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.

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.

50 years later, the poverty of the “War on Poverty” is evident

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The Cato Institute’s Dan Mitchell has a pretty good post about the legacy of Lyndon Johnson’s so-called “War on Poverty” at his blog and it’s not good. Since the Industrial Revolution, wealth prosperity in terms of disposable income and access to essential and luxury goods was increasing by leaps and bounds.

The vast majority of those gains arose from America’s relatively high amount of economic freedom (though by no means totally laissez faire) which drew millions and millions of immigrants from faraway lands to to the country of plenty. As the market progressed and wealth increased, previously impoverished immigrants, as well as Blacks migrating north, were able to increase their incomes by underbidding and outcompeting their competitors.

However, as a nation becomes richer and richer it tends to forget how it got that way after a few generations removed from abject poverty. So naturally people begin to ask the question, “How in a country of such abundance as ours is there material suffering for too many people?” Let’s leave aside the fact that even in societies with a largely free economy, governments still put up huge impediments to poor increasing their wealth and opportunity through such cruel anti-market mechanisms like occupational licensing, minimum wages, rent control and heavy land use taxes/regulations, government monopoly schooling, inflating the currency, eminent domain and asset forfeiture, and many more.

Such a question like “why is there poverty?” is the wrong question to ask. What we should be asking is “why is there wealth?” Why is it that only until relatively recently did material prosperity come into being for the West and increasingly other countries like Chile, Estonia, and South Korea?

The reason is capitalism, or the institution of separation of economy and state where all people are free to engage in whatever trade they want to and to reap whatever rewards that come with customers voluntarily paying them for their services. And filling the foundation of that system is the creation of legal regime of protected and tradable private property rights.

The Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto has argued persuasively and forcefully that it is institutions that build wealth that we should look at, not just the wealth that happens to exist at any given time. “What makes people interested in the rule of law, the first thing that they understand… is that everybody on this earth lives on a plot of land,” he writes. This is the basic realization that all of us have the individual right to call that which is truly ours, ours.

Returning to the issue of welfare statism and the War on Poverty, since all wealth that the state redistributes is money taken by force from the earnings of others, this process necessarily reduces the amount people are going to work and the quality of work that they’re going to do since their rewards diminish according directly to the amount of value they produce for society (their customers). So this means that the welfare state becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy in that it creates a direct incentive to feed off the fruits of one’s neighbors as opposed to being self-reliant and self-sustaining.

The result has left us in a very real situation where the federal government has created over 120 separate anti-poverty programs, which as a 2013 Cato Institute study shows, when coupled with state and local benefits, in the majority of states a recipient of the average number of welfare benefits actually has a higher income than a starting level minimum wage job.

Compounding the problem, since welfare benefits are not taxed but wages are, this makes it even more advantageous to go on the dole than to work.

Such a system described above has had terrible results for liberty, prosperity, and social cohesion for all Americans, but especially Blacks. Pre-LBJ, they had marriage rates higher than whites, unemployment rates relatively on par with whites, and children born out of wedlock was almost unheard of.

After the War on Poverty, we see the immense breakdown of Black America as well as the Hispanic community, too.

Ask yourselves, if the situation were reversed and we had had a War on Poverty starting in the late 19th century with poverty rates dropping every year, only to have the policy repealed in the mid-1960’s and have the calamitous affects that we’re now so sadly familiar with, wouldn’t you call that a failure?

So why do we continue this failed policy of wealth destruction, dependency, and mass community dissolution in the name of “helping the poor”?

If we want to truly help the poor, there has been no greater anti-poverty program than economic liberty and free trade. Period dot.

UPDATE: This is not to look askance at the terrible policy of the Drug War and “Law & Order” extremism that has also had an extremely deleterious effect in aggregating human suffering and tyranny in this country, which were begun by the conservative administrations of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.

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.

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.