Tag Archives: property rights

N.M. Supreme Court rules Photographers Can’t Refuse Gay Weddings

I support any two consenting adult’s right to engage in a relationship. If those two people fall in love and decide to get married that’s fine too. I’ve discussed in detail all the reasons I believe this before.

That leads me to the incident that happened in New Mexico last year where a gay couple sued a photography company for refusing to photograph their marriage ceremony – and won.  And while I support a same sex couples right to get married I do not support the Government’s assertion that it is legally justifiable to force a business to participate in such a ceremony. According the New Mexico supreme court summary the ruling was as follows:

“The district court upheld the NMHRC’s [New Mexico Human Rights Act] determinations that Elane Photography was a “public accommodation” under the NMHRA and that Elane Photography violated the NMHRA by discriminating against Willock based upon her sexual orientation…the district court also rejected Elane Photography’s constitutional and statutory arguments based upon freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and the NMRFRA.” [source]

Discrimination:

Can a company  “discriminate” against a certain group of people based on something they perceive violates their religious beliefs? To answer that question I think it is helpful to think about the past.

There was a time not so long ago that people could legally discriminate against African Americans. And for various reasons (religion, culture, history) the law upheld those traditions. Eventually, with a lot of fighting and a lot of controversy, enough people decided that discriminating against black people was immoral and various state and federal civil rights laws were created.

At the time some people claimed that it was their constitutional right to refuse service to whoever they so chose (and maybe it was), but looking back it is pretty clear what they were doing was wrong. Is this another case of civil rights abuse?

Not so cut and dry:

Though I do not support any form of discrimination I do wonder if the nature of a wedding ceremony adds complexity to the situation. And since the same sex couple contacted Elane Photography to photograph a ceremony that they (Elane Photography) found specifically religious in nature it seems her decision not to photograph the ceremony should have been protected by the constitution.

Imagine Elane Photography was owned by a Hindu that refuse to photograph a beef barbecue cookout or Rodeo. Since Hind’s consider the cow “sacred” in a religious context they should not be forced to participate in an event they find spiritually offensive.

In either case – Hindu or Christian – the individual performing the photography service was justified by their religious beliefs to refuse service and should be protected by the constitution.  Right?

Why Elane Photography lost in court:

The big question is why the court ruled in favor of the same-sex couple when it seems so obvious (at least to me) that Elane Photography should have been protected under the constitution.  Let’s examine:

 “Free Expression”

The court ruled:

“The fact that some photography qualifies as expressive conduct entitled to First Amendment protection does not mean that any commercial activity that involves photography falls under the umbrella of the First Amendment…the threshold question is whether Elane Photography’s conduct is predominantly expressive…we [the court] are unpersuaded by Elane Photography’s argument that a photographer serves as more than a mere conduit for another’s expression…Elane Photography serves as a conduit for its clients to memorialize their personal ceremony. Willock merely asked Elane Photography to take photographs, not to disseminate any message of acceptance or tolerance on behalf of the gay community.”  (pages 9 – 12)

I asked my wife (an artist who supports same-sex marriage) about this and she disagrees with the courts ruling. She had this to say:

“Anything an artist does says something about what they believe or what they represent. A lot of professional painters refuse or avoid certain jobs because it’s not something they want in their portfolio and they don’t want to put out a certain image to future clients about their work. So, it’s crazy to think a photographer isn’t attached to her images.”

I agree with my wife.

Freedom of Religious Exercise

Elane Photography also argued for the  non-constitutionality of the NMHRA due to “religious rights”, but lost on that front too. The court ruled the following:

“The right of free exercise does not relieve an individual of the obligation to comply with a valid and neutral law of general applicability on the ground that the law proscribes (or prescribes) conduct that his religion prescribes (or proscribes)…the case at bar is generally applicable and neutral; it does not selectively burden any religion or religious belief. The NMHRA applies generally to all citizens transacting commerce and business through public accommodations that deal with the public at large, and any burden on religion or some religious beliefs is incidental and uniformly applied to all citizens…The NMHRA is not directed at religion or particular religious practices, but it is directed at persons engaged in commerce in New Mexico.” (p. 12-15)

Wedding Photography is not expressive and not religious. I humbly disagree. I think the court was wrong on this one.

Partial Birth Abortions

Before you say you support abortion, especially partial birth abortions, maybe you should read up on the procedure.

From Wikipedia the procedure is as follows:

[T]he largest part of the fetus (the head) is reduced in diameter to allow vaginal passage. According to the American Medical Association, this procedure has four main elements. Usually, preliminary procedures are performed over a period of two to three days, to gradually dilate the cervix using laminaria tents (sticks of seaweed which absorb fluid and swell). Sometimes drugs such aspitocin, a synthetic form of oxytocin, are used to induce labor. Once the cervix is sufficiently dilated, the doctor uses an ultrasound and forceps to grasp the fetus’s leg. The fetus is turned to a breech position, if necessary, and the doctor pulls one or both legs out of the cervix, which some refer to as ‘partial birth’ of the fetus. The doctor subsequently extracts the rest of the fetus, leaving only the head still inside the uterus. An incision is made at the base of the skull, a blunt dissector (such as a Kelly clamp) is inserted into the incision and opened to widen the opening, and then a suction catheter is inserted into the opening. The brain is suctioned out, which causes the skull to collapse and allows the fetus to pass more easily through the cervix.

If I was a doctor I would refuse to perform such a procedure.

Thanks to the super conservative blogger from Canada for pointing out the Wiki link.

Taxes – I bring home 66% of my gross income

I am the prime example of the broken tax system. I make about $70k a year. I am married and I have no children. My wife works as a part time school teacher because in Georgia there are no teaching jobs for Art teachers available due to lack of funding. (That means half the pay with all the hours.) Together we bring in around 90k a year in gross income, but much less after taxes.

I have worked very hard to get where I am today. I paid my way through school (yes, with help of government grants), I found a good job, I bought a house that was well under my budget in hopes of paying it off quickly, I own two small fuel efficient cars (one of which is paid off), and I am a stickler about savings, energy costs, and budget. My reward? I get to take home only 66% of my gross income.

The Problem with taking home 66% of your income

I’m a middle class guy. I’m certainly not rich and I am well above the poverty line. I am thankful for that and constantly working to improve my state and put more and more cushion between my wife and I and poverty. I want security. Yet – I have a certain amount of difficulty understanding how the system justifies taking from me such an amount. Taxes and insurance alone at a rate well above 25%!

The thing that gets me is that when I see where my money goes I don’t think of some poor kid who’s parents are addicted to drugs. I see my Mom and Dad. Two people who have abused the system for 20 years, lived off tax dollars, and refuse to help themselves. Sure, I admit, there was a time when I was a kid that Government money was putting food into my mouth. However; why has the system allowed them to keep those same benefits 10 years later? Is the system making them complacent, enabling them, or providing a good service? I think infinite Government help does more harm than good.

Tax the rich?

This is the point a lot of people would make the argument we should increase the taxation on the rich to ease the load for the middle class. I would agree with that if I felt that the Government was using our current funds efficiently.

The way I see it we could do a whole lot more with less. Spend less on military efforts abroad, fix our broken welfare systems, ensure that those who need help get it and those abusing the system are dropped from it, scale back the scope of the Government where they add no or little value, and stop asking the Government to be involved where it shouldn’t!

Implosion for my Generation

What’s worse is that there are countries (Canada, Japan, Netherlands) that even provide Universal healthcare with less tax dollars per person than we do. We can’t do it all without straining the system. Period.

We can’t have the worlds largest military, provide Universal healthcare, maintain massive entitlement systems, pay for public services, and all the other various functions Government has taken on and expect it not to put a strain on the people. Something has to change. The system has to be ran better, cuts will have to be made, or we will suffer. My generation specifically, my children’s generation probably even more.

Those are the thoughts that keep me up at night.

I don’t want to be extreme

I’m not going to go all Ayn Randian on you here and advocate we eliminate Government and taxes completely. There are a lot of opportunities and benefits from certain programs. I get that, but if anyone looks at the current system, the current tax rates, and the current received benefits and doesn’t find something wrong – then I don’t understand.

It’s easy for me to see why some people would be liberal on the issue. Especially wealthy people in cities. If your needs are taken care of and you rely on many Government services (public transit, public parks) than to you high tax rates are justified.

However, if you take a guy like me – or even more so in rural communities – who uses their own care, the public park is their own land, and they see no benefit from federal income tax except the pictures of central park – then why is it a surprise we have varying opinions?

I’m all for reasonableness. Right now I think we are veering off that path. I mean when the Governing body decides the best place to cut funding is from schools and creative programs and not from their own salaries – then we know we have a problem!

Government Control

Sometimes it can feel helpless. The Government takes away from my paycheck via taxes, hinders our children’s education via cuts in funding, and then inhibits my wife from being able to get a full time job teaching children. This is all out of our control – and that’s the part I can’t stand – not being able to control our own destiny. I think that is the frustration many Americans feel.

I’m not rich enough to shelter my family from the problems. I can’t send my kid to private school to avoid the problems with public ones. Yet, the Government thinks I’m plenty rich enough to be in the highest tax bracket. It’s a little strange when you consider who makes those rules – let’s just say they haven’t taken a pay cut recently and I’ll bet kids are in private schools.

Aurora, CO Mass Shootings: Lets talk about Culture and Gun Control

What happened in Auora, Colorado was a tragedy. Everyone can agree with that. The media is taking this as an opportunity to parade it around the television and internet – which I have no problem with – to debate the most obvious topic on hand: what does this mean for gun control.

The same talking points are being regurgitated across the news outlets and the respective conservative or liberal leaning stations are standing their ground without much bend or surprise in their arguments. So the story goes, but gets us nowhere, because frankly guns aren’t the problem in America – it’s the culture.

We are breading a culture of violence and a desensitized populous unphased by the slaughter of human life. We are a modern day Spartan society. Warriors are heroes looked upon as Gods of society.

Worse – the “gangster” or criminal mentality is rewarded by praise from peers and television. Even I find myself rooting for drug dealers and murderers on TV.

Joining the military to kill our enemies is taken lightly it seems and greeted with a “thank you” from society. Killing a few civilians a few thousand miles away with a drone has literally become as easy as a video game. Sometimes I wonder if we take the loss of human life seriously enough or if the constant bombardment of death has made it invisible.

Liberty without Responsibility Fails

I’ve argued before the importance of maintaining our rights to bear arms – it’s essential to our liberty as individuals and as a country. However, we cannot have liberty without responsibility, period. That responsibility includes instilling values of right and wrong in our children and holding our peers in society to the highest possible expectations. Liberty is only successful in combination with morality.

Among developed nations we are the most violent. We aren’t killing each other for food, drug cartels aren’t our overlords, and we aren’t fighting for survival; yet because of some crude sense of enjoyment – the incentive provided by a perceived benefit granted by society as a whole – we embrace violence. Sometimes, if enough people die, we hear about it on the news.

Where do we go from here?

Over the next few years and decades we basically have thee choices. We can either concede to violence until the people finally beg our Government to play the parent and take our 2nd Amendment right way (or at least strictly impede it) or we can change the current prevailing culture. I think most of us, even the most liberal of us, would prefer the latter.

We teach peace and the infinite value of the human life. We demand personal and social responsibility. We instill these facts in our children and our peers.

People not the Government

I am a strong advocate for action and culture change brought upon by the people and not by our Government simply because we have been shown time and time again that no one can force a group of people to behave.

When the Government tried out prohibition it failed, the drug war is failing us now, and I imagine that for America (where the gun culture is so strong) an attempted law prohibiting fire arms would fail too – or at least only keep them out of the hands of law abiding citizens. So, to me, the only logical thing to do is to hold ourselves personally accountable.

Why Taxation is Necessary

If you have been reading this blog for any amount of time you probably know that I am generally against taxation and especially against increased taxation.  That being said SOME taxation is absolutely necessary.  Necessary for the running of a country and certainly necessary to increase the overall standard of living for everyone involved.

Arguments Against Taxation

There are about as many arguments against taxation  as there are opinions.  Since taxation is not voluntary, but mandatory – people claim it is equivalent to stealing, thus immoral.  People claim the Government creates no value and much of the value of taxation is lost in transfer cost as it runs through the Government – so it’s not worth it.  Others simply claim the market and capitalism could do it all better.  Perhaps some or all of that is true, but I still contend (some) taxation is necessary and beneficial.  Here’s why.

Collectivism is sometimes necessary:

I am the secretary of my Home Owners Association.  We have 184 houses in my neighborhood and of those less than 25% pay the voluntary annual fee of $25.  Yep, $25, a year.  This isn’t a poor neighborhood either – I mean we aren’t rich, but everyone there could afford $25 a year!

The worst part is 100% of the fees collected go back into the neighborhood via landscaping, painting, upkeep, etc.  There is no paying government employees – no nothing!   Yet, despite our best efforts, we cannot get the other 75% of home owners to participate.  Instead they pass the buck and people like me end up donating flowers and pine straw every so often to pick up the slack.  The classic free loaders problem.

Similarly, without a mandatory taxation of the population I wonder what the US would really look like?  Would it be a society where a few responsible citizens do a disproportionate amount of work to pick up the slack of the free loaders?  Would it be a society where everyone’s standard of living was lower because working together was just too much work?  I think the answer is most obviously yes.

While I would never implement a mandatory “tax” on my neighborhood – if the consequences were national – I think almost everyone would agree a tax is necessary and even beneficial.

What I learned in the Third World:

When I was in Guatemala I really began to appreciate the idea of “public good” and the services that are generated via tax dollars.  Sure Guatemala and most of the rest of the third world has a lot more problems (corruption) than taxation, but the lack of services really highlighted a few of the things we have here in America.

For example, Guatemala is one smoggy place.  There is no or little Government regulation or enforcement of air quality control.  There are no catalytic converters on cars and from what I could tell – companies could pretty much pollute uninterrupted.  In America we put a tax on pollution.  Some of those tax dollars go to parks and public facilities (some of it goes to war too, unfortunately) which in turn makes living here better for everyone.

Another thing were public spaces.  Except for the touristy parts of town there were basically no parks nor public facilities.  This hurt the homeowners by driving down prices and hurt everyone else because it simply drove down the standard of living.  At one point we stopped at a station headed to lake Atitlan to get a view of the Lake and Volcanoes.  It was one of the most beautiful places on earth yet this little stop remained undeveloped and un-kept.

A free market thinker might argue that if a profit was to be made on an area then it will be developed – well what about publically used spots like this one.  Maybe this is the perfect opportunity for the Government to develop a non-profitable area to be used for public good.  So next time you are in the Mountains of America and you see a nice little well maintained watch tower – just say “thank you”.

Taxation not Socialism:

The dangers of socialism from an economic perspective are many.  Most notably the fact that it is unsustainable over the long run.  That, of course, is NOT what I am advocating.  Rather I am talking about a system in which the poorest of our society are taken care of (inevitably in a capitalist environment there will be those in poverty – everyone can’t be rich) and society as a whole benefits by the fruits of working together.

Today we spend far too much on military, our social programs are not well run, our political officials are no longer public servants, and we are living in a border line oligarchy.  What we should do is not eliminate the Government, but put it in its place.  That, I think, is an idea we can all get behind.

A critique of “Southern Politics”

“Obama’s Black and Romney’s white. That’s all I need to know!”

That’s something I heard the other day from a guy in his early 20s. He was ignorant, uneducated, and an unpleasant attitude. When I questioned him about what he said he questioned my “Southern-ness”. Am I less Southern for carrying a more-educated opinion? Am I less Southern for dealing with the facts instead of bigotry? Of course not. I even suggested that a “real” Southern man is a “refined gentleman” – not an ignorant redneck.

So what does it mean to be a Southern Man and where is this obligation to vote Republican at any cost coming from? The answer to that is more complicated than one might think. There are a lot of ideas floating around and depending on who you ask – you will get different, very different, responses.

I hadn’t thought about my own ideas of what it means to be a Southern Man until recently. I was born, raised, and educated in the South, but my ideas and principals may very greatly from someone else with the same history.

I admit – being Southern does come with a certain amount of cultural phenomena. For example, the stereotypes about going out of our way to open doors for women, making eye contact and smiling to strangers on the street, our love affair with sweet tea and traditional southern cooking, and a certain amount of “countriness” certainly exists. Those are things I love about the South though.

What I hate is this illogical feeling of obligation many Southerns feel to the Republican party.

Southern Conservatism
What bothers is the Southern man’s apparent obligation toward an established “conservative” status-quo. What bothers me more is that most people have no idea what being conservative really is. Is being conservative advocating war, hating gays, outlawing abortion, being religious, or something else? It seems most of us have no gauge for ourselves, but rather take our cues from the “party leaders” that tell us what we should be doing.

Take my father-in-law for instance. He is without doubt a good man; however, he is among the worst when it comes to developing his political opinions based on Rush Limbaugh telling him so. Why do Southern men feel so obliged to follow party leaders even when their viewpoints are so obviously coated in hatred, prejudice, and ignorance? Where is their ability and desire to think critically?

For example, when George Bush passed the patriot act which grossly violated our privacy most Republicans supported it whole-heartily even though it was a gross expansion of Government powers. Isn’t this the opposite of the limited Government ideals conservatives claim to support? The lack of consistency is what I have a problem with, especially when lack of consistency becomes lies.

Generally, if you oppose the war “southerners” will argue with you. If you admit America should take any responsibility for having enemies, people say you are blaming America. If you support gay rights, aren’t religious, and think the life of an American is no more important than any other human life you are a liberal and a radical. Sure this phenomena exists outside the South, but here I think it’s magnified.

The Party
I have mentioned before that Party politics in the south are crooked and inconsistent with a true conservative message. Instead the “party” convinces us that we should align ourselves with a certain socially accepted moral code, a demand to keep the rich richer, to give the Government more power for our “protection”, and to use a book of peace to promote hatred and bigotry.

The worst thing is that if you are in the Republican party you are asked to do what’s right for the Party instead of what’s right for the people. Good men are ignored, great ideas are swept under the rug, and a few good ole’ boys who have all the power want to keep everything the same so as long as it continues to benefit them. We are to be good little slaves and stay in line. Everyone else is fired up and too busy hating liberals to realize they are being screwed by their own “team”.

Real Conservatism
Real conservatism, in my opinion, isn’t about following the party at any cost. It’s about engaging in thoughtful discussions, having an open mind, and educating yourself. It’s about maintaining and promoting the power of the people. It’s about demanding the Government be a steward of the people, not the other way around. It’s about upholding principals of personal and social responsibility and demanding the same from others. It’s about upholding natural rights, property rights, and liberty. That’s where the conservative movement should be going and those are the leaders we should be following.

As an advocate for Liberty I appreciate what Obama did today

Although he didn’t do it for exactly the same reasons I may have fully appreciated Obama made a great step as a leader and advocate of Liberty today. He openly supported the rights of human beings to engage in personal relationships without the intervention of the Government. He advocated for personal and private property rights, human rights – Gay rights.

Although there is a whole lot I find myself disagreeing (and sometimes agreeing) with Obama about I can and will always respect a politician who takes a stand, the right one, even when it is construed by many as unpopular.

Admittedly, openly supporting Gay marriage isn’t exactly political suicide for Obama or anything and Biden already tested the waters for him days earlier by openly supporting Gay marriage himself. Most of Obama’s supporters agree with him on this issue and most of the people that advocate a ban on Gay marriage almost certainly aren’t voting for Obama anyways – I still respect the steps he took today.

I can respect any man who is honestly trying to do the right thing and taking steps to get there – even if and when I personally disagree with them. It’s certainly better than shitting on the people or war-mongering. Which is more than I can say for most of the Republican candidates.

I only hope that Obama continues to take steps to advocate personal freedoms and common sense lawmaking. Giving the power to the people, protecting the individual, and empowering everyone to do the best they can for themselves and each other is a great way forward. I just hope Obama keeps making choices that keeps the Government out of our bedrooms, emails, personal lives, and personal decisions – especially when we don’t want them there.

Obama may be the first president to openly admit, while in office, that he supports same sex marriage. History was made today.

Do Laws Prohibiting Firearms Work?

After scowering the internet and a few of my favorite statistic gathering websites for data on the link between firearms and violent crimes/murder/and accidental deaths I quickly realized that this wasn’t going to be as easy as I thought.  The data is all over the place. 

When you look at JUST the data inside the United States its confusing enough, but when you begin looking at the entire planet the task become daunting.  There is WAY too much misinformation and bad data on both sides of the argument (pro gun/anti gun) to take almost any article at face value.  So after reading what seems like 100 articles and 100 data sets I finally came to a few conclusions that I think are worth sharing. Since this will probably be a fairly lengthy and boring article I’ll give you the conclusion first:

Conclusions

A.) Evidence shows that legislation (strict gun laws) is not the determining factor between firearm ownership and firearm crime.
B.) Evidence shows that there is a coorilation between gun availability and the number of firearm related incidents (sometimes, but not always realated to A above)
C.) Evidence shows that there is a coorilation between Government Oppression of the population and lack of legal gun ownership.
D.) Evidence shows that in any population most violent crimes involving firearms were almost always perpetrated by an illegally obtained firearm regardless of the strictness of firearm laws. (Laws do not prevent criminals from obtaining guns).
E.) Evidence shows overwhelmingly that Demographics (race, gender, education, income, ethnicity) play the KEY role in the link between firearms and firearm related incidents.
F.) The answer to ending gun violence in America and optimizing Liberty is by addressing education, income gaps, social norms, and behavior of the people – especially males between the age of 17 – 26.

What the Numbers Say

Statistics show that there is no real coorilation between strict gun laws and gun related homicides as countries with varying percentages of households with firearms are found all over the list.  I found this chart very interesting – the countries with the most strict gun laws (no households with guns) were found on both the top and bottom of the list for ranking by Firearm Homicide.  This tells me that there MUST be something else going on.  A quick bit of research in to these countries tells me that drugs, war, and demographics are the key to crime and more specifically gun related crime.

Death rates are per 100,000

 An issue of Demographics?

The link between demographics and firearm incidents was disturbing to me.  These statistics in and of themself are enough to tell me that we are addressing the wrong problem when we talk about gun control.  This shouldn’t be an issue of “should we have guns or not”, but rather one of “how do we fix the cultural problem” in this country.  Why the disparity? 

The fight against gun control is fighting the symptom, not the problem.

United States Only
  • In 2007, African-Americans represented 13 percent of the population yet accounted for 49 percent of all homicide victims.
  • In 2007, 80 percent of gun deaths among Whites were from suicide.
  • There is a strong link between race/class and education/test scores.  Furthermore there is a strong link between lack of education and violent crime indicating those in poverty and of specific ethnic groups are at higher risk of committing a firearm related crime.

Weapon Availability vs. Gun Legislation

There is certainly a link between gun availablility and firearm related incidents. However, “availability” is not always measured or coorilated to the legality of obtaining those weapons.  So we cannot conclude from that alone that the strict legislation prohibiting the pocession of weapons is the case.  Furthermore, in the United States we see other effects of gun ownership – such as the states with the highest levels of gun ownership actually have the lowest overall crime rates.  Is ther a link?  I don’t know, but it is important to remember that causation is not always coorilation.

To give an analogy – The United States has the highest percentage of population with availability to automobiles, thus we also have the highest number of automobile related deaths and crimes.  Does this mean we should create more legislation dictating how we use our privilage to drive? No.  As with gun ownership there are intrinsique benefits and risks associated with gun ownership as well as automobile ownership. 

Also, creating legislation around Gun Control implies that people intend to follow the law.  Studies show that most violent crimes related to firearms were made by people with guns obtained illegally in the first place.  Laws only effect people who intend on following them. 

Freedom and Gun Control

Something the Founding Fathers knew all too well was that for citizens to remain free from the tyranny of their Governments (or any other oppressor) it was necessary to have the ability to fight back.  In the most oppressed countries around the world it is no surprise that legal gun ownership is almost zero everytime.  To rule a population, first you must disarm them.

I certainly am NOT saying that the trick to ending oppression in these nations is giving every household a gun, but what I am saying is that there is a certain amount of liberty in RESPONSIBLY owning a firearm.  Furthermore, there is no evidence that further legislation in the United States would do an ounce of good toward disarming criminals.  Even at a global scale we see inconsistant data as to whether strict gun laws help or not. 

What should we do about firearms and violence?

The data points in one direction.  The ONLY way to decrease gun related crimes while maintaining our liberty is to via education, closing income gaps, and altering cultural norms.  Just like we knew all along – to change the world, first you have to change the heart and minds of the people living there. 

Resources

The Trouble with Legislating Morality

This post was edited for factual, logical, and grammar errors on 3/9/12.  Every effort was made to keep the overall point the same.

There is a fine line between creating strong and sensible laws and creating legislating to dictate one’s moral behavior.  The theory is that if you present people with a serious consequence for their misbehavior it will discourage them from taking said action is plausable; however, sometimes the Government takes that theory too far by infringing on our rights and ignoring the inadvertent consequences of said legislation.  We can examine a few cases:

Prohibition

In the 1920′s the consumption of alcohol was judged to be immoral so the Government created legislation outlawing the distribution, sale, and consumption of alcoholic beverages.  Since demand remained high for alcohol the law inadvertently created a secondary market in which only criminals would take advantage of – and they did.  As a result of the illegality of alcohol sales several things happened: violent crime increased, legitimate businesses lost revenue or went out of business, criminal organizations became rich, crime bosses became famous, and normal men who wanted a casual drink became criminals to do so.  Looking back on it now most of us realize prohibition was a horrible idea and the legislation did absolutely nothing to change the moral compass of the nation.

Drug Use

Today we see the same effect regarding laws outlawing drug use.  Although the law is aimed at keeping people off addictive and harmful substances those same laws have inadvertently created a secondary black market identical to the days of prohibition.  Criminals capitalize on drug sales and distribution to become rich off the proceeds.  Additionally, non-violent drug users who are sent to jail often become hardened criminals and even gang members after their stint in prison has ended.  Our prisons are overcrowded – over half of individuals in prison today are there for a drug related crime.  Despite our tough drug laws the US incarceration remains rate is the highest in the world.

To contrast the American strategy, Portugal recently decriminalized all drugs.  It has been a resounding success.  Drug use actually dropped, the number of violent crimes fell, and so did the overall incarceration rate.  We see a similar effect in Holland where marijuana is legal. 

Today the US Government spends about 15 billion dollars a year on the drug war – and it’s obviously failing.  There are more drug users than ever before, more people in prison for drug related crimes than ever before, and drug profiteering is at an all time high.  With all the evidence (and experience with prohibition) it would seem obvious to end this drug war – seems like someone in charge must be making money off of it. Why do we still believe that legislation behavior works?

Gun Control

Everyone agrees that harming another innocent human being is the worst of crimes, but it may be a giant jump in logic to assume creating further legislation to restrict the way law abiding citizens obtain guns will help.  Yet we have allowed the Government to once again intervene in the way we live our lives – what’s even worse is some people want more intervention.  In theory, the tougher the laws the less likely a criminal or child will have the ability to access a weapon.  Again, this is false.

When you make weapons illegal or create non-sensible laws around weapon control it only serves to prevent those who intend on following the law from obtaining weapons – not criminals. (Hint: Criminals break the law)  By outlawing or restricting weapons you effectively disarm the public and without effecting criminal organizations.  In addition another black market is created in which only criminals will profit.

The data shows no evidence that legislation alone prevents firearm related violence. Rather other factors such as education and cultural norms dictate behavior – not because the Government said you can or cannot do something.

The change in behavior doesn’t come from the legislation – it comes from the people.  The moral behavior of on developed nation isn’t been caused the strict gun or drug laws, but rather because the population has collectively agreed to do the right thing. 

If you want to correct a moral flaw the answer is not to make a law that infringes on the liberty of the people, the answer is to change the hearts and minds of the people. 

Legislating Morality Just Doesn’t Work

There are many dangers associated with legislating morality.  Worst of all this type of legislation usually involves on group imposing their will on another – and making everyone pay for it – whether they agree or not.  

 When the Government creates a business by legislating morality no one wins.  On one given day legislators decree that one man cannot marry another despite their love for one another. The next day the Government further restricts gun laws preventing private and law abiding citizens from being able to protect themselves.  In both cases personal freedom is infringed upon to impose some sense of morality another person has declared law.  What one believes is right is a personal decision and nothing more.  It is important to take care to never blur the lines between liberty and sensible laws intended for the nation.

Evidence proves time and time again that just because an issue may seem morally beneficial for society it does not necessarily benefit society for Government to make a law prohibiting that activity.  I plead with all the readers of this blog – next time you think something is wrong – PLEASE do not request that the Government creates another law, paid for by tax payer dollars, that will attempt to legislate our behavior.  We can’t afford it.

The Proper Role of Government in the Market Place (Part 1/2)

Almost everyone agrees that the Govermment has far too much control in the Marketplace.  Whether it’s the federal reserve adjusting interest rates to give people incentive to buy homes at astronomically high prices (housing bubble), whether it’s a politician making a back room deal and accepting lobbyist dollars in promise to vote for a corrupt bill in return (oil industry, auto industry, communication industry), whether its using tax payer dollars to bail out big business (banking industry, mortage industry, auto industry), or even your local mayor approving a corporate construction zone near your neighborhood to make a few extra bucks – Government corruption and market intervention are rampant – we can all agree there are some problems.

What is the right amount of Government?

Government has two basic roles when it comes to business.  Enforcing Contract Law and protecting personal property rights.  Enforcing contract law basically involves upholding any contract made between two concenting adults.  This is necessary because if there is a disagreement the two parties may have a judgement made based on the predetermined agreement.  So if I agree to sell you my house for $200k, but never move out after you’ve paid me – then legally the Government should help you enforce the agreement.   Contracts are important to business as they are the foundation of confidence between two parties.  If two parties feel they cannot in good confidence make agreements they will not do business or the more powerful of the two parties will almost always abuse the weaker when it is advantageous to do so. 

The second role of Government in the marketplace is the protection of personal property rights.  That is the guarantee that one businesses actions do not interfere with the personal liberty of other individuals.  For example, a business can’t start a nuclear testing facility next to your neighborhood.  Though they certainly have the right to have their business the consequences faced by the individuals (radiation) is a violation of property rights.  (You can do anything you want as long as you don’t violate the liberty of others.)

Those two roles of Government applied fairly throughout the market place virtually guarantee a productive and fair place to do business.  So a drastic, not absolute, reduction of Government is necessary. 

Local vs. National Government

The constitution does an excellent job of providing what role the national and local governments would play.  Local governments have the ability to cater to local needs and perferences.  Local governments give people choice move to an area that better suits their needs.  Hypothetically 99% of issues would be decided by local and state governments.

National government is reserved for issues that involve the international community or cross state lines (per the constitution).  For example, a conflict by two companies in different states would involve the national government.  A nuclear facility’s radiation spreading across multiple states would be a federal issue – and so on. 

Today, due to juducial activism (the interpretation of interstate commerce, mostly) and enforcement by the executive branch the federal government has grossly overstepped its bounds.  This has made corruption among politicians and corporate bodies far easier – especially since the best interest of the people in the local communities mean almost nothing. 

To solve this we should revert back to a stronger local government.

Why Abolishing Government is a Bad Idea

I am a strong advocate of allowing the market to sort things out.  99.9% of the time that is the best thing to do.  However, the market can only work effectively if their is a fair playing field.  It’s important to remember that Government is not the only body of power that has the ability to artificially influence the free market.  So ideally, a just Government would stay out of the business of Market manipulation – and make sure others stay out of it too.  The Government must be non-biased, elected, and have no coflicts of interest to do this effectively (of course that’s not happening today).

Right now its very difficult to imagine a Government that would work.  The Government is so closely linked to business that we have a virtual oligarchy.  Big business sees fit that the right politicans are elected and corporate media ensures that the people agree to it.  Meanwhile, politicians are getting fat off our tax dollars AND corporate kickbacks.  It’s broken.

A system in place with the ability to enforce property rights is necessary though.  Without it we will have the same problems we have now.  Resources people need to survive and have a civilized standard of living (i.e., Medication, Metals, Food, Oil) all have the potential to be utilized for the greed of a few at the expense of many.  Without the enforcement of property rights the strong and wealthy will always be able to take advantage of the weak and poor.  It is the flawed nature of men – an empathy gap between those who are well fed and those who are not. 

We can see prime examples in the diamond fields of Africa where the corrupt rich rule the dying poor or the oil Shieks in the middle east.  An agency of justice is necessary – to lovel the playing field, ensure a truly free market exists, and allow everyone to compete.  Government should be a referee, not a participant.

The Folly of Impossibility

Free Markets or full government control – no matter your poison of choice – there is one major problem.  Men are flawed.  Some men will always exploit and desire to rule over others.  It doesn’t matter if they are in the form of a President or an Oil Tycoon unfair play is inevitable. 

Free markets with a dash of Government refereeing, I believe, give the people the best chance of success.  A free market gives people the opportunity to vote with their wallets and pocket books – to stop businesses who do bad and reward those who do good.  I think we’ve all had enough of these back door deals and lies by our “leaders”.

(Check out Part 2 where I will examine a few examples and discuss the data.)