Freedom Updates: January 31, 2002

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

The Colorado Freedom

Freedom Updates: January 31, 2002

All Freedom Updates by Ari Armstrong unless otherwise noted.

Legislators Need Safety Requirements

The Senate Government Committee passed a Nanny-State, Big-Government, Anti-Freedom bill yesterday (SB15) that would allow police to pull you over if they think you're not wearing your seatbelt. The bill was sponsored by Ken Arnold (R-Westminster). Not only would the law open the door wider for police abuses, but it would make the roads more dangerous for responsible drivers. That's because those who are forced to wear a seatbelt generally compensate by otherwise driving more dangerously.

Instead of trying to act like mommy for the rest of us, the state legislature should pass some laws regulating their own behavior. Here are some possible examples.

  • Mandatory helmets. Legislators are constantly banging their heads against the solid wall of common sense.

  • Mandatory knee-pads. With all the derriere-kissing that goes on in the state house, we wouldn't want any injured knees.

  • Hearing protection. That constant whining of nosy Big Brothers and Sisters who would rather tell the rest of us what to do than spend their time worrying about themselves gets awfully annoying.

  • Olfactory protection. The smell of BS exuding from the state capitol can become overwhelming.

  • Vision correction. It seems like most state legislators view the world through state-colored glasses. Where any remnant of freedom exists, the legislators envision yet another bill to eradicate it.

  • Medical scanners. Upon entry into the capitol, every state legislator should be scanned from head to toe for signs of inflated heads, hot air trapped in the skull, or other inflammations common among the Nanny class.

On the seven-member committee, three people voted against the intrusive measure, thereby respecting the principles of limited government. They were Democrats Stephanie Takis and Alice Nichol and Republican Ron Teck.

Four Senators approved the Nanny-State legislation: Democrats Jim Isgar and Ron Tupa and Republicans Lewis Entz and Ron May.

"The Nation is Now Unified"

"RINO Bill" Owens published a guest editorial about education in the January 17 edition of the Denver Post.

Owens' formula for improving education is as simple as it is wrong. "[S]ignificant increases in school funding plus standards, measurement and accountability... are providing teachers with the tools to improve student achievement." The problem is that socialized businesses are never accountable, so by seeking to increase the size of the socialized program, Owens cannot achieve accountability.

Why are "standards" thought to be needed in the first place? It's because government schools don't do a very good job of teaching. Sure, some students excel, but many languish in government school centers, as Owens describes in his article. Anytime the financing is fundamentally separated from the consumer, as it is with government education, there simply can be no accountability to the consumer. It's a mistake to think that government-mandated "standards" can correct this problem. Instead, the standards will result in perverting education so that schools become training centers for standardized tests.

Does anyone truly believe that standardized tests reflect a rich education? True, standardized tests can play a useful role in evaluating proficiency in select skills. But when those tests become the central focus of schooling, real education flies out the window.

I heard a story about Soviet Russia that drives the point home. It was decided that production at a window manufacturing plant was to be increased. So the economic czars set "standards" for how many windows must be produced. The plant produced more windows, but they were too thin and they broke easily. So the standards were changed: now the plant was to produce windows using a certain amount of glass per month. Predictably, the plant used more glass in production, but the result was windows so thick they obscured light and couldn't be installed.

There is only one real way to restore accountability to the education system, and that is to return control of the system to parents, students, and teachers. And that means getting politicians like Owens the hell out of the way. Until we do that, we are doomed to oscillate between "feel-good" education where students fail to learn the basics, and "standardized" education where students fail to learn anything important about the real world.

Here's the kicker. Owens said, describing Bush' education package, "The nation is now unified, following in Colorado's footsteps." Now children, can you name any other nations in history in which "unity" in education was the goal?

Concealed Carry Delayed is Self-Defense Denied

The Denver Post ("Uniform gun law needed," Jan. 15) claims I am "irresponsible" because I believe people have the (now impeded) right to carry a concealed handgun without having to first go through government-mandated training and registration.

The Post advocates such restrictions, though it cites "victims of violent crimes or women being stalked by ex-boyfriends" as examples of those who may want to carry a firearm for protection.

Three groups of people are interested in carrying concealed handguns: concerned citizens, those in immediate danger, and criminals who are going to carry concealed weapons regardless of what the law says. It is that second group, those who are in danger, who are harmed or killed by delays in gaining the legal ability to carry a concealed handgun. Requirements for training and registration cause delays.

To deny the right to carry based on a restraining order, as the Post proposes, flies in the face of the presumption of innocence. It enables potentially violent men to place restraining orders on women in order to disarm them. A person willing to violate a restraining order and attack somebody will also ignore additional legal restrictions.

Free speech advocates rightly recoil in horror at the thought of having to submit to government registration and literary "training" before they can read public works or issue public statements. Yet it is easy to make the case that untold millions of people have been killed in part because of the literature some have read. The right of free speech should not be subjected to government controls, because those controls wouldn't achieve their purported objectives, would open the door to government abuse, and would deprive people of their fundamental rights. The same argument applies to the right of self-defense, and for the same reasons.

Memo to Webb: Socialism's Dead

According to the January 27 Denver Post, Denver Mayor Wellington Webb wants to put the finishing touches on his "legacy" by socializing Ocean Journey. What? Leftists like corporate welfare? Yes, as long as it's their corporate welfare.

The article reports Ocean Journey is "[s]truggling with shrinking attendance, which dropped more than 27 percent last year." So because people don't like it, it's the government's job to make sure it stays around. That is the strange logic of politicians high on OPM (Other People's Money).

Damned if You Do

A January 24 article in the Rocky Mountain News described a strange discrimination lawsuit:

A former mail clerk for Wells Fargo & Co. sued the bank in federal court Wednesday, alleging he was fired for expressing his Catholic faith and anti-homosexual views to co-workers... [The man, Roger Frick] refused to train another employee whom he believed was a homosexual.

So, from Wells Fargo's perspective, there's no possible way to win. If they don't fire the guy, they get sued for creating a hostile environment for homosexuals. If they fire the guy, they get sued for discriminating against the guy's religious views. The only way to "win" is to be so large as a company that you can afford your own lawyers, or so small that you don't have to hire anybody. In other words, those leftists who decided bigotry should be solved through political force rather than through persuasion have created an economic system in which mostly large corporations can survive, and people who hate homosexuals feel entitled to special legal protection.

"Thomas Jefferson" Who?

According to Ellen Sorokin of the Washington Times, "George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin are not included in the revised version of the New Jersey Department of Education history standards..."

Does anybody still want to argue politicians and bureaucrats should be in charge of the education system?

Marijuana Waco

Peter Carlson of the Washington Times published a story January 27 about Rainbow Farm, a place in Michigan where federal drug war agents killed two drug law reform activists. Carlson reports that somebody left a sign at the farm: "Wake up -- who's next? You?"

What's interesting is that the killings are being likened to Waco. Whereas Waco was perceived as a "right-wing" phenomenon, surely drug law reform may be seen as a leftist issue. Maybe someday civil libertarians on the left and right will learn they will never win until they join forces.

Guns Are Used in Self-Defense

John Lott wrote an article for the January 25 New York Post about the mass shooting at Appalachian Law School in Virginia. He wrote,

[I]n this age of "gun-free school zones," one fact was missing from virtually all the news coverage: The attack was stopped by two students who had guns in their cars. The fast responses of two male students, Mikael Gross, 34, and Tracy Bridges, 25, undoubtedly saved multiple lives. Mikael was outside the law school and just returning from lunch when Peter Odighizuwa started his attack. Tracy was in a classroom waiting for class to start. When the shots rang out, utter chaos erupted. Mikael said, "People were running everywhere. They were jumping behind cars, running out in front of traffic, trying to get away." Mikael and Tracy did something quite different: Both immediately ran to their cars and got their guns. Mikael had to run about 100 yards to get to his car. Along with Ted Besen (who was unarmed), they approached Peter from different sides. As Tracy explained it, "I aimed my gun at him, and Peter tossed his gun down. Ted approached Peter, and Peter hit Ted in the jaw. Ted pushed him back and we all jumped on." What is so remarkable is that out of 280 separate news stories (from a computerized Nexis-Lexis search) in the week after the event, just four stories mentioned that the students who stopped the attack had guns.

David Kopel makes a similar case in the January 27 Denver Post (on the Rocky Mountain News editorial page). Kopel's "On the Media" column is the single best thing to come of the newspapers' quasi-merger.

The Colorado Freedom