The Libertarian Case for Making the District of Columbia the 51st State

(photocredit: Patrick Madden/WAMU.org

(photocredit: Patrick Madden/WAMU.org)

As regular readers of this blog know, I’m a libertarian. This means that I like liberty and don’t care much for Big Government, so naturally this should predispose me to opposing statehood for the District of Columbia. After all, giving granting full representation to the citizens of D.C. will almost certainly produce two hard-left senators and at least one hard-left representative in Congress.

In addition, the proposed state of New Columbia, as it would likely be called, freshly freed from congressional constraints, would be emboldened to pursue and enact an agenda of higher taxes, more government regulations, and more programs. And since I’m likely to become a resident of the federally-controlled city in the coming months, it should be in my interest in maintaining the status quo.

But I don’t. In fact, I have become a steadfast supporter of the New Columbia plan for many reasons and believe libertarians, conservatives, and other anti-statists should, too.

The first and most basic argument for D.C. statehood is that all qualified citizens should have the right to vote in a free society. And although it’s often and unfairly downplayed or derided by many limited government advocates, many throughout the American history have fought and died for this right. And the fact that many libertarians are openly hostile to the very concept of the democratic electoral process should not prevent those who aren’t from voting.

Secondly, granting full enfranchisement to all citizens of the 5[emphasis added] states would give more credibly to to US diplomatic efforts to liberalize other non-free countries around the world who often use D.C. disenfranchisement as an excuse to deny their own citizens their full rights at the ballot box.

Third, giving D.C. residents their own state would not change the balance of power in Washington in any meaningful way. Republicans would still maintain a control of the Senate even with two new Democratic senators, and one extra voting member in the House of Representatives will not register more than a blip.

Fourth, the state of New Columbia would be able to enact certain pro-liberty legislation like it’s marijuana legalization measure passed in last years elections that is currently being blocked by Congress. And the fact their are many libertarian think tanks and activist organizations in the city means that they could have more of a role in shaping public policy.

Fifth, while it’s a Democratic stronghold now, it might not always be that way. When Hawaii and Alaska were admitted into the Union, Alaska was a Democratic state while Hawaii was a Republican. Now, they’ve switched entirely. There’s no reason to believe that District residents couldn’t be amenable to greater liberty and free enterprise.

Sixth, it will bolster Republican arguments that they are committed to federalism and local control. Granting DC statehood is the ultimate proof that the GOP is about giving citizens control over their own local affairs.

Seventh, DC statehood could be used as a bargaining chip to leverage greater concessions from Democrats. Perhaps in exchange for a national right-to-work bill or monetary reform.

These are just some of the arguments that libertarians and conservatives should consider before they mindlessly assume that creating a new state of Columbia would be automatically bad for them. We as advocates for small government shouldn’t discount the passionate human desire to participate in one’s own government. And while we libertarians rightly consider individual rights to be sacrosanct, we shouldn’t discount the right to vote in our greater pantheon of liberty.

Sometimes When I’m Bored…

I write model legislation correcting overreaches of power by government. Totes awesome, right? Like peeing your pants in “Billy Madison,” it’s the coolest!

The problem of too little economic freedom and protection for the economic rights of the American people is twofold: 1) Too many people realize that most infringements, including the most egregious, on a day-t0-day basis come from state and local government and 2) most Americans fail to realize that the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment unambiguously protects their rights as much in the economic realm as it does in the personal non-economic realm.

As someone who vigorously believes in the so-called “Incorporation Doctrine,” or the idea that the the Fourteenth Amendment broadly applies the Bill of Rights to the states, which has been used in recent cases involving the First and Second Amendments, this principle unambiguously means that the 14th Amendment protects economic rights.

This makes it imperative for Congress to intervene to protect some of the most basic and important of these American liberties under what I call the Economic Civil Rights Act. The reader’s mind will undoubtedly jump to the original Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed by Congress as a response to the out of control efforts of racist state governments violating the lives and liberties of blacks in their jurisdictions. I think the invoking that image, while not exactly the same, is no less necessary.

You have states that barely recognize private property rights and seize it from innocent citizens almost at will; governments restrict the ability for citizens to seek gainful employment in the careers they want by placing wage floors which mandate unemployment for all those not productive enough to justify receiving such a wage; in the 1960’s, only 1 in 20 occupations required some kind of government license, now that number is 1 in 3, which has monopolized so many industries, reduced competition, and most importantly, infringed on fundamental economic rights.

While I could come up with an endless list of protections, I recognize that too much federal power, even in the pursuit of protecting individual rights, is always a bad thing and also that knowledge of local affairs is equally limited in Washington.

Accordingly, I’ve limited the document to five items that I think are the most important and basic to economic freedom and flourishing. If any of you fellow forgotten beards would like add any you think are more important or delete any you think are not, let me know in the comments.

Economic Civil Rights Act of 2014

  1. The right to engage in a lawful trade or occupation, with only minimal and justifiably necessary interference from government in order to carryout a necessary public interest like public health and safety, shall not be infringed.
  2. The right to liberty of contract in the negotiation of terms of the contract or financial compensation between the parties shall not be infringed, including in the form of minimum or maximum compensation, or minimum and maximum working hours.
  3. No political body, or body associated with the government, shall have the power to seize private property for anything but constitutionally obligated public use. Seized property, or the value thereof, shall in no way be transferred to or used by private persons or entities.
  4. The First Amendment of the United States Bill of Rights shall not be construed as to deny the right of commercial and otherwise economic-oriented speech.
  5. No citizen of the United States shall be made to join any organization of any kind as a condition of employment in a lawful trade or occupation.

 

Is statism empathetic?

The political prognosticator and congressional race-counter Charlie Cook writes how both the Democrats and Republicans have chosen their prevailing messages going into the 2014 midterm elections. For the D’s, it’s income inequality. For the GOP, it’s job growth and repealing Obamacare:

Republicans are obviously trying to cast the midterm election as a referendum on the Affordable Care Act, hardly a surprise given the broadly negative views that a plurality of Americans hold toward it and its disastrous launch.

Democrats want to change the subject to income inequality, hoping to buy time for the Affordable Care Act to work out its problems and for a constituency to grow among those who like and use it. 

Far be it for me to give Republicans advice (I loathe the thought) but I believe they would do well to point out that Democrats are railing against income inequality at time when we have the biggest and most powerful government in all of American history. Governments at all levels now consume 40 cents of dollar that is generated in wealth. They have nationalized or severely cartelized formerly private industries like health care, banking, automobiles, and the student loan industry.

The government taxes more, regulates more, and controls more than ever before. This is damning inditement of both Progressivism as well as “compassionate conservatism.”

Real empathy, which is what I would say if I ever had the displeasure of running for public office, is wanting to fight to give people back as much of the tax dollars and their liberty as possible. Real empathy is the belief that citizens, not the state, should be able to decide how they want to work, where to send their kids to school, what foreign workers to bring in to work, who to marry, where they want to live, how they want to build their house, decide how much in taxes they want to pay for the services they receive,  what kind of light bulbs they want to buy, whether or not they want to cover their workers birth control, what kind of health insurance they want to buy, whether they want to donate more to a political campaign then the State dictates, what substances they want to put in their body, and whether they can download a song and not have the feds break down their door.

That is empathy. That is liberty.

Ode to a real (and ideal) government shutdown

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As I write the country is in its second hour of its first government shutdown in about 17 years. Of course, it’s not a total “shutdown” since it’s only “nonessential” services [but since we’re talking about the government isn’t it all nonessential?!] and not “essential” services like, you know, the Drug War, targeted assassinations, mass deportations, the Military Industrial Complex, the Federal Reserve monetary scheme of inflation and manipulation, etc.

My guess is that it might last a day or two and then our wise and brilliant overlords in Washington—put off by small government extremists!—will gleefully go back to work and find new ways to control us and steal our money.

If only it were a real “shutdown”! Imagine if every liberty-destroying policy was unilaterally disarmed and every power-hungry politician, bureaucrat, and crony was put out of business in an instant! What if all the sudden neighborhoods could reclaim the streets they live on and control access to them; smoke shops could light up a fat stogie or cigarette on their own property again; kids would be free from the dehumanizing government slave factories that euphemistically go by “public schools.”

And not only that, gun enthusiasts could purchase whatever weapon these pleased for their nonviolent enjoyment.

People needing dispute resolution could hire any mediator or arbitrator that they thought met their qualifications and not have to deal with ornery government judges.

All drug violence would immediately cease, and people could buy and sell whatever substance they wished without fear of government prosecution or murder.

Workers could freely engage in voluntary associations with each other and they could look on their paychecks and see that dollar they earned was theirs to keep and to do with what they pleased.

Entrepreneurs could start businesses of any kind without having to beg and plead before a government licensing cartel board to “let” them start a business.

No one’s home, business, or any other property could be legally confiscated again with the abolition of eminent domain and civil forfeiture.

Intellectually “property” would be wholly abandoned and information sharing could be unlimited.

Predatory government surveillance would vanish.

Competing currencies would ensure the value of everyone’s income against inflation.

Parks and open spaces would be revitalized with voluntary private sector creativity.

All the government’s arbitrary immigration restrictions would be cast aside, and hundreds of millions of people would be allowed to come and go as they like in country without passports, green cards, visas, or driver’s licenses.

Civil society and a smorgasbord of voluntary associations would quickly arise to take the place of every coercive state monopoly in existence. Private property rights would rule the day!

The TSA and their porno-scanners would be scrapped and family members would once again enjoy the liberty to see their loved ones off from the airplane gate.

Individuals will not longer have to pay David Brooks on NPR and PBS say that the U.S. government isn’t murdering enough innocents and bombing enough countries around the world.

Obsolete rail lines that consume billions of individuals’ hard earned money and go nowhere could be abolished and new innovative technologies like robot cars and hyperloops could be built.

The residents of every municipality could occupy their local city hall and unilaterally disband it, thus allowing for voluntary private governance like private neighborhood associations and cooperatives—where all coercive taxation and transfer payments are completely done away with.

All of the seized “public lands” taken by the government could quickly go to whoever got to them first where contracts and tradable property rights would be established.

No longer would mass subsidies to big agribusiness, and sugar quotas, and raw milk bans, and alternative medicine restrictions cause any harm or malice toward free people producing whatever it is they would want to put into their bodies and selling the rest to willing customers.

FCC violations of free speech on television would be along distant memory, as anyone on TV would be able to swear, give the finger, or do whatever they wanted that the station owner would be willing to let them do.

And the best of all: No government wars and mass murder, no conscription, no police state, and…

No legalized killing.

This, ladies and gentlemen, in an ode to a real government shutdown—anarchist-style.