Short Takes, April 1999

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Short Takes, April 1999

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Mark Paschall: Defender of Freedom
During the recent House debate on Doug Dean's concealed gun bill, Representative Mark Paschall took a stand for liberty. Dean's bill mandates training and background checks for concealed carry permits. Marilyn Musgrave's now-dead alternative would have kept the checks but skipped the mandatory training. Both these alternatives involve too much State control, according to Paschall, who offered a "Vermont" amendment that would have legalized concealed carry without requiring a government permit.

"I am tired of the legislature turning a right into a privilege," said Paschall. "The secret goal of government is to incrementally take away our freedoms, and I won't be a part of it."

In a brief interview, Paschall continued, "It doesn't happen just with guns. Government has the tendency to identify normal behavior, then outlaw it, and then permit it under regulated circumstances."

"We're becoming virtual slaves. The government controls our will and our capacity to act for ourselves, and it promotes legal plunder. I love freedom. I fear this nation is going to allow its freedoms to be eroded to the point where we won't even deserve them any more."

Paschall has courageously offered his Vermont amendment every year and may offer it as an independent bill in the future. Our hats are off to you, Sir. -Ari Armstrong

Bumper for President
Word 'round the campfire has it that Jacob "Bumper" Hornberger is running for President in 2000 on the Libertarian Party ticket. He has my endorsement. Hornberger is the founder and president of the Future of Freedom Foundation, which publishes The Freedom Daily (a small monthly journal).

Hornberger has all the right qualities to pull off a successful LP run. (A "successful" candidate would pull in over 5% of the vote, thereby attracting the media's and the public's attention to libertarian ideas.) He's a real libertarian, not one of these Statists in libertarian clothing that seem prevalent in other parties. However, he's no dogmatist -- he does his homework and backs his radical ideas with evidence and sound reasoning. He's an eloquent, passionate speaker who will play well on television. He may manage to dip into the Hispanic vote, as he speaks Spanish fluently and has long been an ardent supporter of open boarders.

I think Harry Browne was a fine candidate, but he suffered from two problems: his positions often came across as weak-kneed libertarianism, and he was never able to present them in an exciting way. Hornberger is self-confidently extremist in a way that is both assuring and inspiring. I haven't been this enthusiastic about a national political candidate -- well, since ever.

GO BUMPER! - Ari Armstrong

Update: House Votes to Ease Campaign Restrictions
On March 26 the state House approved Representative Rob Fairbank's bill that would ease restrictions on campaign contributions, allowing individuals to give more money to candidates. Fairbank's bill comes in the wake of 1998's Amendment 15, which placed severe restrictions on contributions. CFR ran a series of articles on the issue in February in which both David Bryant and I come out against campaign restrictions. See Campaign Finance Reform: Making a Bad Problem Worse. - Ari Armstrong

A Smaller Bigger Government
US Congressman Bob Schaffer of Colorado spoke on the House floor March 2 (aired on C-Span) with a clear, principled message: The Federal government is too big and must be reduced.

Oh, yea, but we still have to maintain the Federal Social(ized) (In)Security scheme and a system of Federally subsidized government schools. Also, a strong tax base. Oh, and a bigger military on the side.

With Republican friends like these, who needs Democrats? If Congressman Schaffer wants to be taken seriously, maybe next time he talks about reducing the size of government he'll talk about all the programs he wants to cut rather than all the programs he wants to keep. - Ari Armstrong

Undermining Education
A February 24 Denver Post editorial blasts State Senator John Andrews for working toward the abolition of government control of education in favor of a voluntaristic, market system.

The Post says, "[T]he notion that public [government] education should be tossed on the scrap heap of history, rather than reformed to better serve all children, is a radical concept that clearly isn't embraced by most Coloradans." But why does the Post invoke popular opinion rather than evidence or logic? Morality and economic viability are not decided by popularity contests.

The Post closes in self-righteous indignation, "We don't send people to the Statehouse, or the U.S. Capitol, to undermine our schools." By supporting State control of education, the Post does plenty to undermine our schools all by itself. -Ari Armstrong

Tom "I'm Not a Libertarian" Tancredo
Congressman Tom Tancredo recently published an opinion piece in the Rocky Mountain News (March 7, 1999, page 1B) calling for a "moratorium on immigration." Tancredo relies on two main arguments to support his position.

First, immigrants take welfare money. However, immigrants still provide a net gain to the economy. Why doesn't Tancredo simply suggest immigrants be denied welfare benefits? That's the libertarian solution.

Second, Tancredo argues, certain segments of the economy are not able to adapt to the influx of immigrants. In particular, government schools, government roads, and the government-controlled wage market can't catch up with the changing population. WHAT? Socialized industries are not able to adapt? Who'd have thought? Why doesn't Tancredo call for the abolition of State control over the economy rather than a moratorium on immigration? Tancredo blames scape-goats for the problems we created for ourselves, and he barely manages to disguise his appeal to xenophobic sentiments.

In his 1998 campaign for Congress, Tancredo exclaimed proudly, "I'm not a libertarian!" And he seems determined to prove this again and again. - Ari Armstrong

Go, Doug Dean!
Representatives Doug Dean and Ken Gordon duked it out March 7 on the pages of the Denver Post over Dean's concealed gun bill. Dean cited the overwhelming evidence that suggests concealed carry laws work very well in other states.

Gordon, on the other hand, served up the same tired, disproved, and irrelevant arguments. He says, "Guns in America are overwhelmingly used either in a moment of anger against a person the shooter knows or in a moment of depression for suicide." However, he cites no evidence to suggest concealed carry permits will increase gun violence, whereas Dean cites plenty of figures that suggest concealed carry laws decrease violence overall. Gordon misses the point entirely: Guns reduce crime without even being used! The mere fact that the citizenry is armed makes criminals think twice before trying to commit a crime.

Further, Gordon never tries to address the point that the vast majority of gun owners use guns responsibly, so why should they have their rights infringed because of the irresponsibility of a small minority? - Ari Armstrong

Deregulated Regulations?
Ken Chlouber offered an amendment to force US West to offer free long distance calls within Colorado. Chlouber is a Republican representative in the state legislature. The March 11 Rocky Mountain News says, "Chlouber offered the surprise amendment to SB-110, which is one of a host of bills deregulating parts of the telecommunications industry" (John Sanko, page 28A). Oh, and have you heard that freedom is slavery? - Ari Armstrong

The Half-Million Dollar Student
I used to love watching the bionic man, a.k.a. the "million dollar man," because with some pricey repair work he was able to do anything -- run fast, jump high, see far, save the world. Some, it seems, haven't figured out this TV show is fiction.

What Ridge Middle School has recently received a $481,073 grant from the taxpayers (you and me). The school's principal, Bette Bullock, already has grand ideas on how to spend that money: "We can't just take care of one piece of a child... We're trying to address the multitude of things that impact children's learning" (quoted in the Rocky Mountain News, March 11, page 31A). In other words, spend more time on things other than academics, and the students' academic skills are bound to improve.

Bullock also wants to start a new "literacy" program in which students can stay after school and on Saturdays. But if the school is performing poorly, why is more of it a good thing? - Ari Armstrong

Lobbyists of the World, Unite!
In an excellent series of articles in the Rocky Mountain News March 7, 1999 (pages 5A, 22A, 23A, and 26A), Burt Hubbard details the influence of lobbyists in Colorado. Hubbard notes that lobbyists outnumber legislators by a 4-to-1 margin. Further, the city of Denver hires four lobbyists to sway the state legislature. So let me get this straight: taxpayers pay the salaries of the legislators, and then they pay the salaries of the lobbyists to tell the legislators how to spend the rest of the taxpayers' money. I don't know whether to laugh or cry. - Ari Armstrong

The Politics of Blame, Hollywood Style
The logic of holding gun manufacturers guilty for crimes committed with guns threatens to undermine every manufacturing industry. Recently Oliver Stone was sued for making the film Natural Born Killers. Supposedly, this movie incited a couple to shoot a woman during a robbery.

Whatever happened to individual responsibility? The only person responsible for a crime is the person who commits the crime. Isn't it odd, though, that the Hollywood crowd fights for freedom where their movies are concerned, but often fights for more State control where the rights of others (such as gun owners and manufacturers) are concerned?

Practically everything can be and has been used to commit a crime, including rope, pens, wire, baseball bats, chains, water, jumper cables, wrenches, electrical cords, music, electrical appliances, knives, boots, drugs, tape, clothing, cameras, books, dirt, shovels, money, automobiles, and so on. Let's sue 'em all!

By the way, Stone's film, at least in the alternate ending of the director's cut, carries a strong anti-violence message. But then of course, most guns are used to prevent crime, not commit it. Gun manufacturers deserve a medal, not a lawsuit. But what's reason when it comes to America's State-run courts? - Ari Armstrong

Discrimination and Academic Standards
The March 9, 1999 Rocky Mountain News headlines, "Judge tosses NCAA eligibility standard: Academic rule 'discriminates.'"

In case you weren't aware, top student athletes don't have to meet the admission standards of top colleges. They can meet the much lower NCAA standards to play sports at the school. (And I mean MUCH lower.) Even if the athletes don't meet the NCAA requirements, they can still often attend the school, only they're not eligible to play sports for the first year.

So when I saw today's headline, I figured that the federal judge from Philadelphia had ruled against the NCAA requirements because they let students get around the higher standards.

I should have known better. It turns out that the judge ruled against the standards because they're too high -- it seems many black athletes can't meet them, and that's why they're "discriminatory."

But there is of course a difference between discriminating on the basis of academic ability and discriminating on the basis of race or ethnicity. Blurring this distinction is dangerous and unjust. - Ari Armstrong

Market Imperfections
Libertarian theory doesn't hold that markets are always and everywhere perfect. The theory suggests that markets in general work better than Statist coercion.

I have recently been miffed by a couple market organizations. I wanted to schedule a rehearsal dinner for my wedding at the Armadillo, a restaurant in Arvada, but the manager of the restaurant told me he had to make a "business decision" to refuse me service. I was livid. More recently, I brought some papers into Kinkos to three-hole punch. I thought there was a standard rate per punch, as their machine punches reams of paper at a time. However, they charged me a per-sheet rate that cost me several times the price I expected.

I'm sure everyone has stories of market organizations that didn't meet their expectations. Why is the market so much better than the State? Because at least I'm not forced to do repeat business with the market groups. I simply won't return to the Armadillo or Kinkos. What would happen to the quality of service if businesses were able to force their "customers" to keep paying them, regardless of level of service and wishes of the customer? The answer is obvious -- they would have no incentive to do right by their customers. Try telling the Federal government that you'd like to try a competing way to save for your retirement instead of Social(ized) (In)Security, or restrict your charitable contributions to market organizations. If you don't do business with Kinkos, you go across the street to Office Depot. If you don't do "business" with the State, you go to jail. - Ari Armstrong

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