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.

 

Avoiding the net neutrality scam–consumers, not bureaucrats, should pick content winners

Say NO TO Net Neutrality   locked computer

I was elated when I heard that the DC Court of Appeals struck down the Federal Communication Commission’s power grab via its so-called “net neutrality” regulation that prohibits ISPs from “discriminating” (aka charging more for worthless content that doesn’t drive traffic) against websites and content creators.

The court’s opinion focused on the fact that the FCC had no statutory power to for a such a radical government takeover. ISP’s are currently considered “information carriers” by the Commission and thus exempt from most regulations that effect “telecomm carriers” like broadcast networks. The decision will likely spark an effort by the pro-regulation commissioners to reclassify ISPs as telecomm carriers in order to make the rules more feasible.

For the sake of a laissez faire internet, I sure hope we avoid this scam. As the Cato Institute’s information technology analyst Jim Harper points out, the effect of enacting net neutrality or any other quasi-government takeover scheme would be to transform a vibrant and dynamic laboratory of innovation into something resembling a public utility like your local creepy low-quality public access channel. Harper writes:

[T]he FCC has sought for years now to regulate broadband Internet service providers something like it used to regulate AT&T, with government mandated terms of service if not tarriffs and price controls. This doesn’t fit the technical environment of the Internet, which allows for diverse business models. Companies that experiment with network management, pricing, internal subsidy, and so on can find the configurations that serve widely varying consumers and their differing Internet needs the best. If government believes in fast lanes and slow lanes, surely Internet service providers could optimize service for movie delivery, video calling, and such, while email arrives a little less speedily.   

Later:

We made the case more than five years ago that “ ‘Net neutrality” is a good engineering principle, but it shouldn’t be a legal mandate. Technology and markets surpassed any need for command-and-control regulation in this area long ago. But regulators don’t give up power without a fight. To maintain power, the FCC may try to make Internet service a public utility.

So government control would kill innovation and further erode Americans’ ability to communicate and exchange free of state interference–which I suspect is part of the real motives of many of the pro-regulation commissioners and the other interests pushing this farce.

The effort to push net neutrality is very much analogous to the imposition of anti-trust laws in the 19th and 20th centuries. Like net neutrality, anti-trust were advertised on the grounds that they were needed to fight giant alleged corporate monopolies like Standard Oil and US Steel. But in reality, they were simply protectionist laws designed to preserve the profits and market-share of inferior producers by using the state to kneecap more innovative cost-cutting firms, and in reality anti-trust does more than ever to promote monopoly and oligopoly rather than decentralized competitive markets.

The same will be true of net neutrality should it ever be instituted. The inferior content-creators who lose market share and  would traditionally be charged more of a premium for consuming bandwidth will be empowered to leverage political favor with the the commissioners and congressional committees to file suit against “discriminatory” ISPs who charge them more, and thus destroying any incentive to be entrepreneurial and invent new and better services for consumers, killing off the heart of sector entirely.

This is exactly what happened in the 19th century when Congress created the Interstate Commerce Commission to ban “discriminatory” rates against inefficient shippers and giving preferential rates to more efficient ones. The result was billions of dollars in losses in today’s dollars in economic growth since railroad industrialists had to make extreme cutbacks in order to absorb the government-mandated losses that came with charging expensive and inefficient shippers.

As economic historian Burton Folsom writes in his book The Myth of the Robber Barons, quoting the successful railroad tycoon James J. Hill, “rates vary with conditions.”

More from Hill:

[Rates] vary from day to day, almost…You’re dealing with the questions that exist today. Can you apply conditions that exist today to tomorrow or next week or next month? It is absolutely impossible…

The FCC stupidly believes that it can. Let’s hope they never get the chance.

Founder of Greenpeace sees anti-GMO activists as committing a “crime against humanity”

And he’s right. Preventing something like Golden Rice, which is genetically infused with Beta Carotene to increase Vitamin A deficiency, a lack of which causes blindness, is a crime against humanity.

Patrick Moore, Greenpeace founder, makes a persuasive case for allowing Golden Rice:

Genetic engineering (or genetic modification, often called GM, the products being genetically modified organisms, or GMOs) is an entirely organic procedure. In this sense it resembles conventional breeding (sexual reproduction) as it does not require chemicals or radiation to produce changes in the DNA of the product. Genetic modification simply involves moving a small piece of organic DNA from one plant or animal to another. It is very precise in that the DNA that is moved is known to be responsible for expressing the desired trait in the species being modified.

Conventional breeding is a slow and imprecise process. It can take many generations and many failed efforts to finally develop an improved variety of food crop in this way. Some traits simply can’t be developed through sexual reproduction. For many decades now, plant breeders have used a couple of shortcuts to develop new varieties without going though the laborious breeding procedure. These are referred to as chemical mutagenesis and nuclear mutagenesis. Both techniques are used to induce mutations in the DNA of crop plants in the hope of generating desirable traits. The vast majority of mutations are useless, detrimental, or even fatal. But on occasion a mutation occurs that improves some aspect of the plant’s growth, productivity, resistance to disease, or other factors. It is very much a scattergun approach.

There is no reason why we shouldn’t welcome this radical contribution to human welfare that heroic scientists, farmers, and companies are struggling to engineer amidst at tidal wave of destructive and violent anti-science extremism from anti-GMO activists, as well as superstition seeping into legislative action.

I’m so thankful for pro-humanitarian and food progress heroes like Patrick Moore. It’s because of them we’re seeing huge advances in GMO tech to benefit global flourishing (see here, here, here).

Justice will eventually prevail and given the liberty to do so, we will end hunger as we know it.