Short Takes, February 1999

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

The Colorado Freedom

Short Takes, February 1999

Happy Valentine's Day
How does the State love to regulate thee? Let me count the ways it interferes with love, sex, and romance:
1) Marriage licenses and the prohibition of certain marriages.
2) Prohibitions on certain sex acts between consenting adults.
3) A tax code that socially engineers marital decisions. Sometimes the code encourages marriage, sometimes discourages it, and it encourages having children.
4) Subsidies for children conceived out of wedlock (via welfare).
5) A prohibition of sex for pay (prostitution).
6) A restriction on immigration, thus limiting one's choice of marriage partners. (I know of a terribly sad story of love squashed by the immigration laws -- the American is from Grand Junction.)
7) Subsidies for sex education and condom distribution in the government schools.
8) A tax rate of nearly 50% that pushes most families into dual incomes. - Ari Armstrong

Shawn Mitchell: Defender of Liberty
Congratulations to Representative Shawn Mitchell, who recently got his bill through committee that would prohibit the state from mandating "charity" service by lawyers and other professions. He even earned a dedicated story in the February 12 Rocky Mountain News. Pretty good for a freshman legislator who promised a "quiet" first session (Colorado Legislators Eye New Pro-Liberty Laws). Bravo! - Ari Armstrong

Privacy for Sale
According to Carla Crowder of the Rocky Mountain News (January 30), the Division of Motor Vehicles was in the process of selling our driver's license photos to a New Hampshire company, which in turn wanted to sell the pictures to stores and other organizations around the country. This move was set in motion by the state legislature last year, led by Representative Tony Grampsas (R-Evergreen). Thankfully, after public protest, Governor Bill Owens pushed hard for new legislation to ban such sales.

This still goes to show that, whenever the government collects data on us, be it for guns, autos, Social(ized) (In)Security, or whatever, the potential exists for this information to be abused. Unfortunately, the government has also begun toying with national I.D. cards and DNA records. Is 1984 in the past or in our future? - Ari Armstrong

Destruction of the No-Zone Layer
On Tuesday, February 2, the Colorado Senate heard a bill to stop El Paso County from zoning unincorporated lands and restricting the property rights of the residents.

This raises an interesting theoretical issue. Generally, libertarians argue that coercive power ought not exist at all, but so long as it does exist it should be kept on as local a level as possible. It's easier to tar and feather a local despot, after all, or to escape from one. In this case of zoning, though, libertarians appealed to a larger government entity to stop the aggression of a smaller one. To generalize the principle: limit the aggression of all levels of government as much as possible, and use the power of one government body to limit the aggression of another whenever possible. -Ari Armstrong

Don't Knock Nock
The topic for the January 13 Austrian Economics Discussion Group was Albert J. Nock's "On Doing the Right Thing." From this meeting I learned a crucial way to categorize activities.

First, there are "personal" actions, things that aren't anybody's business but our own, like which car to buy, which gun to buy, which food to eat, which sexual activities to perform in our bedrooms. Second are "social" acts, which are rightly restricted or encouraged by social pressures. For instance, tipping is a social act; not tipping a good server will earn scowls. Society encourages some ethical behaviors, like overcoming bigotry. Finally is the "legal" realm, in which activities are forced or prohibited.

In a healthy culture, as many activities as possible are left in the personal realm, some acts are seen as meriting social pressure, and only the fewest behaviors, like murder, theft, and so forth, are left to the legal arena. In a sick culture such as our own, personal choices are moved into the social realm, and most activities are assigned to the law. Thus, the pyramid is inverted, until every act not compelled is prohibited. - Ari Armstrong

Taxcutter Rides Again
Doug Bruce, a.k.a. "taxcutter," is preparing for another ballot initiative for 2000 (if he can get past the "single issue" rule in the State Supreme Court). He's looking for contributions and volunteers to distribute petitions. You can contact Bruce at Box 26018, Colorado Springs, CO 80936, at, or at (719) 550-0010. The proposed amendment is set to read:

Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution establishing a $25 tax cut to lower each 2001 state and local tax bill for each utility customer tax and franchise charge, vehicle ownership tax, and specified income tax and property tax, and, in connection therewith, increasing the tax cut $25 yearly thereafter; requiring state replacement of local revenue when yearly state revenue increases $200 million or more above that year's replacement increase; requiring yearly state audits of tax and spending limits; allowing the state to limit actions that increase replacement costs; specifying rules for construing this amendment; and awarding mandatory attorney fees and costs to successful plaintiffs only?

-Ari Armstrong

Mandatory, Regulated Savings Accounts
Alan Greenspan has recently come out against diverting Social(ized) (In)Security funds to the stock market. Making the government a major shareholder in private business is a recipe for disaster, Greenspan suggested. But one would never guess Greenspan's views by reading a recent Rocky Mountain News editorial (January 31, 1999), which discusses the problems Greenspan sees with this Federal welfare program but then suggests that it be partially converted to a mandatory stock investment program.

Greenspan's actual ideas are great: slowly raise the retirement age over time and check the increases in benefits to current recipients. Indeed, if the retirement age were continually increased, the program could be eventually fazed out. However, requiring younger people to invest in the stock markets won't help save the system, it will only add new coercive measures on top of the old. Instead of being forced to invest in stocks, we should be allowed to keep our own money to do with what we please! - Ari Armstrong

Deregulating the Schools
State Representative Nancy Spence, a Republican from Aurora, recently introduced a bill (1044) that would allow government schools to ignore regulations. "My bill allows regular public schools to seek relief from overregulation," she said (quoted in the Denver Post).

While government schools are surely subject to a host of ill-conceived regulations, the principle remains that whoever pays the bills, makes the rules. Whatever level of government provides financing for a project is going to regulate that project. Such regulation is necessary to maintain accountability. Free money without strings is always abused.

Ultimately, the only way to end government regulation while maintaining accountability is to get the government totally out of the way. In education, that means allowing parents and charitable organizations, rather than the government, to pay for school. When parents pay the bills, schools must be accountable to the parents or lose business. The primary issue is the financing. When the government stops forcibly redistributing wealth to schools, it will have no good excuse to regulate them. - Ari Armstrong

Stealing Property for Fun and Profit
State and Federal agents can take your property if it's used in a crime, regardless of whether you were the one who committed the crime, and keep it for their own use.

On Wednesday, January 6, property seizures was the topic of discussion at the Community Issues Forum in downtown Denver. Jim Russell, Chief of the Assets Forfeiture Unit, a Federal agency, made the case for the policies, arguing that criminals should not be allowed to keep the profits of their crimes. So far so good, but the rampant abuse of the system was pointed out by Stuart Barr, a civil litigator.

I plan to write an extensive article on the matter for November, 1999, with a view toward convincing the state legislature to pass a reform in 2000. Now I'll simply list in brief the essential reforms. If anyone has information on cases of property seizures in Colorado, please write to me. If you know your state legislators, encourage them to co-sponsor a bill next term.

How to reform the laws on property seizures:

  • Permit property to be taken only from convicted criminals.
  • Require the government to prove that the confiscated property was either used directly to perpetrate a crime or gained in profit from a crime.
  • Require the government to prove that the property in question belonged to the criminal and was not merely borrowed or stolen from an innocent party.
  • Send seized property and all proceeds from seized property directly to the state treasury, rather than to the police agencies which seize the property. This would eliminate most perverse incentives.

- Ari Armstrong

Life is Beautiful
I recently saw the Italian film Life is Beautiful, about the effects of the holocaust on an Italian family. This is one of the best films made about the Nazi era. It's an emotional twister; I fought back tears of rage but at other times laughed uproariously. The feat of this film is to celebrate life even as it condemns national socialism and its death camps. Please see this film. And never forget the horrors of the arbitrary, vicious power of the centralized, socialistic State. -Ari Armstrong

Mental Paralysis
When I think about how Franklin Delano Roosevelt initiated Social(ized) (In)Security in order to push older people out of the work force during the Great Depression, without regard for the consequences to future generations at the bottom of the Great Ponzi Scheme, I need reminding: was this President paralyzed from the waist down or the neck up? - Ari Armstrong (with thanks to my dad Linn for the idea)

Government for the People?
Clinton returns fresh from his impeachment trial, ready to move America ever faster down the road of socialism, saying ,"I hope all Americans here in Washington and throughout our land will rededicate ourselves to the work of serving our nation." And all this time I thought the proper purpose of government was to serve and protect the individual. - Ari Armstrong

The Colorado Freedom