Freedom Updates: January 2, 2001

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

The Colorado Freedom Report--www.FreeColorado.com

Freedom Updates: January 2, 2001

All Freedom Updates by Ari Armstrong unless otherwise noted.


NRA: Too Afraid to Fight?

A new web page claims the National Rifle Association is "too afraid to fight" for our rights. Sure, the group's leaders talk tough, but they usually cave to demands for further violations of the rights of gun owners and even help draft bad legislation. NRAWOL.org hopes to help change that.

True, the NRA sponsors some great training programs. The NRA affiliated classes in Grand Junction are the best I've seen. (For more information, contact Linn Armstrong at 970.464.5177.) Unfortunately, the NRA's politics is usually ineffectual and often counter-productive. Ayn Rand got it exactly right in Atlas Shrugged:

"When men reduce their virtues to the approximate, then evil acquires the force of an absolute; when loyalty to an unyielding purpose is dropped by the virtuous, it's picked up by scoundrels -- and you get the indecent spectacle of a cringing, bargaining, traitorous good and a self-righteously uncompromising evil."


Norton Assigned Secretary of Interior

Clarence Lovell didn't get wish: Gale Norton will not be Attorney General (see http://www.freecolorado.com/2000/12/shorts22.html). But Norton will head to D.C. as a member of "Dubya's" cabinet.

The Christian Science Monitor published an article today covering Norton's ideology (http://www.csmonitor.com/durable/2001/01/02/fp2s1-csm.shtml). Norton is known for her libertarian leanings, and she even attended early meetings of the Austrian Economics Study Group in Denver, affiliated with the Foundation for Economic Education.

Westerners can expect a four-year respite from over-zealous federal land managers. However, Michael Cloud's insight weighs heavily: the problem is not the abuse of power, it is the power to abuse. As the Monitor points out,

The Interior Department is responsible for 436 million acres of America's public lands - nearly 20 percent of all the land surface in the US. This includes about a third of the natural gas, a third of the coal, and a quarter of the oil consumed by Americans.

Of course, the national government is not authorized by the Constitution to own or control any of that land. Ultimately, it doesn't do much good to have a libertarian managing a socialized system. I am tempted to remind Norton of Ludwig von Mises' comment when he was asked what he would do if put in charge of the Austrian economy: "Abdicate." (Not long thereafter, Mises had to flee the National Socialists (Nazis). He brought free market "Austrian Economics" to New York.)

Strangely, environmentalists want even more nationalized land, even as they complain about national land management. I have long advocated privatizing federal lands by giving half of them away to environmental groups, and selling off the other half. If environmentalists would adopt this plan, they would have much greater control over American wilderness areas.

Following is a press release from the Independence Institute about Norton's appointment:

News Release
Jon Caldara, President
December 29, 2000
I.I. Trustee Gale Norton named Secretary of Interior

Former Colorado Attorney General Gale Norton, who serves the Independence Institute currently as a member of the Board of Trustees and who previously held the post of Senior Fellow with the Institute, was named Secretary of Interior Thursday by President-Elect George W. Bush.

During her tenure on the Independence Institute's Board of Trustees, Ms. Norton has helped guide policy decision-making regarding important administrative matters affecting the Institute. She served the Institute as a Senior Fellow between 1988 and 1991.

"We're very proud of the great job she has done as part of the Independence Institute. She has really helped steer us to success," stated I.I. President Jon Caldara, who recruited Ms. Norton to the Colorado think tank's Board of Trustees in January 1999, when her eight-year term as Colorado Attorney General ended. "Her free market perspective and respect for property rights will make her a great steward of the nation's public lands."

While Attorney General, Ms. Norton argued cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and other appellate courts, securing a major court victory pressuring the federal government to adequately clean up hazardous wastes at Rocky Flats and the Rocky Mountain Arsenal. She also served as a negotiator in the $206 billion national tobacco settlement, representing Colorado and 45 other states in what became the largest lawsuit settlement in history.

"Gale has shown a unique ability to bring together a diverse group of people without losing her principles," Caldara added. "If her leadership at the Independence Institute is any indication, America can expect an effective, straightforward and honest Department of Interior."

A nationally recognized public policy leader, Ms. Norton has served as Chair of the Environment Committee for the National Association of Attorneys General, was appointed by President George H. Bush to the Western Water Policy Commission, and gained her initial experience in the Department of the Interior as an Associate Solicitor overseeing endangered species and public lands issues for the National Park Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service. She also worked as Assistant to the Deputy Secretary of Agriculture.

Her national honors include the Mary Lathrop Trailblazer Award, presented by the Colorado Women's Bar Association, and being named the Young Lawyer of the Year by the National Federalist Society.

Colorado's Richest Hypocrite

Jared Polis bought his seat on the State Board of Education, spending nearly a million dollars on (cheesy) television commercials and other advertisements. Polis also indirectly funded Democratic state senate races, handing control of the chamber to Mike Feeley. Now, Polis has the audacity to criticize Doug Dean about campaign finance reform.

In a December 28 story, John Sanko published a story in the Rocky Mountain News about House Speaker Doug Dean's idea to lift campaign finance restrictions for candidates facing wealthy opponents. Incredibly, Polis told the News: "All it would accomplish would be to deliver state government into the hands of moneyed interests on a silver platter." Polis IS the "moneyed interest."

In reality, campaign finance restrictions serve to increase the power of special interests at the expense of grass-roots activism. Who has the legal team to circumvent the campaign finance laws? Fat cats like Polis, the Democrat and Republican Parties, unions, corporations, and subsidized interests. Meanwhile, third parties and independent activists are left without the means to exercise their First Amendment rights of free speech. Doug Dean is on the right track with his reform proposal. But he should seek to repeal all campaign restriction laws.

The News ran an excellent lead editorial December 30 on the issue:

[W]e don't favor caps on contributions of any kind. Contributing your own money, to promote ideas you believe in, ought to be considered a form of free speech.... Pete Maysmith of Common Cause... point[ed] to a number of wealthy candidates who poured large amounts of money into their campaigns, and still lost... But this is a bizarre argument for Common Cause to make. If you can lose while spending huge amounts of your own money, you can lose when spending huge amounts of other people's money. So why have limits?

In answer to the News' question: to further entrench the interest groups Peter Maysmith prefers. Maysmith doesn't mind if Jared Polis, the unions, and the Democratic Party spend as much money as they want to buy elections. But Maysmith speaks disparagingly of the National Rifle Association and the Realtors Association, groups which for the most part defend individual rights, including property rights. Perhaps Maysmith's ultimate goal is for people he likes to be able to spend as much money as they want on politics, and for people he doesn't like to spend nothing.


Telluride Suit Over Drug Check Points

Last summer, music fans driving to the Telluride Bluegrass Festival were stopped indiscriminately and searched for drugs. Now, the organization that plans the event is suing state and local law enforcers for civil rights violations. Notably, the sheriff who presides over Telluride (San Miguel County), Bill Masters, did NOT engage in drug check points. Masters is the nation's only Libertarian sheriff.

Here's wishing Planet Bluegrass success in its legal pursuit. The group's action displays the kind of moral courage necessary to win back our rights.

http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v01/n002/a08.html?397


Global Gun Control a Failure

"The post-Dunblane ban on handgun possession has done nothing to stop criminals getting their hands on firearms, according to Kate Hoey, the sports minister" of Great Britain (http://www.telegraph.co.uk:80/et?ac=000140326706927&rtmo=LxdySLhd&atmo=LxdySLhd&pg=/et/01/1/2/nhoey02.html).

Meanwhile, our neighbors to the north have tried to register all owners of rifles and shotguns. They have tried, and they have failed five million times over. That's the number of Canadians expected to practice civil disobedience and flout the registration law (http://sg.dailynews.yahoo.com/headlines/world/afp/article.html?s=singapore/headlines/001230/world/afp/Up_to_five_million_gun-toting_Canadians_may_be_breaking_the_law_on_Jan_1.html).

One Canadian sat down in front of Calgary city hall with an unloaded shotgun and waited to be arrested under the new law. "I don't like your gun laws," the man told police as they arrested him at gunpoint (http://www.nationalpost.com/news/national/story.html?f=/stories/20010102/423113.html). And this is in pacifist Canada -- civil disobedience would be practiced much more widely in the United States if such registration laws were passed.


Gazette Pro-Freedom

The Colorado Springs Gazette published a strongly pro-freedom editorial today (January 2) about the recent Massachusetts murders (http://www.gazette.com/daily/opin1.html). The article quotes David Kopel: "Massachusetts has more gun control than almost any jurisdiction in America." The writers also note the work of John Lott of Yale, who found that liberalized concealed carry is the only measure proven to reduce mass murders. It's refreshing to read a newspaper that respects the Second Amendment as much as it respects the First.


Is Tax Avoidance Fraud?

I like Paul Campos, law professor at the University of Colorado and opinion writer for the Rocky Mountain News. Even though I almost always disagree with Campos' conclusions, I appreciate the thoughtfulness he brings to the issues. In his January 2 column, Campos refers to some tax avoidance schemes as "rule manipulation that is morally (and sometimes even legally) indistinguishable from outright fraud." He refers to such manipulation as "genteel theft."

But Campos has got it exactly backwards. What's fraudulent is the welfare statism that eats up nearly half the nation's wealth. The party guilty of theft is the United States Congress, which takes money from the productive class to give to special interests and useless bureaucrats. It is a moral virtue to pay as little in taxes as possible. Tax avoidance is legal and admirable. Tax evasion -- willfully breaking the law to pay fewer taxes -- is not fundamentally immoral, though it's generally imprudent. (I pay all the taxes the IRS says I owe because I do not want to deal with the many hassles involved with tax evasion.)

What would Campos make of Henry David Thoreau? Is he a villain because he refused to pay taxes? According to the libertarian world view, Thoreau is a hero for practicing civil disobedience and enduring jail rather than pay taxes for an unjust cause.


Subsidizing Superbugs

In a recent New York Times article, Denise Grady describes the problem of bacteria which are becoming resistant to common antibiotics. (The article was reprinted December 29 in the Rocky Mountain News.) "Researchers estimate that half of all antibiotics prescribed by doctors are unnecessary," writes Grady.

Libertarians might first note that the federal prescription requirements have failed to keep the problem in check. The federal government also created the mandatory insurance system for practically every medical expense. By (unconstitutionally) mandating employer insurance and health subsidies, the government has destroyed the market in health care.

We might draw an analogy to auto insurance. If the government encouraged a system where even gas and routine maintenance were insured, drivers would over-use both without regard to price, and insurance premiums would soar. In medicine, routine check-ups and medicines should not be insured at all, yet they are because of federal mandates. Predictably, people over-use such items as antibiotics. Thus, the federal government is partially responsible for the rise of resistant bacteria. Talk about unintended consequences!


Papers, Please

As my wife and I enjoyed an evening dining out, it struck me just how far down the road to tyranny we Americans have come. We view with disgust the Nazi practice which demanded Jews to show their papers. The common use of the phrase "papers, please," has become the most telling sign of a police state. Yet we endure such demands daily. When I ordered a beverage to enjoy with my Italian meal -- a house Chianti wine -- I was ordered to produce my papers. To buy a beverage with my dinner! All because of the national government's unconstitutional edicts concerning the drinking age. Just imagine, for a moment, how the Founders would have reacted if, when discussing politics at the local taverns, the English authorities had demanded, "Papers, please!" before the patriots were allowed to buy a beer.

I produced my identification papers and purchased the glass of wine. I enjoyed it so much that I asked if I could purchase a bottle to take home. No, I was told: "We don't have that kind of license."

We don't have that kind of freedom.

The Colorado Freedom Report--www.FreeColorado.com