Freedom Updates: March 20, 2003
All Freedom Updates by Ari Armstrong unless otherwise noted.
The U.S. Goes to War
I have recently described myself of a "skeptic" of the war, meaning that I think the burden of justifying the war lies with those who advocate it, but there are certain evidentiary conditions that could be met to convince me the war is needed. Obviously, the debate is now moot except for its historical significance. The fighting has started, the troops are on the move, and hopefully they will prevail soon without much bloodshed.
I think both sides of the debate have tended to demonize the other. Not only are many of the criticisms ridiculous, they are also irrelevant, as I have previously argued. Even if your intellectual opponents are badly motivated, that doesn't imply they are wrong and you are right.
To me, the most persuasive arguments in favor of war focus on links between Iraq and a variety of terrorist organizations and look at Iraq in the context of the entire Middle East. Opponents say Iraq is not linked to al Qaeda, it isn't building nuclear weapons, and war isn't necessary to keep Iraq from giving weapons to terrorist groups. I've agonized over the debate for a long time, and I'm about ready to declare it intractable. That is, the level of evidence necessary to reach a conclusion is so vast (at least for those willing to rise above convenient ad hominem attacks), and the nature of predicting the outcome of actions is so tenuous, I'm not sure agreement is possible on this issue. That said, it's obvious foreign intervention is a tricky business, which is a very good argument for a general policy of non-intervention. The U.S. is now committed to rebuilding Iraq. That doesn't mean the U.S. can't slowly return to a Jeffersonian policy of non-intervention and free trade.
Especially the advocates of war should take to heart the various ways in which "war is the health of the state." War tends to increase government spending, limit freedom at home, and promote empire-building. But tendencies may be avoided.
Update: A helicopter has reportedly crashed in Kuwait, killing U.S. and British troops. This brings home the dangerous nature of the mission, the courage required to pursue it, and the sorrow that is bound to come to many families. May the troops find success with minimal losses, and return home soon.
A friend suggested I pass along a link to a radio segment in which a person from Iraq reminds us of the horrors of the current regime there. "Old right" and libertarian critics of the war believe the U.S. military should be restricted to actions that clearly defend U.S. soil, but surely every American agonizes over the atrocities committed against innocent people in Iraq and in numerous regions around the globe. The great strength of America, and of Americans, is that we fundamentally respect the rights of sovereign individuals. As long as we're debating about the proper means to achieving the end of individual liberty, I hold a great deal of optimism about the future.
Blizzard Provides Political Cover
I was enthralled by the snow. I sat and watched it out the window for some time, then traipsed through it to the grocery store.
But, on this political web page, I figure I should make some sort of political connections.
First, we should appreciate the relative safety a prosperous society provides. There were a few sad stories, but for the overwhelming majority of us, the snow storm was fun. We have plenty of supplies, power, and the resources to manage the record-setting storm. The wealthier we are, the more immune we are from emergencies. The more we can prevent government from interfering in the economy, the faster we will grow wealthier, and the better lives we will live.
There's another obvious political implication of the blizzard: it seems to have provided a convenient time for Governor Owens to sign two pro-civil arms bills, SB-24 and 25. (Owens signed the bills on Tuesday, March 18.) Those bills liberalize concealed carry and prevent localities from violating citizens' rights to keep and bear arms. It seems likely Owens signed the bills at a time he knew his action would be buried by other news (the blizzard and then the war). The "gunnies" will hear about the news anyway, whereas the masses will barely notice the controversy. (Neither the Denver Post nor the Rocky Mountain News were readily available March 19.)
The Global-Warming Blizzard
The Ecosocialist Guide to Climatology:
SB-25 Protects Rights
The Post argued (March 15),
Denver adopted its tough gun rules following 1993's horrible 'summer of violence'... During that time, innocent bystanders as well as youth gang members were killed or maimed by gunfire. Since the tougher restrictions went into effect, however, the city's murder rate has fallen and police say they've gotten a handle on dealing with and preventing gang-related violence.
Obviously the strictures against torture don't apply to arguments made by the Post's editorial board. Simplistic before-and-after comparisons prove nothing by themselves. It could be (and in fact is) the case that other factors are responsible for the drop in crime, including police spending their time getting violent gangsters off the streets.
The causal connection is this: the Denver city council used gangster violence as a pretext to restrict the rights of peaceable citizens living in Denver. For example, Denver bans select semiautomatic guns based on arbitrary characteristics. David Kopel explains such guns are useful for self-defense, but they are not often used by criminals:
In Denver... Chief of Police Ari Zavaras [currently a candidate for mayor] testified to the City Council that "assault weapons are becoming the weapons of choice for drug traffickers and other criminals." ...The State of Colorado inventoried every single firearm in Denver police custody as of March 1991. Of the 232 shotguns seized by the police, not a single one was covered by the ordinance. Of the 282 rifles in the police inventory, nine (3.2%) were covered by the ordinance. Of the 1,248 handguns in the police inventory, a mere eight (0.6%) were so-called "assault pistols" covered by the ordinance. Of the fourteen banned guns in Denver police custody, only one had been used in a crime of violence. Half had been seized from persons who were never charged with any offense.
Why does the Post imagine murderous gangsters were impacted by the passage of more gun laws? All these laws do is restrict the rights of peaceable citizens and divert police resources away from real crimes.
Governor Owens signed SB-25, and, even if he did it for political reasons, he deserves credit for signing a bill that protects the rights of Colorado citizens.
The Virtues of Globalization
I'll begin where we agree: Braunholtz writes, "Most migrants are go-getters looking for work, not handouts. Historically, they add more to a country's economy than they take out." However, he believes, "Excessive immigration may overwhelm a country's infrastructure, leading to social tensions that outweigh any benefit to the economy." But this is a problem only with respect to the "infrastructure" that is socialized and hence slow to adapt to increased demand.
Immigrants come to the U.S., Braunholtz points to the obvious, because they want higher wages. But Braunholtz' solution to "control immigration is probably to improve the lot of the poorer countries" by forcing U.S. citizens to make welfare payments to the governments of those countries.
Obviously Braunholtz is correct that poor countries should become wealthier. But the way to do it is NOT to subsidize the governments of those nations -- usually that's counterproductive because it encourages corruption.
Braunholtz completely misunderstands globalization and free markets. For instance, he writes, "Modern globalization contradicts itself. We have a total belief in the free movement of capital, yet bizarrely we try to restrict any movement of labor." But he eviscerates the concept of globalization by assuming it includes both free markets and economic protectionism.
Braunholtz compounds error upon error when he writes:
Today's globalization and so-called "free trade" doesn't operate in the same way [to help the poor]. Rising debt burdens and shrinking aid budgets mean that in reality capital is being sucked out of the poorer countries. In June of last year the United Nations reported that the world's 49 poorest countries had lower standards of living than 30 years ago. Globalization is stripping them of their natural resources without relieving their poverty at all.
Yet as Sweden's Johan Norberg writes in In Defense of Global Capitalism,
The world's inequality is due to capitalism. Not to capitalism having made certain groups poor, to its making its practitioners wealthy. *The uneven distribution of wealth in the world is above all due to the uneven distribution of capitalism.* ... Isolation and regulation cause poor countries to remain poor countries. (146, 7)
Or, as Norberg quotes the UN's Kofi Annan, "The main losers in today's very unequal world are not those who are too much exposed to globalisation. They are those who have been left out."
"Shrinking aid budgets" in no way "sucks" capital out of poorer countries. Braunholtz writes as if corrupt governments borrowing money somehow has something to do with "free trade." Ludicrous! True, parasitical governments tend to keep countries poor, but because they maintain the antithesis of free trade.
Finally, Braunholtz' suggestion that globalization is "stripping" poorer nations of "their natural resources" betrays a fundamental lack of understanding about markets. Free trade is just that -- trade. Voluntary trade is, by definition, mutually beneficial. If some people sell resources like oil, it is because they get other goods and services in return that they value more.
Latent natural resources are not wealth -- they contribute to wealth only when utilized. Natural resources are useful but they do not ultimately determine a nation's wealth. Many resource-poor nations are quite wealthy, while many resource-rich nations are poor. Wealth is not created by natural resources, it is created by market-friendly institutions. Of course, if the government of a poor country is stealing natural resources from their owners to turn a quick buck, obviously that keeps the country poor, but that is the opposite of "free trade." Countries with such governments do not need handouts from the U.S., they need new governments that respect property rights and foster free, global trade.
Time to Reform Parole
This bill creates a narrower definition of a technical parole violation than is currently in use (SB 247 defines a technical violation as "a transgression by a parolee against the conditions of his or her parole that does not constitute a new violation of law, unless it is a minor traffic infraction"). Under this legislation, if a person is returned to prison for a technical violation, they can only be kept in prison for a maximum of six months.
The bill also requires that the Parole Board impose intermediate sanctions (new parole conditions, intensive supervision, community corrections, home detention, community service, etc.) in response to technical violations of parole if such facilities and resources are available and if imposing intermediate sanctions would not pose a public safety risk.
Under current law (passed as HB 98-1160), if a parolee has his or her mandatory parole revoked and is reincarcerated, and if the offender either completes the mandatory period of parole in prison or has less than 12 months remaining on the period of mandatory parole at the time of his or her reincarceration, the Parole Board is required to place the parolee on another 12 month period of "post-parole supervision." SB 247 would repeal the post-parole supervision law.
SB 247 would allow the Parole Board to keep a person on parole, even if he or she requests to be revoked.
Limiting reincarceration for a technical parole violation makes sense -- parole should be used to help people reintegrate into society, not to lengthen the time they serve in prison.
When post-parole supervision was passed in HB 98-1160, there was no accompanying appropriation, despite a heated floor debate in the Senate. The Department of Corrections now estimates that implementing post-parole supervision will cost a minimum of $1.7 million in FY 2003-04. It's time to repeal this law.
While technical violations may be indicative of a parolee who is having trouble, the response should not be to send someone back to prison. Intermediate sanctions are more conducive to successful reintegration and they cost less -- prison should be a last resort.
Fort Collins to be "Civil Liberties Safe Zone?"
City Council Meeting Postponed to March 25th
The City Council meeting scheduled [earlier] has been postponed to Tuesday, March 25th, due to the weather. The "Civil Liberties Safe Zone" Resolution sponsored by the Bill of Rights Supporters of Fort Collins (BORSOFC) and the City Attorney's resolution "Affirming the City's Opposition to Terrorism and Commitment to Civil Rights" will be on the agenda at that time. Please plan on attending the 6:00 p.m. session for public comments, and coming back for the council discussion after 8:30 p.m. if possible. BORSOFC has been working with one council member to improve the City Attorney's version. Additional e-messages to council members supporting stronger language than the current City Attorney's version, especially to David Roy, Marty Tharp, Eric Hamrick, and Bill Bertschy would be helpful. Thanks for all the e-messages and phone calls to date!
Government Education-- According to a Scripps Howard blurb in the March 15 Rocky, 87% of adults ages 18-24 could not find Iraq on a map. Of those who pointed out Iraq, probably most simply guessed correctly. Whatever one may think about the war in Iraq, it's clear the government-run schools are not producing a population capable of evaluating foreign policy.
SAFE Tyranny-- In his March 19 article for the Rocky Mountain News, John Sanko refers to victim-disarmament advocate Tom Mauser as a "Colorado CeaseFire spokesman." Apparently, Mauser's old group, Sane Alternatives to the Firearms Epidemic, the name of which likens guns to a disease, has folded into the other group.
Denver Prices Water-- Jerd Smith reports for the March 18 Rocky Mountain News that Denver will price water at higher rates to encourage conservation. Unfortunately, Denver will also impose and enforce arbitrary rules concerning outdoor watering. With correct pricing, such rules are totally unnecessary. Unnecessary, that is, except for employing more worthless bureaucrats to harass the public.
Voting Fraud Machines-- I was shocked that my Jeffco voting machine made no paper record of my vote. What if somebody hacks the system or wipes one of the drives, I asked? No response. A February 25 AP article reports on the critics of all-electronic voting in Santa Clara County (California). Peter G. Nuemann, a computer scientist, said, "You'd think we'd have enough of an understanding of computers to know that a voter-verified paper backup system is the absolute only way you can have any integrity whatsoever in elections."
Grant Defends Jury Questions -- Defense lawyer Paul Grant, long a libertarian, argued March 15 in the Rocky Mountain News allowing jurors to ask questions in writing will lead to a more attentive jury more able to reach a just verdict. Two public defenders, Carrie Lynn Thompson and Ann M. Aber, argue juries will tend to side with the prosecution. I find their argument unpersuasive. But at least both sides of the debate agree about one thing: jury duty "is a mechanism designed to check the awesome power of the government," as Thompson and Aber put it. Grant adds, "We entrust life-and-liberty decisions in criminal trials to the jury precisely because we the people have never trusted the government to make these decisions for us."
Laugesen Leaves Boulder Weekly -- Wayne Laugesen was the libertarian-leaning editor of the Boulder Weekly. He has now left the paper to pursue a business venture. Pamela White has taken over the role as editor. Libertarian Ron Bain remains on staff. Good luck, Wayne!