Freedom Updates: May 25, 2006
by Ari Armstrong
And we thought the state-employee pension system was in bad shape. Dennis Cauchon of USA Today reports on May 24, "Federal, state and local governments have added nearly $10 trillion to taxpayer liabilities in the past two years, bringing the total of government's unfunded obligations to an unprecedented $57.8 trillion. That is the equivalent of a $510,678 credit card debt for every American household."
While state and local retirement benefits account for $13,257 for the average household, according to the paper, Medicare accounts for $263,377, and Social Security accounts for $133,456.
Do the Boomers actually believe that people of my generation and younger are going to fork over that much more money?
The forcible redistribution of wealth is morally wrong, and it harms the economy. Yet this is the gift of the Republican majority -- a rapidly expanding welfare state.
So Ward Churchill is ridiculously claiming that, following findings that he falsified, fabricated, and plagiarized material, firing him would be "directly violating both the First Amendment and the Regent's own rules on academic freedom."
Yet, as I have argued, there is no such thing as a First Amendment right to a job. The university did make certain contractual promises to Churchill when it stupidly hired him as a tenured professor, despite his lack of appropriate credentials.
But what neither Churchill nor, so far as I can tell, anyone in the media (besides me) has admitted is that forcing Colorado citizens to subsidize Churchill's salary is a direct violation of their rights of free speech. People have the right not to fund speech they find offensive, obviously including material that is falsified, fabricated, or plagiarized.
David Montero of the Rocky Mountain News wrote an idiotic opening sentence for his May 24 story: "Despite deep suspicions and paranoia about being watched by law enforcement, Stan Ford illegally sold machine guns to an undercover government official, according to audiotapes and testimony by that official in federal court Tuesday afternoon." The main headline attached to the article reads, "Testimony describes paranoia."
The essential meaning of "paranoia" is irrational fear. Some other dictionary definitions include "a psychotic disorder characterized by delusions of persecution," "extreme, irrational distrust of others," and "excessive or irrational suspiciousness..."
So was Ford irrationally fearful that he was "being watched by law enforcement?" The conclusion of Montero's sentence demonstrates conclusively that Ford's fear was not irrational. He was indeed "being watched by law enforcement" and recorded by an undercover agent.
Ford's problem is not that he was irrationally or overly fearful of "being watched by law enforcement." His problem is that he was not fearful enough. Ford's lawyer is blaming Ford's (alleged) stupidity on entrapment by federal agents. So what's Montero's excuse?
Property Rights and the Environment
Vincent Carroll's column is the jewell of the Rocky Mountain News.
On May 25, Carroll takes on an environmentalist who compares eco-terrorism to "violence to the environment in the name of 'progress'." Carroll blasts such "incendiary rhetoric and sloppy reasoning... that encourages zealots with an apocalyptic mind-set to stuff sponges into jugs filled with gasoline, and then light them."
However, Carroll in his limited space neglects to follow up on an important point. Carroll points out the absurdity of bombing development when a company has "all of the necessary government permits."
Yet the attainment of government permits is not equivalent to properly securing the right to build. For example, a company can acquire government permits to build on land stolen through eminent domain, a clear violation of property rights.
The environmentalist asks Carroll, "For example, if someone builds a ski resort on critical habitat for an endangered species, is that not a form of violence against the common good? If a ski lodge pumps water from a small stream to make snow and at the same time reduces, if not eliminates, the stream's ability to support aquatic life, is that not a crime against the public's estate?"
While the environmentalist is wrong to count such development as violence or a crime, the writer does point to an important problem, that of socialized property. When property is owned in "common" or by "the public," there's really no way to justly allocate its use. Socialized property necessarily is governed by force of politics.
If property rights in these cases were justly defined, then there would be no question about the legitimate use of property. If a ski resort, by virtue of its productive efforts and the legal recognition thereof, owns "critical habitat for an endangered species" (which I can't imagine, given the location and size of ski resorts), then environmentalists are welcome to collect money and purchase the property so that they can save whatever rat or snail that concerns them. (Alternately, environmentalists could persuade the ski resort, using arguments and/or compensation, to use its land in a way compatible with the species.) The same is true of water rights, though I imagine that legitimate water claims predate any ski resort. (The Property and Environment Research Center addresses water rights.)
But the one thing environmentalists cannot abide is property rights, even though (or because) such rights would optimize property use for human ends.
Carroll has also written about the absurdities of the multicultural movement.
On May 19, he cites two examples of so-called "cultural racism" as defined by Seattle Public Schools: "having a future time orientation" and "emphasizing individualism as opposed to a more collective ideology." In other words, if you don't think that some races are inherently less future-oriented, or if you judge people as individuals rather than as members of a collective, then you're a "cultural racist." Of course, the actual racism is the very attitude expressed by Seattle Public Schools.
On May 10 and 11, Carroll criticizes Cherry Creek school district for paying "a six-figure fee for advice" from preachers of race. Glenn E. Singleton, associated with the Pacific Educational Group in California, co-authored a book with Curtis Linton titled Courageous Conversations About Race. The book claims that "...Whiteness challenges the performance of students of color while shaping and reinforcing the racial perspective of White children."
Of course, "whiteness" is itself a racist term, and Singleton's theories are overtly racist. Singleton claims that "white talk" is "intellectual" and "task-oriented," while "color commentary" is "nonverbal," "emotional," and "process-oriented." Whatever happened to the idea that people's thinking is not determined by their skin color?
Singleton's book even blames the success of Asians on racism! "Asian people have been labeled by the dominant White race as the 'model minority,' and they are encouraged and supported by White people to act accordingly." Singleton's reductionist racist theories would be laughable, if Colorado taxpayers weren't being forced to fund their propagation.
The real problem with education is that many students are not being taught the basics of literature, history, and science, and teaching tends to be haphazard if not completely disintegrated. It is a problem worsened by the socialized nature of education. However, institutionalized racism such as Singleton advocates and Cherry Creek funds is a contributing factor to educational failure.
Why are Colorado taxpayers forced to fund the nihilists and racists of the "multicultural" movement? And why aren't news journalists who work for large Colorado newspapers doing any real research into how tax dollars, including the additional tax dollars from Referendum C, are being spent? Carroll's column is great. But what his paper should conduct are intensive investigations into how our tax dollars are spent, in education and all areas.
As the AP reported May 21, and as the Marijuana Policy Project reminds us in a May 25 e-mail, "Almost 2.2 million people -- or one in every 136 U.S. residents -- are behind bars." There are several reasons behind the trend of growing populations in prison and jail. As MPP notes, "[T]he U.S. has more people in prison for drugs than all Western European counties have in prison for all crimes." Other "victimless crimes" also contribute to incarceration. But that's not the only reason for the trends.
One factor is the widespread belief that seriously violent criminals should spend longer periods locked up. Generally I approve of this. However, I disapprove of a couple of other trends in criminal statutory law. First, there is an increasing refusal to distinguish between minor infractions (low-level crimes involving slight uses of force) and major violent crimes. Second, legislators, in collaboration with prosecutors, keep expanding the criminal code so that every conceivable variation of every possible crime is micromanaged. This removes the discretionary power of juries. Rather than figuring out whether the accused has committed a real crime, which is the proper purpose of the jury, the jury spends its time figuring out whether the accused broke some arcane technicality of the statutes. These statutes are read by exactly zero regular people to whom they are presumed to apply.
The alternative is for the statutes to economically lay out broad, sensible principles that people can read, understand, and reasonably apply in the courtroom.
Does the increase in incarceration reflect a real increase in crime? I don't know. But it is clear that both postmodernist nihilism and socialist irresponsibility also contribute to crime.