Vote liberty this election

The Colorado Freedom Report:  An independent journal of politics and culture.

The Colorado Freedom

Vote liberty this election

by Linn and Ari Armstrong

The following article was originally published by Grand Junction Free Press on October 30, 2006.

Vote liberty. As far as possible given ambiguous candidates and measures, vote to protect individual rights. Every individual has the right to life. Consistent with the equal rights of others, you have a right to control your own body and property, enter into voluntary relationships with others, and defend yourself against violence within the rule of just law.

Amendment 42 attacks individual rights -- particularly the right to contract. People have a right to enter into voluntary agreements with others, free from political force. Amendment 42 would violate that right by imposing more severe wage controls, or "minimum wages."

The minimum wage hurts many low-skilled workers. It results in lost jobs, lost hours, lost benefits, and higher prices. Meanwhile, those who can afford to intern for free can still gain the experience they need to eventually earn a high wage. And, thankfully, there is no legislation to "protect" the self-employed, who often work long hours for peanuts as they start their businesses. (Your younger author currently earns less than the minimum wage writing about politics.)

Amendment 42 would immediately increase the minimum wage in Colorado by a third, then increase it annually according to a metro inflationary index that ignores rural conditions. As part of the state's constitution, the measure would be impossible to correct in the legislature.

But, while Amendment 42 fails in the details, the most important philosophical point is that it violates individual rights.

People have the right to control their own bodies, insofar as they don't violate the rights of others. People have the right to smoke cigarettes on their own property and invite others to join them. People have the right to purchase and consume alcohol, even though thousands of people die every year from alcohol poisoning and the drug is associated with violence. Adults also have the right to consume marijuana on their own property.

Amendment 44 would remove legal penalties at the state level for possession of up to an ounce of marijuana by adults 21 and older.

Incredibly, Colorado Attorney General John Suthers recently argued in the Rocky Mountain News, "Our American society is plagued by moral relativism, and the campaign in support of Amendment 44 is a classic example of it. They suggest that society should condone the harm brought on by marijuana intoxication because, in their view, it is surpassed by the harm brought about by alcohol intoxication."

Yet Suthers is the moral relativist. Our view is that morality absolutely requires the protection of individual rights. Suthers's position is that politicians can arbitrarily control your body. As Colorado's top prosecutor, Suthers's only legitimate job is to defend individual rights. Yet, to Suthers, rights are relative to political whim. Thus, big-government Republicans endorse criminal penalties for the personal use of an herb, even though a couple years ago they put one of the region's most prominent recreational drug manufacturers, Pete Coors, up for U.S. Senate.

However, even those who endorse individual rights can disagree on some particulars, such as which candidate would most protect (or least threaten) individual rights. Another debate is over Amendment 38, the "Petition Rights Amendment." It's backers are limited-government conservatives with whom we usually agree. But, while the measure contains some good elements, such as quicker filing and title setting and an enhanced ability to challenge legislation, it also contains some problems, such as petition pages that don't show a title and overly strict restraints on legislative reforms. We're not sure whether it's a good idea, on net. Mob rule is hardly a solution for legislative abuses.

We've covered the governor's race and several legislative races. What about county commissioner? We're impressed by Republican Steve Acquafresca's experience. While Acquafresca faced a primary battle, Jim Witt was recruited by the Democrats to fill the line, just in case Acquafresca did something to put himself out of the race. Perhaps Witt will increase his name recognition for future races.

Parties want line holders to take few chances and appear only at easy forums. A participant of a local economic study group said of the meetings, "All of the Republican candidates showed up and they were given the third degree. They know what our concerns are, and we know what their thought process is. None of the Democrats showed up; it was as if they were invisible." Acquafresca, a former state legislator, has been tested.

However, in his comments to this paper, Acquafresca talks only about planning, transportation, the criminal justice system, and "health and human services." Notably absent from these comments is the phrase, "property rights." Yet there is no more important task for local officials than to protect property rights. Often local officials not only ignore this responsibility but act to undermine it.

Politics is messy, especially in our age that shuns principles and elects relativists like Suthers. Yet our broad strategy is simple: vote liberty.

The Colorado Freedom