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.

Virginia is for Imperial Governors, Apparently…

News is breaking that Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, is deciding to buck constitutional government by going forward with a plan to expand the empirically-bad-for-people Medicaid program over the objections of the Republican-controlled legislature, which recently passed a budget that in part prohibited such spending.

The decision comes as the nation faces an entitlement crisis over bankrupt programs like Medicaid. Other states, mostly controlled by Democrats, have decided to put their financial futures in the hands of federal politicians who may or may not cover most of the expanded costs. With the national debt approaching 100% of GDP, it’s very likely that Washington will not be there to pick up the tab when (and not if) these overextended programs fail under their own weight and economic contradictions.

Further more, Governor McAuliffe is radically overstepping his bounds by defying the legislature’s lawmaking power. In the coming days we can no doubt expect a lawsuit challenging the gov’s reckless actions and a likely victory for Virginians’ who do not want to lock themselves into a Draconian unfunded mandate, and who also, you know, value constitutional government and the separation of powers.

But since McAuiffe and his pro-subsidy cronies are at the helm, it’s hard to know just what will happen.

SCOTUS should strike down Mass. state abortion clinic ‘buffer zone’ law

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments today on a Massachusetts law that creates a so-called “buffer zone” of 35 feet between legal abortion clinics and pro-life protestors outside that extends onto public streets and sidewalks.

At issue, POLITICO reports, is that the law gives an exemption to employees speech outside but punitively restricts the activists from their famous “sidewalk counseling” where they try to persuade, very passionately at times, potential mothers and parents that they are making a very big mistake in seeking an abortion.

POLITICO writes:

A key issue in the case, McCullen v. Coakley, is whether Massachusetts can differentiate between people who want to peaceably protest or consult people outside of the facility and those who intend to be violent or disruptive. Miller, as well as the Obama administration, argued that it is “enormously difficult” to make that distinction, so everything from loud protests to quiet conversations must be restricted.

The problem with this kind of reasoning being put forth by Massachusetts and the Obama administration, who is backing the law in the court, is that it is impermissible for the federal or state governments to restrict core political speech–or any peaceful speech–during reasonable hours on public property that is neither violent nor threatening.

Even more galling is that the law doesn’t even allow for conversational “quiet” speech. That is patently ridiculous on its face and demonstrably so when Justice Kennedy asked, “Do you want me to write an opinion and say there’s no free speech right to quietly converse on an issue of public importance?”

This is the first major case that this writer knows of to come before the Court since the 2000 case Hill v. Colorado that created an eight foot “floating” barrier in that state between protesters and clinics, which a majority of the justices upheld.

But the composition of justices has changed since then. Neither Justice Roberts, Alito, Sotomayor, nor Kagan were on the court at that time. And with Kennedy likely going with the conservatives on this ruling, it appears that those Republican-appointed justices will strike down the law.

But this is really not a case about abortion or abortion rights. It’s more about free speech. And this court, to the pleasure of this writer, is a very pro-free speech court relative to the Rehnquist court or others that have come before.

This is the court that has struck down laws banning the watching of animal cruelty videos, the picketing of soldiers’ funerals, and the funding of independent political advertising by by corporations and unions.

In this case, McCullen v. Coakley, the court should do the right and constitutional thing and strike another blow for First Amendment political speech.

 

Bloomberg, De Blasio, and the decline of New York City

NYC Mayoral Candidate Bill de Blasio Campaigns In BrooklynWith newly-sworn in New York Mayor Bill De Blasio taking office, it’s being reported that the former Sandinista-supporting pol’s first act was to ban horse-drawn carriages in the city’s Central Park.

Huh?

Am I missing something here? In a city with a left-authoritarian political class that is clamoring for policies to address the inequality caused by policies that this same class supports (high property taxes, occupational licensing, land-use restrictions, and generally putting as many barriers to employment as the bureaucrats can think of), this is really what needs to be done? To further assault people’s liberty to be nostalgic about the 1870’s? Welcome to New York: Where the people envy the animals.

But sadly Mayor De Blasio is just the latest government-loving installment in the series of anti-libertarian chief executives at City Hall.

It’s hard to fathom how anyone can top Mike “You’ll Have No Fun or Rights on My Watch” Bloomberg. After all, this is the guy who believed public enemy #1 was bar/restaurant owners choosing whether or not they’d allow smoking–a close second being rogue 7/11s selling illegal Big Gulps to impressionable citizens not patriotic enough to go along with the billionaire mayor’s health department doctoring photos for its “public health” campaign.

Even before the midget mayor, though, much of this anti-liberty template for mayor can be blamed on the police-state worshiping sage of the 90’s with a mob boss father, Rudolph Giuliani. The man who ushered in the “broken windows” theory of policing (centered around implementing harsher penalties toward previously ignored “crimes” like the famous squeegee men and public but peaceful drunkenness) taught New Yorkers that civil liberties were no big whoop when there was post smokers to arrest and nonviolent black men to murder by the NYPD.

I bring all of this up because one of my favorite documentaries is Rick Burns’ “New York: A Documentary Film,” which traces the history of the city from Henry Hudson’s discovery of Manhattan Island in 1609 to the 9/11 attacks, shines a light for non-New Yorkers on what a fun (and affordable!) place to live for the whole world to live. Art, theatre, music, movies, dancing, baseball, jazz, markets, vendors, tenements, languages, food, and the general revolutionary reorganization of the island metropolis inspires every viewer.

This does not seem to be the case anymore. New York appears to have settled into a soft-authoritarian, nanny-state, surveillance-loving bastion for freedom-hating Progressives like Giuliani, Bloomberg, and De Blasio.

This new mayor may seem in rhetoric to take a different path (supposedly he’s anti-stop and frisk and wants to enact policies that can make the city more affordable) but make no mistake, unless New Yorkers rekindle their love of liberty and revolutionary disruptive capitalism, they’re best days are behind them.