Short Takes, January 1999

The Colorado Freedom Report:  A libertarian journal of politics and culture.

The Colorado Freedom

Short Takes, January 1999

Random Selection of Officeholders
Consider the advantages of selecting our officeholders from a qualified pool through a random selection process:
1. There would be a very good chance that the office holders would proportionally represent the constituency.
2. There would be no need for campaigns at all, ergo, no money influence, no ballot drives, no debates, no political parties, no political conventions, no political advertising, no charisma contests, no lying about self or others, etc.
3. There would be automatic term limits.
4. Incumbency would never be rewarded.
5. There would be less time to conspire against the people.
6. The legislative process would be grounded more in common sense than in elite sense.
7. The process would be more transparent.
8. It would NOT impair the right of the people to present grievances.
9. It would indeed be government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

Interested parties could enact such a proposal via the Colorado ballot. Citizens within a certain age range and who have lived in Colorado, say, more than a year, could be selected to serve one term, as an obligation of citizenship, although they would not have to engage in any of the official activities of the office, and they could be compensated at 1.5 times their current income, or $50,000 per annum, whichever is more. - Tom Goonan

The Stadium Tax
Last November, voters in the Denver Metro area were faced with a choice: force the minority who don't care about football and don't want a new stadium to subsidize the structure for the majority who do want it, OR risk losing the Broncos to a city where the majority would so force the minority. Tough choice. While I believe the majority voted wrong, I place the blame more on Pat Bowlen. Bowlen could have just said no to robbing the minority, and come up with some ways to subsidize the stadium by voluntary means. He could have sold personalized bricks for a wall at the stadium. He could have hosted $1,000 dinners with the whole Broncos team. The possibilities are endless. What really makes me sick, though, are the millions of dollars and thousands of person-hours that were wasted on the political process. On net, politics, like illegal crime, doesn't pay. It makes some people rich at the expense of others, and it squanders resources in the process. - Ari Armstrong

Tobacco Thieves
As a devotee of free speech and plain language I was delighted to see the front-page headline in The Denver Post on Tuesday, December 1, 1998:

Groups vie for tobacco dollars

At least that's straightforward and accurate, I thought to myself.  But then I noticed the sub-heading:
Health advocates jam public hearing

Now that would be more accurate if it read as follows:
Swarm of thieves divides the loot!

- David Bryant

LP: Savior of the Republican Soul?
Even though only 40% or so of the population favored the impeachment of Bill Clinton, this minority was strong enough to bring impeachment to a vote. Indeed, much smaller voting blocks can decide an issue or an election. Jessie "The Body" Ventura, one-time WWF wrestler and new governor of Minnesota, won on the Reform Party ticket with barely over a third of the vote. Chances are good that Ventura would have lost a two-way race with either the Republican or the Democrat. Here in Colorado, the Libertarian Party made waves, even if it didn't win big races. Sandra Johnson won around 22,000 votes for governor, much more than the 7,928 vote difference between Bill Owens and Gail Schoettler. In the State House, the LP may have cost the Republicans two seats. Lloyd Sweeny of Arvada won around 680 votes, compared to the 100 vote difference between Democrat Sue Wendells and Republican Denise Mund -- Wendells won the race. Earl Allen of Northglen won around 540 votes, compared to the 110 vote difference between Democrat Paul Zimmerman and Republican Pam Rhodes. Again the Democrat won. Those who vote LP but who favor the Republicans as second-best should be encouraged by such results. It is argued that the Socialist Party of the early 1900s, while never electing many officials, converted the Democratic Party to socialist causes. The LP could convert the Republican Party to market-liberal causes, thereby saving it from its mushy-headed moderation. - Ari Armstrong

Who Pays for Health Insurance?
On Saturday, December 5, 1998, I spotted the following headline in The Denver Post:

Employer health costs to rise

I understand that people who write headlines don't have all the room in the world, so I made some allowances for this piece of double-speak.  But the article which followed was no clearer.  Throughout, it perpetuated the mistaken notion that employers actually pay for health insurance.

Get this straight, guys!  The "cost" of health insurance for an employee is paid by his productive labor.  The employer is just a financial intermediary.  The price of fringe benefits is deducted from the wages which the laborer might otherwise have been paid, and the employee's total earnings include not only his cash wages, but also the benefits and services he receives through his employer.

Economic concepts are hard enough to grasp without the double-speak.  Let's use plain language when we talk about them.  Next time just say

Health insurance premiums up

- David Bryant

Moral Lessons from the State
The idea of the State trying to teach morality to children is repugnant, even when the moral precepts are sensible. All the worse when the moral lessons are misleading or vicious, as with the case of curriculum materials now used in Denver Metro government schools. I recently saw a package called "Teaching Curriculum for Moral Development: Grades 7-12," by A. Lynn Scoresby, Ph.D., published by Knowledge Gain Publications of Orem, Utah.

Under the section entitled, "Teaching Goal: To Correct Certain Misbehaviors/Problems," is listed, as a "misbehavior/problem," Self-Interest. The section "Sacrificing vs. Using" states: "Explain that sacrificing is giving up personal needs or wants to help other people get what they need or want. The opposite of sacrificing is using-manipulating others so that they give you what you want or need."

Of course, this analysis completely ignores the possibilities of mutual self-interest and benevolent trade, the cornerstones of a market, voluntaristic, civil society. Dismissing the possibility of benevolent cooperation is convenient for the State, for that leaves only the options of acting meanly or sacrificing. And what organization is better than the State at demanding sacrifice?

In 1880, the State stole children from Cape Cod parents with the force of guns and herded the children into government education camps. The State continues to force those of us who believe government schools harm children to subsidize such schools. Those who continue the Statist tradition of coercion are among the least suited to teach morality. - Ari Armstrong

Why Does Sun Hate Gates?
Oddly, on December 6 the Rocky Mountain News printed a flagrantly biased op/ed from Scott McNealy, who as CEO of Sun Microsystems has a direct personal, financial interest in seeing the US government destroy his competition, Microsoft. Bill Gates was not allowed to respond. McNealy's article was long on flowery verbiage and short on reason and evidence. Fortunately, RMN printed a letter December 13 from Steve Lund, a member of the Front Range Objectivist Group, who concluded, "McNealy's argument comes down to a simple, vicious premise: Destroy Microsoft because it is too good. Using political power to punish economic success is, historically, how competition and innovation are arrested." The history of antitrust supports Lund's perspective: these laws have generally been used as weapons by some companies to weaken their competition. (See, for instance, The Causes and Consequences of Antitrust: The Public Choice Perspective, edited by Fred S. McChesney and William F. Shughart II.) Is it surprising that this particular US law has achieved results opposite of those explicitly promised? - Ari Armstrong
(The RMN also printed a nice response from Richard Roloff on December 16.)

The Colorado Freedom