence and size of these hefty correlative duties are left unaddressed by Roosevelt.

We are witnessing today a modern rerun of Roosevelt’s incomplete strategy. Obama’s healthcare plan, for instance, designates a generous set of “essential health benefits” to a large number of individuals entitled to affordable care on the newly created government exchanges. But these benefits cannot be funded with higher taxes on the “millionaires and billionaires,” whose combined wealth falls short of what is needed. So what duty will undergird the new right?

This sort of funding crisis could never arise under the Bill of Rights 1.0, whose correlative duties are negative — or, put another way, they impose a “keep off” sign on other people. If I have the freedom of speech, your duty is to forbear from disrupting the speech with force, and vice versa. Each of us can demand forbearance from the use of force by all others.

David Kelley elaborates further in a chapter from The Morality of Capitalism:

By contrast, welfare rights are conceived as rights to possess and enjoy certain goods, regardless of one’s actions; they are rights to have the goods provided by others if one cannot earn them oneself. Accordingly, welfare rights impose positive obligations on others. If I have a right to food, someone has an obligation to grow it. If I cannot pay for it, someone has an obligation to buy it for me. Welfarists sometimes argue that the obligation is imposed on society as a whole, not on any specific individual. But society is not an entity, much less a moral agent, over and above its individual members, so any such obligation falls upon us as individuals. Insofar as welfare rights are implemented through government programs, for example, the obligation is distributed over all taxpayers.

From an ethical standpoint, then, the essence of welfarism is the premise that the need of one individual is a claim on other individuals. The claim may run only as far as the town or the nation. It may not embrace all of humanity. But in all versions of the doctrine, the claim does not depend on your personal relationship to the claimant, or your choice to help, or your evaluation of him as worthy of your help. It is an unchosen obligation arising from the sheer fact of his need.

Here is an excerpt from Roosevelt’s State of the Union Address, January 1944.

It is our duty now to begin to lay the plans and determine the strategy for the winning of a lasting peace and the establishment of an American standard of living higher than ever before known. We cannot be content, no matter how high that general standard of living may be, if some fraction of our people—whether it be one-third or one-fifth or one-tenth- is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill housed, and insecure.

This Republic had its beginning, and grew to its present strength, under the protection of certain inalienable political rights—among them the right of free speech, free press, free worship, trial by jury, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. They were our rights to life and liberty.

As our Nation has grown in size and stature, however—as our industrial economy expanded—these political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness.

We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. “Necessitous men are not free men.” People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.

In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all regardless of station, race, or creed.

Among these are:

The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the Nation;

The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;

The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;

The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;

The right of every family to a decent home;

The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;

The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;

The right to a good education.

All of these rights spell security. And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being.

Like it or not, we’re coming to plan for you

Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.
— H.L. Mencken

thinktomorrowtoday-website-2013-09-16

We’ve learned that the government planners will plan for you, whether or not you want it. Despite having voted against participation, two Kansas counties are still listed as members of a regional planning consortium. Further, a month after the Butler County Commission sent a letter asking that references to its participation be removed, its name still appears.

The new website thinktomorrowtoday.org promotes and supports the sustainable communities government planning process in South-Central Kansas. The planning effort has been rebranded as “South Central Kansas Prosperity.”

reap-website-partners-2013-09-16

In the logo, on a map, and in narrative, Butler and Sumner counties are listed as participants. But these newspaper headlines say something else about what the elected officials in these counties thought about joining the plan:

Sumner County isn’t on board with fed’s sustainable communities planning grant

Sumner County isn’t on board with fed’s sustainable communities planning grant (Wichita Eagle, July 30, 2012): “One of the counties served by a sustainable communities planning grant recently declined to be a partner in the effort, expressing concerns about federal intrusion in local government.”

Butler County decides not to support REAP planning grant

Butler County decides not to support REAP planning grant (El Dorado Times, August 23, 2012): “The issue at the center of the Butler County Commission’s discussion about a sustainable communities planning grant was local control.”

I can understand why these counties decided to opt out of the planning process and why two Sedgwick County Commissioners voted against participation.

Cato Institute Senior Fellow Randal O’Toole, in his book The Best-Laid Plans: How Government Planning Harms Your Quality of Life, Your Pocketbook, and Your Future, explains the danger and harm of government plans. I remember two passages in particular:

Somewhere in the United States today, government officials are writing a plan that will profoundly affect other people’s lives, incomes, and property. Though it may be written with the best intentions, the plan will go horribly wrong. The costs will be far higher than anticipated, the benefits will prove far smaller, and various unintended consequences will turn out to be worse than even the plan’s critics predicted.

And this:

The worst thing about having a vision is that it confers upon the visionary a moral absolutism: only highly prescriptive regulation can ensure that the vision overcomes an uncaring populace responding to a free market that planners do not really trust. But the more prescriptive the plan, the more likely it is that the plan will be wrong, and such errors will prove extremely costly for the city or region that tries to implement the plan.

We see the vision of moral absolutism on display: Despite two counties voting against participation, their overseers will, nonetheless, create a plan for them.

It’s for their own good, after all.

A second Bill of Rights, by Franklin Roosevelt

If we wonder what was the genesis of the modern nanny state, listen to this speech by Franklin Delano Roosevelt. It’s part of his State of the Union Address from 1944.

The purpose of the original Bill of Rights is to protect our freedoms from government. But to provide the things Roosevelt calls for — food, clothing, a decent home, adequate medical care, and a good education — requires an expansive government. These rights are called positive rights because they require action by the government, in contrast to the negative rights found in the Bill of Rights. Richard A. Epstein explains the consequences of the “Roosevelt Rights”:

All of these are positive rights, which means necessarily that some unidentified individuals or groups have the duty to provide decent wages, home, health, and education to the people. The individual so taxed can discharge that duty only by forfeiting his own right to reap the fruits of his own labor. Yet the incidence and size of these hefty correlative duties are left unaddressed by Roosevelt.

We are witnessing today a modern rerun of Roosevelt’s incomplete strategy. Obama’s healthcare plan, for instance, designates a generous set of “essential health benefits” to a large number of individuals entitled to affordable care on the newly created government exchanges. But these benefits cannot be funded with higher taxes on the “millionaires and billionaires,” whose combined wealth falls short of what is needed. So what duty will undergird the new right?

This sort of funding crisis could never arise under the Bill of Rights 1.0, whose correlative duties are negative — or, put another way, they impose a “keep off” sign on other people. If I have the freedom of speech, your duty is to forbear from disrupting the speech with force, and vice versa. Each of us can demand forbearance from the use of force by all others.

David Kelley elaborates further in a chapter from The Morality of Capitalism:

By contrast, welfare rights are conceived as rights to possess and enjoy certain goods, regardless of one’s actions; they are rights to have the goods provided by others if one cannot earn them oneself. Accordingly, welfare rights impose positive obligations on others. If I have a right to food, someone has an obligation to grow it. If I cannot pay for it, someone has an obligation to buy it for me. Welfarists sometimes argue that the obligation is imposed on society as a whole, not on any specifi c individual. But society is not an entity, much less a moral agent, over and above its individual members, so any such obligation falls upon us as individuals. Insofar as welfare rights are implemented through government programs, for example, the obligation is distributed over all taxpayers.

From an ethical standpoint, then, the essence of welfarism is the premise that the need of one individual is a claim on other individuals. The claim may run only as far as the town or the nation. It may not embrace all of humanity. But in all versions of the doctrine, the claim does not depend on your personal relationship to the claimant, or your choice to help, or your evaluation of him as worthy of your help. It is an unchosen obligation arising from the sheer fact of his need.

Things have changed at Social Security Administration

Remember when your Social Security card stated that it was not to be used for identification purposes?

You’d have to be of at least a certain age to remember this, according to SSA: “The first Social Security cards were issued starting in 1936, they did not have this legend. Beginning with the sixth design version of the card, issued starting in 1946, SSA added a legend to the bottom of the card reading “FOR SOCIAL SECURITY PURPOSES — NOT FOR IDENTIFICATION.” This legend was removed as part of the design changes for the 18th version of the card, issued beginning in 1972. The legend has not been on any new cards issued since 1972.”

As with many government programs, Social Security has grown exponentially, and its identification number has become a de facto national identity number. It’s so important and used in so many ways that it is the prime target for thieves who would steal your identity.

Social security card

The effect of government grants

Trackside is a column written occasionally by John D’Aloia Jr. He lives in St. Marys, Kansas.

TRACKSIDE © by John D’Aloia Jr.
February 5, 2012 AD

How do you view government grants? Are they “free” money handed out by a caring and beneficent government? My view is that government grants are funded by a forced redistribution of the resources from many people for the benefit of a few. Such grants are a means by which the grantor achieves control over the grantee. Such grants are morally and politically unacceptable.

“The Eighth Commandment does not say ‘Thou shalt not steal … except by a majority vote or unless it’s for a park swing set.'” (A paraphrase of a line from Mark Hendrickson’s article “Our National Blind Spot,” American Thinker, 6 February 2010.) Those who accept government grants for projects that they cannot fund from local tax sources are stealing resources from others, and in so-doing, are no better than the Occupy Wall Street gang which wants government to extract dollars from everyone else to give them what they want. (I am conflicted on grants that fund what would otherwise be an unfunded federal mandate — if the feds mandate X, then the feds should provide the dollars and take the budget hit, not the government unit needing the dollars to comply — but what if only some governments get a grant to pay for X, setting up an environment for favoritism? or the feds give a grant only to the governments that accept all the attached strings? As I said, conflicted.)

The only real beneficiaries of this government-forced redistribution of resources are the politicians who buy “good” press by making the grants available (look what we are doing for you), crowing that they have “brought-home-the-bacon” for their constituents, the Clerks in the myriad agencies who administer the grants, and those companies to which some of the dollars ultimately trickle down.

The willing accomplices in the grant process ignore Frederic Bastiat’s concern for the unforeseen consequences, particularly the impact of grants on the national fiscal mess, the inability of the citizens whose resources have been taken (higher taxes, inflation) to use those resources for their own benefit, and the impact of grants on future tax demands. Grants do put a long term tax burden on communities. In their report titled “Do Intergovernmental Grants Create Ratchets in State and Local Taxes — Testing the Friedman-Sanford Hypothesis,” Russell Sobel and George Crowley wrote: “Our findings confirm that grants indeed result in future state and local tax increases of roughly 40 cents for every dollar in grant money received in prior years.” The report is cited as Mercatus Center Working Paper No. 10-51, West Virginia University, August 2010.

For immediate satisfaction, grantees are placing the financial burden on others and on future generations. Grant dollars come from three sources: taxpayers at large, deficit spending (insane, obscene borrowing), and the Fed’s printing presses creating phony money out of thin air (inflation). All three sources extract resources in one way or the other from citizens who cannot, will not, benefit from the grant, nor even ever receive a thank-you note.

Bastiat said that “Government is the great fiction, through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else.” In The Law, published in 1850, (which should be mandatory reading for all legislators and voters), Bastiat used the term “plunder” to describe the “legal” appropriation of the fruits of one person’s labor for the benefit of another. If he were alive today, he would be applying it to grants, recognizing that specific organizations and local governments are using the grant process to obtain the resources of others for their specific benefit and enjoyment.

Grants are not an economic development plus — at best neutral (dollars not spent by X are spent by Y) — but most likely they have a negative economic impact, directly because the grantor government agencies extract a “shipping and handling fee” out of the economy to keep themselves employed, and indirectly because grants provide an impetus for a sprawling, out-of-control Leviathan.

Accepting grants also place the grantee under the thumb of the grantor, as grants impose requirements that detract from the authority and sovereignty of the grantee. People look in glee at the line in the grant contract that has a dollar sign and a bunch of numbers after it but neglect to read the fine print that requires them to do this and that for eternity. The federal government uses grants to bribe states to pass laws that the feds want but don’t have the authority to impose. In all too many situations, federal grants are unconstitutional in that they are for purposes that are not within the enumerated powers given to Congress by the Constitution.

The ends (accomplishment of a project that local groups want but will not fund locally) do not justify the means (stealing now, and in the future, from all citizens).

See you Trackside.

Pentagon strategy blamed for Boeing Wichita closure

The fact that price was the key determinant in the decision to award Boeing the air force refueling tanker contract led Boeing to close its underutilized, and therefore expensive, Wichita plant.

This is the conclusion of Loren B. Thompson, Ph.D., who is chief operating officer of the Arlington, Va.-based nonprofit Lexington Institute and chief executive officer of Source Associates. His article Viewpoint: Why Boeing’s Not in Kansas Anymore appears in Industry Week.

Thompson writes: “The acquisition strategy that the Obama administration put together to finally break the impasse over purchase of a new tanker was what people in the defense business call a ‘price shootout.’ In other words, price was the key determinant of who won, because both bidders met all the other criteria for selection.”

Thompson writes that because Airbus, Boeing’s competitor, is heavily subsidized, Boeing had to bid aggressively if it was to have a chance to win the contract.

The result, Thomson concludes: “Pentagon acquisition officials were able to brag that they had secured a new generation of aerial-refueling tankers for less money than anyone thought possible. But here’s the downside: Boeing ended up having to cut costs everywhere it could to avoid losing money on the tanker program, including Wichita. Keeping an underutilized, high-cost facility in the production mix would have eroded the program’s already razor-thin profit margin. With Boeing’s resources overstretched trying to match Airbus’s heavily subsidized development efforts on the commercial side, Wichita had to go.”

It may not be much consolation to Wichita and the Boeing employees who are losing their jobs there, but a cheaper tanker is preferred over an expensive tanker. We need to cut government spending whenever and wherever we can, and obtaining military weapons systems as inexpensively as possible is important.

In 2008, when the tanker contract was awarded to Airbus (Boeing successfully appealed this decision), the Wall Street Journal accurately diagnosed the politics: “What’s really going on is a familiar scrum for federal cash, with politicians from Washington and Kansas using nationalism as cover for their pork-barreling.”

The Journal correctly stated what should be the goal of the contract: “The Pentagon’s job is to defend the country, which means letting contracts that best serve American soldiers and taxpayers, not certain companies.”

We also need to note that Boeing has been heavily subsidized by government in Wichita, too. My article Boeing departure presents challenge for Wichita and Kansas presents some figures, including $658 million in property tax forgiveness over a period of 28 years.

Perhaps an end to legislative time-wasting

Politico reports that the practice of issuing proclamations and similar matters during sessions of the U.S. House of Representatives may end. Says the story: “Republicans are moving to get rid of House votes on symbolic resolutions and are planning to post their internal conference rules online, two minor yet politically important changes to the party’s operating guidelines. … The GOP next Wednesday is set to adopt a new set of Republican Conference rules that will place tight restrictions on who and what the House can honor, a bid to cut time they consider wasted on the floor.”

This would be a great step forward. Not only do these resolutions, etc. waste time, they serve as taxpayer-funded, continual advertisements for the glory of government and all its trappings. It happens not only in Washington, but in Topeka and other state capitals across the country. It happens at county commission meetings. It happens at city council meetings and school board meetings.

At Wichita City Council meetings, there have been cases where the meaningful business of the council has not started until nearly one hour after the start of the meeting. The hour has been consumed by proclamations, awards, remarks by council members, etc.

While this happens, citizens with business before the council wait. And wait. They’re wasting their time and money. Their attorneys, representatives, or employees may be there with them, racking up legal bills and wasting time and money while listening to the mayor or other official read proclamations.

Sometimes this period before the start of the meeting’s meaningful business is given over to business-like activities that government owns and that compete with private sector business. For example, Sedgwick County Commission meetings feature promotion of events upcoming at the Intrust Bank Arena, which the county owns. Can you imagine being the owner of a business that competes with the arena — and almost any business involved in entertainment, sports, or leisure competes for consumers’ disposable entertainment dollars — and having to listen to these advertisements, paid for by taxpayer dollars?

We need to dedicate these public meetings to public business. Members of Congress, legislators, council members, and school board members, and commissioners need to be respectful of citizens’ time, and of their own and that of the government staff that must attend these meetings.

In Central-Northeast Wichita, government is cause of problem, not solution

From the November 2007 archives. Since then, the Wichita schools have a new superintendent, and Kansas has raised its minimum wage.

An article in The Wichita Eagle “Plan offers hope for city’s troubled heart” (November 14, 2007) reports on the development of a plan named New Communities Initiative, its goal being the revitalizing of a depressed neighborhood in Wichita. The saddest thing in this article is the realization that there is consideration of a plan for large-scale government intervention to solve problems that are, to a large extent, caused by government itself.

The article laments low high school graduation rates and the low proficiency in math and reading. We should make sure we remember that almost all these children have gone to public schools, that is, schools owned and run by government. Plans to improve public schools almost always call for more spending. While education bureaucrats do not like to admit this, spending on government schools in Kansas has been increasing rapidly in recent years. The results of these huge spending increases are just being learned, but it is unlikely that it will produce the dramatic results that are needed.

There is a simple solution to improving schools that won’t cost more than what is already spent, and should cost even less: school choice. In parts of our country where there is school choice through vouchers — or better, through tax credits — it is low-income parents who are most appreciative of the chance for their children to escape the terrible public schools. Further, there is persuasive evidence that when faced with viable competition, the public schools themselves improve.

In Kansas, however, there is little hope that meaningful school choice will be implemented soon. Although Winston Brooks, superintendent of Wichita schools, says he is open to competition and accountability, it is a false bravado. The political climate in Kansas is such that it is nearly impossible to get even a charter school application approved, much less any form of school choice with real teeth. (See What’s the Matter With Kansas, January 3, 2007 Wall Street Journal.) As the government schools consume increasing resources, parents find it even harder to pay taxes and private school tuition. So the government schools, responsible for graduates who can’t read and calculate, extend their monopoly.

A continual problem in depressed areas of cities is low employment. Government again contributes to this problem by creating barriers to employment, most prominently through the minimum wage law. People have jobs because their employers value the work the employees perform more than what they pay them in wages and benefits. When government says you must pay a higher wage than what the potential employees can contribute through their labors, these low-productivity workers won’t be hired. As the minimum wage rises, which it is on the federal level, it becomes even more difficult for the least productive workers to find jobs.

The reason that some young people find it difficult to get jobs is that they don’t have the education, training, or experience to be very productive at a job. While no one likes to work for only, say $3 or $4 per hour, working for that wage is preferable to being unemployed when the minimum wage is $6 per hour. While working for $4 per hour the worker gains experience at a specific job, and experience at holding any job in general. Soon, as workers become more productive, their wages will rise. Sitting on the sidelines not working or wasting time in a government job-training program does the workers no good.

The article mentions the plight of children whose parents are in prison. More generally, this neighborhood is plagued by crime and gangs. While I do not know the proportion of these people that are in prison for crimes related to drugs, it most surely is high. Gangs exist almost solely because of the trade in illegal drugs. The government’s prohibition of drugs, then, plays a huge role in the problem of crime.

The solution is to legalize drugs. Legalize all drugs, without exception. This should not be interpreted as an endorsement of drug use, as drug abuse is a serious health problem for many people. The health problems that drug abuse causes might even increase after legalization. But the crime problem would cease to exist. No longer would people be in prison simply because they are drug addicts. With legalization, the price of drugs would rapidly decline to perhaps the cost of a pack of cigarettes or a few cocktails each day. No longer would drug addicts have to raise several hundred dollars per day through crime. No longer would gangs find selling drugs profitable, and gangs would likely disappear, or at least move on to other endeavors. Do the owners of liquor stores shoot each other over turf wars, and do their customers engage in crime each day to pay for their fix of cheap alcohol?

The alternative to legalization of drugs is more law enforcement aimed at decreasing the supply of illegal drugs. This government action, if successful, has this consequence: by reducing the supply of drugs, it increases their price, thereby making it even more lucrative to deal in illegal drugs.

Then there is the government’s war on poverty. The economist Walter Williams recently wrote this:

Since President Johnson’s War on Poverty, controlling for inflation, the nation has spent $9 trillion on about 80 anti-poverty programs. To put that figure in perspective, last year’s U.S. GDP was $11 trillion; $9 trillion exceeds the GDP of any nation except the U.S. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita uncovered the result of the War on Poverty — dependency and self-destructive behavior.

In the same article:

There’s one segment of the black population that suffers only a 9.9 percent poverty rate, and only 13.7 percent of its under-5-year-olds are poor. There’s another segment that suffers a 39.5 percent poverty rate, and 58.1 percent of its under-5-year-olds are poor. Among whites, one segment suffers a 6 percent poverty rate, and only 9.9 percent of its under-5-year-olds are poor. The other segment suffers a 26.4 percent poverty rate, and 52 percent of its under-5-year-olds are poor. What do you think distinguishes the high and low poverty populations among blacks? … The only distinction between both the black and white populations is marriage — lower poverty in married-couple families.

In 1960, only 28 percent of black females ages 15 to 44 were never married and illegitimacy among blacks was 22 percent. Today, the never-married rate is 56 percent and illegitimacy stands at 70 percent. If today’s black family structure were what it was in 1960, the overall black poverty rate would be in or near single digits. The weakening of the black family structure, and its devastating consequences, have nothing to do with the history of slavery or racial discrimination.

Williams and Thomas Sowell, who have studied the issue extensively, conclude that it is government anti-poverty programs that are the cause of a permanent underclass. These programs should be canceled.

We see that government — through its poor schools, the raising of barriers to employment through minimum wage laws, the prohibition of drugs, and the culture of dependency and family disintegration supported by welfare — has been a contributing factor, probably the most important factor, in the decline of this neighborhood. It is foolhardy to believe that more government programs can reverse the damage already done by past and present government programs. While I’m sure that the intent of the New Communities Initiative and its coordinating members is noble, the reality is that government intervention is dangerous to the future of Wichita and to this neighborhood.

Plato to speak to Pachyderms

This Friday June 19, 2009, the Wichita Pachyderm Club turns back the clock of time real far to present the Greek philosopher Plato.

A very talented local authority, who wishes to remain anonymous, will personify the essence of ancient wise man. His topic will be “Why I am not a democrat.”

Plato has said things like “Democracy … is a charming form of government, full of variety and disorder; and dispensing a sort of equality to equals and unequals alike.” Also “Dictatorship naturally arises out of democracy, and the most aggravated form of tyranny and slavery out of the most extreme liberty.”

All are welcome to attend Pachyderm meetings. Lunch is $10, or you may attend the meeting only for $3.

At Pachyderm meetings, there’s usually plenty of time for the speaker to take questions from the audience. The meeting starts at noon, although those wishing to order lunch are encouraged to arrive by 11:45. The location is Whiskey Creek Steakhouse at 233 N. Mosley in Old Town. You can view a map of this location by clicking on Google map of 233 N. Mosley.

I Tested My Politics

I came across a test designed to place you and your political thoughts on a map of political ideologies. The test I took is here.

These tests can be fun, but in the case of this particular example, I wondered how some questions had any relevance to politics. In these tests I also find that some questions are leading and seem to be designed to get people to answer a certain way.

On this test, here are the results reported for me: “You are a Social Liberal (76% permissive) and an Economic Conservative (93% permissive). You are best described as a Libertarian.”

When my results were compared to those of famous people, I’m right alongside Thomas Jefferson, which is pretty good company. Plotted on a map of political ideologies, I’m in the libertarian area, but right near the border of anarchist.

Interestingly, whose photo do you suppose appears squarely in the socialist region? Barack Obama.

Advocates for Self-Government has a short quiz that has been cited as reliable. A quiz I would encourage everyone to take is the Are You an Austrian quiz (really an examination) at the Ludwig von Mises Institute.

I’m Glad I Won’t Be Reading This Book

At Reason Magazine, Jesse Walker contributes an excellent review of Thomas Frank’s latest book The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Rule.

I say it’s an excellent review, but since I haven’t read the subject book, I’m not really qualified to make that judgment independently. But having suffered through some of Frank’s recent columns in the Wall Street Journal, I’m not exactly eager to spend money and time reading this book. This review gives me confidence that my decision is correct.

Read the review at What’s the Matter With Libertarians?

Wichita Chamber of Commerce values

Here’s a message that Bryan Derreberry, president of the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce, sent to Chamber members. Note that this message doesn’t mention the role its political action committee played in the third Sedgwick County Commission district. In that race, the PAC spent some $19,000 of its $48,000 in an effort to elect Goddard mayor Marcey Gregory. Her opponent, longtime taxpayer advocate Karl Peterjohn, is just the type of candidate you’d expect chambers of commerce to support.

But that’s changed. Stephen Moore in the article “Tax Chambers” published in The Wall Street Journal on February 10, 2007 wrote this: “In as many as half the states, state taxpayer organizations, free market think tanks and small business leaders now complain bitterly that, on a wide range of issues, chambers of commerce deploy their financial resources and lobbying clout to expand the taxing, spending and regulatory authorities of government. This behavior, they note, erodes the very pro-growth climate necessary for businesses — at least those not connected at the hip with government — to prosper.”

Mr. Derreberry’s letter mentions “pro-business values.” At one time this meant something approaching free-market values. But now, Ronald Reagan’s prediction is being fulfilled here in Wichita: “What is euphemistically called government-corporate ‘partnership’ is just government coercion, political favoritism, collectivist industrial policy, and old-fashioned federal boondoggles nicely wrapped up in a bright-colored ribbon. It doesn’t work.”

November 18, 2008
Dear Chamber Members:

This election cycle was a resounding success for the candidates supported by the Wichita Area Business Political Action Committee (WABPAC) as we raised more than $48,000 to support pro-business state and local candidates. The Chamber’s political action committee identified and supported 39 state legislative candidates and three Sedgwick County Commissioner candidates winning 36 of the 39 races in which WABPAC was involved (93% elected).

The litmus test for the PAC’s engagement and support was whether a candidate had demonstrated an ability to listen and work with the business community to assure that your company, or organization, had the most competitive environment possible in which to excel. WABPAC’s Board of Trustees wants to thank every Chamber member who reviewed the PAC’s support recommendations and voted accordingly. The reason behind this appreciation is that the Chamber’s collective voice has its greatest impact when business members engage themselves in the election process and elect candidates who embrace pro-business values and understand the challenges you face daily.

A strong, collective pro-business vote is also an outstanding way to support incumbent state legislators and local elected officials who have successfully advanced our region’s top priorities. Bottom line – we need to effectively support the business-attuned elected officials who support us. Our South Central Kansas state legislative delegation has been an adept and courageous partner in advancing our metro area’s top policy and program goals. Your combined voice, in supporting the PAC and re-electing a majority of this delegation, assures the return of legislators to Topeka willing to champion our most important business priorities.

Respectfully,
Bryan Derreberry

Government Workers Are America’s New Elite

Should a special license-plate program for California government workers allow them to drive without regard for traffic laws? Is it possible for a firefighter to earn more than $200,000 in a year?

The Foundation for Economic Education reports on these and other matters in Government Workers Are America’s New Elite.

Liberals Favor Outsourcing

A press release announcing the new book by Peter Schweizer Makers and Takers contains this sentence:

Schweizer argues that the failure lies in modern liberal ideas, which foster a self-centered, “if it feels, good do it” attitude that leads liberals to outsource their responsibilities to the government and focus instead on themselves and their own desires.

What a great insight. Liberals outsourcing their responsibilities to government.

Tax Chambers of Commerce, Right Here in Kansas

This week, Kansas Liberty has a very fine editorial titled The KC Chamber: Enemy of Life, Enemy of Business. Prominent is the mention of the work of my friend the Kansas Meadowlark in revealing the funding of the The Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce. See Greater Kansas City Chamber PAC, Awash With Cash, Forms New PACs to “Buy” Kansas Elections for the Meadowlark’s original reporting.

I won’t reveal the entire content of the Kansas Liberty piece, as I urge you to read it in its entirety. But here’s a sample: “Through its well-funded political action committees, the best funded in the area, the Chamber is working to create a high tax environment that is indifferent to small business and the free market and downright hostile to the culture of life.”

This reminded me of an article from last year. Here’s something from Stephen Moore in the article “Tax Chambers” published in The Wall Street Journal on February 10, 2007:

The Chamber of Commerce, long a supporter of limited government and low taxes, was part of the coalition backing the Reagan revolution in the 1980s. On the national level, the organization still follows a pro-growth agenda — but thanks to an astonishing political transformation, many chambers of commerce on the state and local level have been abandoning these goals. They’re becoming, in effect, lobbyists for big government.

In as many as half the states, state taxpayer organizations, free market think tanks and small business leaders now complain bitterly that, on a wide range of issues, chambers of commerce deploy their financial resources and lobbying clout to expand the taxing, spending and regulatory authorities of government. This behavior, they note, erodes the very pro-growth climate necessary for businesses — at least those not connected at the hip with government — to prosper. Journalist Tim Carney agrees: All too often, he notes in his recent book, “Rip-Off,” “state and local chambers have become corrupted by the lure of big dollar corporate welfare schemes.”

“I used to think that public employee unions like the NEA were the main enemy in the struggle for limited government, competition and private sector solutions,” says Mr. Caldera of the Independence Institute. “I was wrong. Our biggest adversary is the special interest business cartel that labels itself ‘the business community’ and its political machine run by chambers and other industry associations.”

Voters Want Less Pork, Even in Their Own District

From Voters Want Less Pork, Even in Their Own District, July 24, 2008 Wall Street Journal:

The Club for Growth recently conducted a nationwide poll on government spending, and the results were exactly the opposite of what most politicians have been saying for years. Voters are fed up with Washington’s out-of-control spending. Politicians aren’t representing the will of the people when they bring home the bacon. They are really representing the will of their special-interest cronies. And it’s not just conservative voters who feel that way. Voters across the board have finally found something they can agree on even if their elected officials can’t: It’s time to cut the fat, even if that means fewer projects for their own districts.