FreeColorado.com, a journal of politics and culture.

Friday, October 31, 2008

My Kind of Republican

Ryan Frazier favors Amendment 47, the so-called "right to work" measure, as Joel Warner writes up in an excellent article for Westword. On this issue Frazier is wrong, for reasons I've discussed, but his is a forgivable sin.

(The fact that a union thug called Frazier a "House N---" who bends "over for the white man" makes me sorry that I have to vote with the unions on this one. But I have to do the right thing even if the unions oppose 47 for the wrong reasons.)

From what I can tell based on the Westword article, Frazier is otherwise moving toward Team Liberty.

Frazier told Warner, "I chose the Republican Party because of the principles the party was founded on. This was the party of freedom. This was the party that sought the abolition of slavery. The principles of the party are relatively simple: Keep government to the lowest practical level, fiscal responsibility, strength in the free enterprise system, and protection of the rights of every individual. Man, I identify with those."

Warner also writes this extraordinary segment:

In 2006, [Frazier] stood alongside Democratic Denver mayor John Hickenlooper in public support of Referendum I, which would have allowed domestic partnerships... He's also ambivalent when it comes to pro-life [sic] issues: "I am not a fan of abortion, but I struggle with whether it is the appropriate role of the government to place itself there."

... [H]e isn't the only Republican who seems to be eschewing the state party's long-held cultural-conservative playbook. Other GOP thirty-somethings, like state senator Josh Penry and state representatives Frank McNulty and Cory Gardner, are shying away from the culture wars and sticking with fiscally conservative stances. Even prominent state Republicans like party elder Hank Brown have come out against Amendment 48 on this November's ballot, which would define a fertilized human egg as a person and therefore, many believe, outlaw abortion.

It could be indicative of a fundamental shift within the statewide GOP apparatus. After Republicans saw that their fixation on unborn babies and marriage licenses got them nowhere except out of office, they've opted for a reboot, a return to the small-government, personal-freedom ideals of old.

"I think that's an astute and correct observation," says Steve Schuck, a prominent Colorado Springs Republican and onetime contender for Colorado governor. "I am pleased that the Republican Party is moving in that direction, higher regard given to policy issues than social issues. Partly, it's a failure of them to be effective. There are so many examples of us not being successful that can be attributed to a preoccupation with social issues."


Of course, there's a big difference between being right on social issues and hiding one's wrong views about them. As far as I can tell, practically all Republicans who aren't completely in step with the religious right are doing the latter (which is why, for instance, Bob Schaffer has come off looking two-faced).

Still, Warner's notes on Frazier give me some hope that there are a few Republicans who believe in individual rights and a government limited to protecting them.

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Evie Hudak's Squandered Opportunity

Libby Szabo's supporters must think she has a good shot at winning her state senate race (Colorado District 19) against Evie Hudak, because they're dumping a ton of money on Hudak.

In general, the mailers I've seen for Szabo are highly effective. They portray her as a fiscal conservative and her opponent as a reckless tax-and-spender. One recent flyer "Paid for and authorized by Coloradans for Change" claims that Hudak "supports a massive $3.8 billion property tax increase," showing that "Evie Hudak has no problem taking money from hardworking Coloradans. Evie Hudak in the State Senate means she can tax us more and waste our money to bloat the size of government even more." Even though the flyer doesn't mention the details, the mere fact that a Republican group is taking on higher taxes is significant, given the bloated-government policies of W. Bush.

Another flyer from the same group repeats the charge: "The Associated Press investigated Evie Hudak and found she spent $11,316 of taxpayer money as a member of the State Board of Education -- in just one year. Actual receipts show her spending at taxpayer expense included 4 nights at the luxurious Keystone Resort Lodge and Spa, chauffered limo rides in Washington, DC, and expensive meals at 5-star restaurants."

That's effective, negative advertising.

Meanwhile, the flyers sent on behalf of Hudak portray her as a gleeful supporter of the welfare state, including corporate welfare for politically-correct energy boondoggles. Each flyer I get for Hudak reminds me of why I despise Democrats and why I'll be disgusted to vote for her.

And, inexplicably, the attacks on Szabo have tapered off. While I got one flyer weeks ago correctly claiming that Szabo wants to "ban all abortions" and end stem-cell research, I've seen no effective follow-up attack.

Yet the fact is that Szabo endorsed Amendment 48, which if implemented would force women to carry pregnancies to term even in cases of rape, incest, fetal deformity, and health risks to the woman (excepting immediately fatal ones). It would subject women and their parters and doctors to severe criminal penalties for abortions or induced miscarriages. It would ban the birth-control pill and other forms of birth control that may prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus. And it would virtually ban fertility treatments.

The attack on Hudak for the misspent $11,316 hits its mark. But that's nothing compared to a politician who wants to put my wife in jail for taking the birth-control pill or getting an abortion for health reasons. (On the phone Szabo denied that Amendment 48 would ban the pill, despite the evidence that that the pill can kill a fertilized egg and that many opponents of abortion oppose the pill for that reason. The fact that Szabo refuses to contemplate the logical implications of her endorsements is hardly consolation.) Yet, as far as I've seen, Hudak's supporters have not made Szabo's support of Amendment 48 a campaign issue. This is despite the fact that the measure is losing in the polls 68 to 27 percent.

Hudak had her chance to beat Szabo, and she totally blew it. Her only hope now is that the government employees (particularly the teachers' unions) put her over the top, and that she benefits from strong up-ticket Democratic support.

If Szabo wins, at least she might be a good vote on economic issues -- though most Republicans aren't -- and with the Democrats controlling state government she'll have little opportunity to implement her horrifying faith-based politics.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Westword Interview on Values of Harry Potter

Westword featured an online interview October 28 in which I discuss Harry Potter and some of the ideas from my book, Values of Harry Potter: Lessons for Muggles.

I wanted to expand one point here. In the interview, I say:

Obviously, the idea of heroes fighting for values in some sense has to be part of any compelling fiction. For example, you see some similarities with Tolkien’s works, but what strikes me about the Harry Potter series is the richness of the characters and their commitment to their personal values. ... [T]here is more self-motivation, for example, than for Frodo, Tolkein’s hero, who to a great extent is pushed in this battle by the gift of this ring and the wizard Gandalf directing him to take this quest. He is not fighting for his core life values, as they are in Harry Potter.


Frodo is fighting to protect his world, the Shire, no doubt. And Harry, like Frodo, is placed into a grand conflict to a large degree by forces beyond his control (for Voldemort targeted him as a child). Nevertheless, the thrust of my point remains true. Frodo's fight for his own values is much more in the background, while Harry's fight for values is front and center. Even though Harry is targeted by Voldemort and encouraged by Dumbledore, he consciously makes a series of choices to join the battle, explicitly on the grounds that he must do so to defend his values, the people and way of life that matter to him. From Tolkien, an even better comparison is with Bilbo from The Hobbit. Bilbo constantly wishes to return home, rather than complete the journey, and he doesn't much care about the outcome. And he is quite shoved out the door by Gandalf; he doesn't pursue the journey because he thinks it is important to achieve the things that really matter to him. So my point is not that values are absent in Tolkien, but rather that personal values play a much more pronounced role in Rowling.

I mentioned a couple other points about independence to Joel Warner (who conducted the interview) that didn't make the final cut. First, with respect to the formal education at Hogwarts, I pointed out that Harry independently chose to pursue his education, and Hogwarts allows much greater expression of independence relative to typical American schools. Second, regarding political implications, I pointed out that those who take the themes of independence and free will seriously are more likely to advocate personal responsibility in the political system.

If readers of the interview have additional questions for me, please submit them in the comments and I'll do my best to answer them.

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Monday, October 27, 2008

Time to Speak Out for Free Speech

The following article originally was published on October 27, 2008, in Grand Junction's Free Press. Links have been added here. See also "Eric Daniels Defends Free Speech."

Time to speak out for free speech

by Linn and Ari Armstrong

Free speech is under assault in America by state and federal governments, despite constitutional protections.

Both major presidential candidates are enemies of free speech. In 2002, John McCain rode the McCain-Feingold campaign censorship law through Congress. Among other things, the law prohibited select groups from running certain political ads before elections, though the Supreme Court struck down some of the worst parts of the law. Barack Obama wants federal controls on media ownership, his spokesperson told Broadcasting & Cable.

Some conservatives want more censorship over pornography. Many on the left call for censorship of the radio by forcing broadcasters to air certain views; supporters laughably call their scheme the "Fairness Doctrine."

Here in Colorado, various activists have faced legal threats for daring to exercise their rights of free speech. For example, in 2006 Becky Clark Cornwell put up yard signs and protested a plan to annex her community of Parker North into the city of Parker in Douglas County.

A supporter of annexation filed a legal complaint against Cornwell and others, claiming they had engaged in "illegal activities" under Colorado's campaign censorship laws.

Lisa Knepper of the Institute for Justice (IJ), a civil rights group that defended Cornwell and her neighbors, said that, while the U.S. District Court ruled the group could not be penalized, the court "failed to change the law to prevent such abuses of campaign finance law in the future, so we're appealing to the 10th Circuit."

ABC's 20/20 featured Cornwell in an October 17 story about the campaign finance laws. Cornwell said "the lawsuit was used in an effort to shut us up about the annexation, to scare us enough and clobber us with these laws so that we wouldn't talk about it any more."

20/20 paid people to try to fill out Colorado's campaign forms. Nobody did so successfully. One subject said, "A regular citizen cannot read this legalese." Another said, "I'd rather just not get involved in the political process if I have to go through the nonsense that I had to go through today."

Steve Simpson, the IJ lawyer defending the Parker North residents, said he's also defending the Independence Institute, which was sued over its criticisms of Referenda C and D in 2005. Simpson is awaiting a decision from the Colorado Court of Appeals. He said "it would be impossible" for the Independence Institute, a think tank, to comply with the reporting requirements as an issue committee, because the group gets funds for general purposes and spends them on a wide variety of issues.

Even though we've condemned Amendment 48, which would absurdly define a fertilized egg as a person in the state constitution, we were displeased to see that a fellow named John Erhardt sued the Amendment 48 campaign for petty violations of the campaign censorship laws. Erhardt gloats on his blog, "So, while the fine of $150 won't break their campaign, they did have to spin their wheels to defend this."

Diana Hsieh, co-author of the paper "Amendment 48 Is Anti-Life" at SecularGovernment.us, said the advocates of 48 "should be free to advocate their views -- not bogged down in opportunistic legal action by opponents... I want opponents of Amendment 48 to be spending their time arguing against the substance and philosophy of it, not playing campaign finance dirty tricks."

Finally, Douglas Bruce has taken flak in the media [one and two] for mailing a flyer against Amendment 59 and Referendum O through a nonprofit group, Active Citizens Together, without filing the legal paperwork that some think applies.

It's past time to rethink the validity of the campaign censorship laws, along with all the other restrictions on free speech. We checked in with Eric Daniels of the Clemson Institute for the Study of Capitalism, and he offered a refreshingly consistent defense of our rights.

Daniels said, "Free speech means the right (not privilege) of individuals to express their opinions without government censorship of any kind, whether by hindering speech through regulation or through restricting it through prosecutions after the fact."

We don't even like requirements to report contributions. People have a right to speak anonymously. There's no clear way to distinguish between advocacy and education. And, the voters can demand disclosure with their votes.

Daniels agrees: "If politicians wish to disclose the source of their financing to the public, they are free to do so... The electorate can indeed decide through voting whether to support candidates who do or do not disclose their financing. Contributing money to a political candidate or to supporters or opponents of a ballot measure should properly be a matter between the private parties themselves."

Government should not abridge "the freedom of speech, or of the press." Politicians have gotten away with doing just that for far too long. If we wish to retain and restore our other liberties, we must above all fight for our rights of free speech.

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Saturday, October 25, 2008

Eric Daniels Defends Free Speech

Linn Armstrong and I are coming out with a column on free speech this Monday; see Grand Junction's Free Press. We quote Eric Daniels, Research Assistant Professor at the Clemson Institute for the Study of Capitalism. Unfortunately, we had space only for a few of Daniels's comments. Thankfully, he has agreed to let me reproduce the entire interview here.

My purpose in contacting Daniels was not to cover familiar ground, but to elicit responses about some of the most difficult implications of free speech. Until I thought more carefully about the matter on October 23, talked with another friend about it, and contacted Daniels, I wasn't sure about my position on the matters of campaign-finance disclosure and campaigns by foreigners. Now I am sure. I am for freedom, not controls.

Daniels's answers follow the questions in bold:

Briefly, why do you think free speech has come under attack by both right and left in recent decades?

Fundamentally, the reason free speech is under attack by both is because both fail to understand the nature of individual rights. The majority opinion in politics today holds that rights are gifts from the government that allow individuals to do some things as long as they do not upset certain vested interests. In the case of free speech, politicians believe that you should
be allowed to say what you want as long as it does not, for example, offend religious or ethnic groups or as long as what you say is not backed by too much money, or as long as what you say meets some vague notion of community standards. But that is not free speech. Free speech means the right (not privilege) of individuals to express their opinions without government
censorship of any kind, whether by hindering speech through regulation or through restricting it through prosecutions after the fact.

Should the law require disclosure of campaign-related expenses? I'm leaning no. People have a right to speak anonymously. There's no clear way to distinguish between advocacy and education. And, the voters can demand disclosure with their votes. Do you agree with this? Explain.

I do not think the law should require public disclosure of campaign-related financing. If politicians wish to disclose the source of their financing to the public, they are free to do so. Likewise, if they choose to keep their donors' identities to themselves, they should also be free to do so. The electorate can indeed decide through voting whether to support candidates who do or do not disclose their financing. Contributing money to a political candidate or to supporters or opponents of a ballot measure should properly be a matter between the private parties themselves. It does not matter how much a person gives or how much air time he buys, voters always remain free to take the message for which he has paid in the appropriate context. No one
forces the voters to believe or discredit any given message, they do so of their own will.

Should the law prohibit campaign contributions from foreign entities and people? For instance (Diana Hsieh raised this example), if the U.S. were going impose a tariff on British goods, should British citizens be able to campaign against it in the U.S.?

Giving money to a political campaign is an issue of individual right -- that is, the donor who has earned his wealth has a right to give it to whatever candidate he chooses, and the candidate has a right to accept money from anyone he chooses. Foreign citizens or political action committees have just as much right to speak as do Americans. Again, if there is some belief on the
part of voters that foreign influence is unduly affecting some candidate, the voters retain the right to demand that the candidate disclose the source of his funding or face losing their votes.

Is there anything else we should know about free speech in the modern era?

Even though much of the recent controversy about free speech is tied to speech about political issues, it is important to remember that we have the freedom of speech not just because it facilitates a robust discussion of public policy
(which is the unfortunate modern interpretation), but because it is a right of each individual to express his ideas in the manner he chooses and to reach whatever size an audience his rightly-earned wealth will allow.

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

20/20 Reveals Free Speech Violations

20/20 ran a powerful segment on campaign censorship laws. Becky Clark, a Coloradan who was sued for putting up yard signs and getting politically active in her community, is featured in the segment. The upshot is that the laws benefit insiders and raise hurdles for true grass-roots activism. These laws are unjust, and they must be repealed.

Update: I've since learned that her full name is Becky Clark Cornwell. Earlier this year, she wrote a Speakout for the Rocky Mountain News about her ordeal.

ABC News has also published John Stossel's review of campaign finance laws.

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Colorado Benefits from Electoral System

The Democrats held their convention in Colorado this year. McCain, Obama, Palin, and Biden have campaigned extensively throughout the state. Thus, this is a perfect time for an "I told you so" regarding the Democratic plan to split Colorado's electoral votes back in 2004. Thankfully, the voters rejected the idiotic scheme.

I denounced the measure, Amendment 36, in a first and second article. I summarized, "The proposal hopes to divide Colorado's electoral votes for president according to the popular vote. Currently, state law specifies that all electoral votes go to the candidate who wins the most popular votes."

Had the measure passed, this year Colorado would have been mostly a fly-over state. Instead, we're at the center of the action.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Balko Misfires with 'Private' Social Security Accounts

Radly Balko argues that the government should implement "private" Social Security accounts, despite the recent financial difficulties. The subtitle of the article (as it appears at Reason) reads, "Why the market meltdown doesn't negate the case for privatizing Social Security." The meltdown itself does not negate that case; it was negated long ago, and the meltdown only reinforces the negation.

The first problem is that Balko calls them "private" accounts. They are no such thing. Under the Bush/Cato plan, people are forced to contribute to these accounts, and, as Balko hints, the accounts are controlled by federal politicians and bureaucrats. The plan wells from fascism, not the free market. It is perfectly in line with Bush's partial nationalization of the financial sector with his bailout and buyouts. Federally directed investment in the stock market via Social Security would automatically expand federal control over the market, and it would invite ever more controls to "protect" people's money. (I feel a blunt assessment is in order here, despite the fact that I'm usually a fan of Balko's work.)

The Bush/Cato plan relies on an accounting fraud to gain initial plausibility. The key problem is that money directed toward the accounts would in no way reduce the existing liability for Social Security, until those with the accounts started to retire. The result is that those with accounts would end up paying the same amount into Social Security, directly or indirectly, in addition to the money they'd be forced to spend on the accounts.

To get a better sense of this, consider the simple fact that the accounts are inessential. If people could spend less directly on Social Security, they could simply be allowed to keep that money, rather than forced to invest it in federally-controlled accounts, and their Social Security payoff could be reduced commensurately. But, as noted, that would do nothing to address Social Security shortfalls in the interim, so that money would have to be raised somehow, whether through direct taxes or more deficit spending. Alternately, Social Security benefits could be reduced, but if so they could be reduced without creating the federally-controlled accounts.

There is certainly a transition problem with Social Security. Many people in and near retirement rely on that money for their basic needs. It would be unjust as well as politically infeasible to cut off those benefits. As I've argued, the best way to phase out the system with the least amount of pain for all involved would be to slowly raise the retirement age. This would leave the benefits of those already on Social Security unchanged, and it would give those far from retirement many years to adjust their plans.

The central political problem of our day is that the failure of federal controls in the financial markets is being blamed on nonexistent free markets. By pretending that federally mandated and controlled accounts are somehow "private," Balko et al contribute to the charade.

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Monday, October 20, 2008

Bashing McCain (Because He Deserves It)

John McCain's final hope to become president might have been in his response to W. Bush's "creeping fascism" a.k.a. the bailout. McCain interrupted his campaign and went back to Washington, D.C. -- to do what? To rubber-stamp Bush's bailout as laden with pork by the senate. McCain proved with unmistakable finality that he advocates centralized government controls, not economic liberty. Meanwhile, with his selection of Sarah Palin, McCain demonstrated his commitment to government controls in the personal sphere.

Radly Balko (with whom I disagree on various matters) summarizes many of the reasons why the Republicans deserve to lose because of their massive escalation of federal control over the economy. Near the top of the list: "we now get to watch as the party that's supposed to be 'free market' nationalizes huge chunks of the economy's financial sector."

And Christopher Buckley, in endorsing Obama, wrote that "Sarah Palin is an embarrassment, and a dangerous one at that. ... What on earth can [McCain] have been thinking?" While Buckley doesn't detail his problems with Palin, he notes, "On abortion, gay marriage, et al, I’m libertarian," meaning he disfavors the proposed political controls of the religious right, the group that Palin was assigned to energize.

If you care about economic liberty, you cannot vote for John McCain. If you care about personal liberty on matters like abortion, you cannot vote for John McCain. If you care about free speech, you certainly cannot vote for John McCain. If you like nationalistic economic intervention and religion-based law, McCain's your man. Unfortunately for McCain, Obama seems to scare the hell out of fewer voters, and that's a major reason why Obama seems poised to win. Unfortunately for the rest of us, Obama might prove at least as destructive of our rights and of our vulnerable nation.

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Amendment 47 and the "Freedom of Choice"

My dad and I have come out against Amendment 47, the so-called "right to work" measure. So has Diana Hsieh. This has generated some discussion regarding the merits of the proposal, so here I further detail my case against it.

The problem with Amendment 47 is that it interferes with the freedom of contract. That this interferes with the employee's "freedom to choose" is irrelevant. For instance, an employee does not have the "freedom to choose" to gab on the phone with friends while at work, create a painting when the job requires customer service, etc. Beyond the context of individual rights, the "freedom to choose" is either meaningless or in direct violation of individual rights. For example, you do not have the "freedom to choose" not to pay your mortgage and remain in your house. You do not have the "freedom to choose" to walk out of a grocery store without paying for your food. You do not have the "freedom to choose" to unilaterally force an employer to offer a contract that he does not want to offer. At least, within the bounds of individual rights you have no such freedom.

Is it true that, due to federal controls, unions have the ability to force contractual concessions that they would not be able to achieve on a free market in which the individual rights of both employer and employee are fully protected? Yes, that is true. But two wrongs do not make a right. One violation of contract rights does not call for another. The undue power granted to unions by federal legislation should be repealed. The answer is not to impose new contractual restraints by state force.

Now let us take a look at the actual constitutional language that Amendment 47 would impose:

(2) (a) No person shall, as a condition of employment, be required to: (I) Be a member of a labor union; and (II) Pay any dues, fees, assessments, or other charges of any kind to a labor union or to any charity or other third party, in lieu of such payments. ... (3) Any person who directly or indirectly violates any provision of this section commits a misdemeanor and upon conviction thereof shall be punished by a fine in an amount equivalent to the most stringent misdemeanor classification provided by law.


Whom is the criminal penalty directed toward? The employer. How exactly is threatening employers with criminal sanctions protecting their rights to contract?

An argument against the measure in the Blue Book aptly summarizes another problem: "By defining labor union to include organizations that provide mutual aid or protection, employers may be banned from requiring employees to belong to organizations that promote workplace safety or provide job-related education programs."

Indeed, the language is so broad -- "any charity or other third party" -- than an employer would not be able to require funding of any civic group as a requirement of employment. Now, I do not think employers should be in the business of requiring civic participation, but I think they have every right to do so, as a matter of contract.

Employers also have the right to create a union shop. Does this interfere with the employee's "freedom of choice?" No; they retain the freedom to work elsewhere. Contracts are a two-way street, and the rights of both parties must be protected, by the principle of individual rights.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Faith-Based Politics Costs Colorado Republicans

The following article was released by the Coalition for Secular Government as a non-exclusive op-ed. It follows my article on a similar theme regarding Sarah Palin. Here I've included additional links for reference.

Faith-based politics costs Colorado Republicans

by Ari Armstrong

Colorado is known for its Western values of independence and economic liberty. So why do Republicans, the supposed champions of those values, keep getting trounced?

Republicans can blame wealthy Democratic donors, but in large part Republicans have beaten themselves by pushing a faith-based agenda of banning abortion and stem-cell research, discriminating against homosexuals, and directing welfare dollars to religious groups. They have subverted the law to religious doctrine and weakened the wall between church and state.

Republicans also have alienated freedom-minded independents and Republicans. Polls released by Pew show most Americans, and half of conservatives, now oppose church involvement in politics. As Ryan Sager shows in his review of 2005 Pew data, the Interior West holds a "live and let live" philosophy, with 53 percent of residents saying homosexuality "should be accepted by society" and 59 percent saying "the government is getting too involved in the issue of morality." [See the appendix of Sager's The Elephant In the Room.]

Yet the GOP panders to its evangelical base at the expense of political victory.

This year, Republicans passed a resolution at their state convention calling for the overturn of Roe v. Wade. Eighteen Republican candidates signed the Colorado Right to Life survey, saying they want to ban abortion as the will of God and outlaw stem-cell medical research.

The same candidates also endorsed Amendment 48, which would define a fertilized egg as a person in Colorado's constitution. This would lay the ground to ban all abortion except perhaps to save the mother's life, ban the birth control pill and other forms of contraception that may prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus, and ban most fertility treatments. Women would be forced to bring a pregnancy to term, even in cases of rape, incest, fetal deformity, and health risks.

True, some of these candidates, such as Congressman Doug Lamborn and congressional candidate Mike Coffman, live in safe districts for Republicans. But Libby Szabo, a candidate for state senate in District 19, does not. Her opponents have hammered her over her answers to the survey, making sure to link her views to the GOP.

Congresswoman Marilyn Musgrave, the incumbent in a Republican district, has managed to fall behind challenger Betsy Markey in some polls [one and two]. Musgrave wants to outlaw abortion, and she is most well known for sponsoring a constitutional gay marriage ban.

Republican Bob Schaffer is trailing Mark Udall in the polls in the U.S. Senate race in part because of Schaffer's faith-based politics. Udall has written, "I fully support the continued separation of church and state in this country." He opposes bans on abortion and stem-cell research. Schaffer, evoking God's will, said abortion is "always wrong."

Republicans should have learned their lesson when they lost the governership to the Democrats in 2006, when Bob Beauprez touted his faith-based politics and selected a running mate of the same cloth, Janet Rowland. Like Beauprez, Rowland wanted to outlaw abortion and maintain faith-based welfare.

Yet the GOP continues to actively push its anti-abortion agenda. A recent flyer "Paid for by Colorado Republican Committee" urged recipients to vote for a presidential candidate who opposes abortion and who will appoint Supreme Court justices to outlaw it.

But some who are pro-choice across the board are fighting back. Diana Hsieh founded the Coalition for Secular Government, which issued a paper that she and I wrote titled, "Amendment 48 Is Anti-Life." Diana's husband Paul wrote to Dick Wadhams, head of the state GOP, "Although I'm pro-free market, pro-strong national defense, and pro- gun, the position that the CO GOP has taken against abortion is a clear breach of the principle of separation of church and state." Doug Krening wrote to Republican officials, "I have been a Republican for my entire voting life, but cannot endorse the GOP currently because of it's explicit endorsement of religion in government."

On September 11, Amanda Mountjoy, chair of the Colorado Republican Majority for Choice, hosted a banquet with 240 participants to oppose Amendment 48. Former Senator Hank Brown told the crowd, "At the point that we give up supporting and defending individual freedom and choice, we give up the very core of this great party."

Colorado Republicans have two options. They can respect the separation of church and state and defend individual freedom and choice, or they can continue to lose and deserve to do so.


Ari Armstrong is a writer for the Coalition for Secular Government and the editor of FreeColorado.com.

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Udall, Schaffer Offer Dueling Federal Controls

It comes as no surprise that Mark Udall is a pragmatic statist. He writes for the Denver Post, "I voted against the $700 billion bailout for Wall Street not because of any ideological opposition to federal intervention, or because of a blind faith in free markets..." We wouldn't want to base any decisions on ideas! Notice that Udall believes that one can only advocate free markets from faith. He blames the crisis on "greed and lack of oversight on Wall Street," rather than on the actual causes: a collection of federal controls that encouraged and even mandated risky lending. The only point about which Udall is certain is that the economy "requires government action." He offers no reasons for this. (Obviously, Udall has not learned the lessons from the bailout that I hoped he would.)

So Udall's opponent for the U.S. Senate, Bob Schaffer, is the "free market" alternative, right? Nope. Schaffer is more blunt about the causes of the economic crisis. "For years, liberal politicians have mandated the risky lending practices that brought us to our knees," such as the government-sponsored Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. And he rightly points out that the federal response to the federally-caused crisis is to inflate the money supply, which "hurts middle-class Colorado families and the poor the most."

And Schaffer pays lip service to a "a free-flowing marketplace." He suggests that he would cut some taxes and roll back government controls such as the Community Reinvestment Act. But he squishes pretty quickly, invoking "a 21st century regulatory structure for a 21st century marketplace and financial system." Well, what in the hell is that?

Schaffer told the Rocky Mountain News that he wants a "refereed private sector." Refereed by whom? By federal politicians and bureaucrats. Notice that Schaffer never draws a distinction between the government's proper role of protecting individual rights -- by upholding property and freedom of contract and by rooting out force and fraud -- and government actions that violate individual rights.

Diana Hsieh summarizes, "Bob Schaffer advocates a 'refereed private sector' -- i.e. an economy controlled and managed by politicians and bureaucrats. He even supports antitrust lawsuits against health insurance companies. Despite the vocal claims of his advocates, he is no friend of capitalism."

In many ways, those who claim to support "free markets" but who in fact advocate economic controls are worse than those who, like Udall, openly declare their statist leanings. At least Udall doesn't conflate the "free-flowing marketplace" with federal control of the economy.

Add to that Schaffer's faith-based politics, and he is hardly an appealing candidate for lovers of liberty.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Fox 31 Interview on Amendment 59

Tonight Fox 31 news broadcast a segment by Deborah Takahara about Amendment 59. Watch it here.

Then read Diana Hsieh's great web page explaining in more detail why Amendment 59 is a bad idea.

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Yes, FDR Made Depression Worse and Longer

As the federal government seizes control of much more of the U.S. economy -- and prepares to do so at an accelerated pace, argues David Brooks of the New York Times -- it is useful to examine our greatest economic crisis, the Great Depression. Was it caused by a "failure of free markets" or by a failure of federal controls? Was it solved, or worsened, by new government interventions?

I've entered this debate in a small way through the Rocky Mountain News. After reviewing the debate there, I'll turn to the material in the books that have persuaded me that the Great Depression was caused, worsened, and lengthened by the federal controls particularly of the Hoover and Roosevelt administrations.

In an October 2 editorial, the writers argue that, in her debate, Sarah Palin "let Biden largely escape with his (and Obama's) tedious riff that the current implosion on Wall Street is largely a result of Republican deregulation -- when Democrats were by and large the strongest defenders of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac's trip into the wild side of lending."

I left the following comment:

I am pleased that the Rocky recognizes the true cause of the financial crisis: foolish federal controls that encouraged and forced risky lending. For more details about this, please see Yaron Brook's article for Forbes:
http://tinyurl.com/59hs8e

Unfortunately, the Rocky, in advocating the bailout, doesn't carry its insight far enough. If federal controls got us into this mess, why should we count on them to get us out? What we need is for government to do its job of protecting rights of property and contract, and otherwise leaving us alone. The bailout is the opposite of that approach.

The Rocky seems to be concerned that, absent some magnificent expenditure of tax dollars (via deficits), the market will not correct quickly enough. I don't know how long it will take the market to correct. But it's clear that more federal intervention will only delay that correction and cause more distortion.

The Rocky might be comforted to realize that the Great Depression was primarily worsened and extended by the misguided policies of Hoover and FDR. We need not repeat those mistakes.

Johan Goldberg just came out with an article summarizing Hoover's idiotic controls:
http://tinyurl.com/5y5f3s

For more, see the books of Andrew Bernstein and Thomas DiLorenzo on the history of capitalism. I also just received a copy of FDR's Folly, which I expect to be good.


Somebody called "paperboy" suggested that I'm out of my mind, that I am guilty of "rationalizations and denials of objective reality," and that I'm a "neocon free-market-dolt" (despite the facts that I'm not a conservative of any stripe and the neoconservatives are enemies of free markets). Notice that "paperboy" does not make a single argument or invoke a single grain of evidence to advance his case: he merely relies on ad hominem attack.

On October 1, Vincent Carroll (who is the editorial page editor at the Rocky) blasted Mark Udall's reasons for opposing the bailout. I figured that, for Udall to vote against the bailout at all, being mired in his left-wing politics, he deserved some praise, even if Udall hardly gets his economic story straight.

Despite his occasional sympathy for economic liberty, Carroll clearly was frightened into supporting the bailout:

Steven Pearlstein, the Pulitzer Prize-winning business columnist at The Washington Post... began warning a long time ago about the perilous state of the subprime markets - even saying last year that the credit squeeze was "a financial, economic and political time bomb."

Pearlstein has spent the past couple of weeks futilely trying to persuade the public to rise above its justifiable anger over the financial crisis in order to recognize the stakes involved for the majority of us who were neither reckless lenders or reckless borrowers.

"Now let me tell you something very simple and very important," he wrote last week. "You can try to prevent a financial meltdown or you can teach Wall Street a lesson, but you can't do both at the same time.

"So which will it be?"


But that line of argument fails; even if some people opposed the bailout to "teach Wall Street a lesson," that was not the real reason to oppose it.

Carroll took on the free-market economists who opposed the bailout:

Yes, there are principled reasons for opposing the credit-market bailout - although they are more often articulated by the libertarian right than the progressive left. Libertarians understandably fear a greater permanent role for government in micromanaging financial markets if the bailout deal goes through; they also typically dismiss fears of economic collapse reminiscent of 1873 or 1929 as "ridiculous scaremongering," to quote one of them. But how can they be so sure? Which celestial authority revealed to them that this country will never have another serious depression?


Carroll's case is pretty weak. The economists I've read, such as Jeffrey Miron, rely on economic data and theory, not a "celestial authority." (Also check out Russell Roberts's critique of the bailout.) Meanwhile, why does Carroll think the bailout will do any good? Has he elevated Henry Paulson to the level of a celestial authority?

I dashed off a quick letter that the Rocky published on October 13:

At least the Rocky's Vincent Carroll recognizes that many offer good reasons to oppose the bailout ("Playing to the crowd," On Point, Oct. 1), but he is too quick to liken the modern situation to the period before the Great Depression.

The Depression was set off by the federal controls of the Hoover administration, but "FDR's economic policies made the Great Depression much worse" and "caused it to last much longer than it otherwise would have," economist Thomas DiLorenzo writes in his history of American capitalism. We have more to fear from new, misguided federal controls than we do from the existing crisis.

I am grateful to Mark Udall for listening to his constituents and voting against the bailout. Meanwhile, Carroll relies more on authority than argument to make his case for the bailout.


"Anderson" comments:

Another ideological claim that the depression (or any other adverse economic doing) is/was a result of government intervention. What a simple explanation!

Let's not kid ourselves, the current crisis arose largely out of speculative greed, and I'm sure the same had something to do with the great depression as well.


"Anderson's" claim is obviously the product of leftist ideology, for which he has absolutely no backing. He just assumes that "speculative greed," rather than federal controls, caused the Great Depression.

So now is the time for some facts. I'll be relying mostly on three books: FDR's Folly: How Roosevelt and His New Deal Prolonged the Great Depression, by historian Jim Powell; How Capitalism Saved America, by economist Thomas DiLorenzo; and The Capitalist Manifesto, by philosopher Andrew Bernstein. (I know some will be tempted to dismiss my sources out of hand because their authors adhere to different political philosophies, but I encourage readers to look at the underlying facts presented by the works.)

First some basic timelines (in case Joe Biden is reading). Calvin Coolidge served in the office of the presidency from August 1923 to March 1929. Herbert Hoover then served till March 1933. Franklin Delano Roosevelt served till April 1945. The Dow Jones Industrial Average peaked at 381 on September 3, 1929. Black Tuesday was October 29, 1929. By November 13, the Dow had fallen to 199. By July 8, 1932, it had fallen to 41.

There is some debate over the effects of pre-Hoover policies. Powell argues that Benjamin Strong, governor of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, propped up the stock market by cutting the discount rate, buying British pounds with gold (making "bonds less attractive investments than stocks"), and prodding the "Federal Reserve Open Market Investment Committee to buy $200 million worth of government securities from banks, injecting that much cash into the banking system" (pages 28-29). Regardless of how one judges the effects of such measures, obviously America's investment system was hardly free market even then. Powell's account meshes with the general Austrian account, in which inflationary policies create a bubble destined to pop. DiLorenzo quotes Murray Rothbard, who claimed that from 1921 to 1929 "the money supply increased by $28.0 billion, a 61.8 percent increase..." (177) On the other side, Bernstein argues, following Richard Salsman, that the "prosperity of the 1920s was genuine, not a chimera built on air" (377). My sense is that both accounts are right; most of the gains of the '20s reflected real growth of productivity, but nevertheless pre-Hoover policies artificially inflated the stock market.

Beyond the point of how much inflationary policy contributed to the subsequent bust, the accounts are pretty much the same. Powell notes that by October 1928 the discount rate had been raised to 6 percent, in an intentional effort to quell the stock market's growth (it worked). This lead to "steady deflationary pressure on the economy," Powell quotes Milton Friedman (29).

DiLorenzo emphasizes that, even before he became president, Hoover was a "hyperinterventionist" as Secretary of Commerce (160). Importantly, before and during his presedency, Hoover worked tirelessly to artificially inflate monetary (as opposed to real) wages (163-64). This proved particularly disastrous as deflation overtook the nation.

Bernstein emphasizes that the Smoot-Hawley tariff, considered by all to be a contributer to the depth of the Great Depression, actually helped set it off. Hoover was promoting tariff protectionism by the summer of 1929, Bernstein notes. "On October 21st, an amendment to limit tariffs to agricultural products was defeated in the Senate. On October 24th, the stock market suffered its first one-day crash. On October 29th, amid rumors that Hoover would not veto the Smoot-Hawley Bill, stock prices crashed even further," Bernstein writes. Why was this significant? "Over the next three years (1930-1933), U.S. exports plunged 64% and farm exports by 60%" (378).

FDR continued Hoover's interventionist policies and dramatically expanded them, raising taxes and imposing crushing controls. Bernstein summarizes:

The interventionist schemes of the Roosevelt administration were an unmitigated economic disaster. Suffice it to say that by 1937, after more than four years of Roosevelt's policies (and after eight years of the combined Hoover-Roosevelt New Deal) -- after the National Industrial Recovery Act, the abandonment of the gold standard, the tripling of taxes, more labor legislation and many similar acts of governmental interference -- unemployement rose to more than ten million, and business activity fell to virtually the same low reached in 1932. (382)


DiLorenzo reinforces the point with a series of charts (pages 180-83). The first pertains to the unemployment rate, and it is reproduced below (the year precedes the percent unemployed):

1929: 3.2
1930: 8.7
1931: 15.9
1932: 23.6
1933: 24.9
1934: 21.7
1935: 20.1
1936: 16.9
1937: 14.3
1938: 19.0
1939: 17.2
1940: 14.6

If FDR was the nation's economic savior, then what explains the general lack of recovery, including the "Rosevelt recession" of 1938 with an unemployment rate of 19 percent?

The claim that FDR "saved us" from the Great Depression is simple ignorance or outright deception. Roosevelt inherited the economic problems largely created by Hoover and made them much worse.

The historical case is of obvious relevance to us today. Ominously, the Associated Press has described the federal government's "decision to buy shares in the nation's leading banks" as "a kind of federal intervention not seen since the Depression era."

If David Brooks is right, and I fear he is, the Bush-Obama administrations could give us something uncomfortably close to what the Hoover-Roosevelt administrations once gave the nation. You gotta love bipartisanship.

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Gaming the Voter Guide in Jefferson County

I actually had to dig my Jefferson County voter guide out of the trash after I read this story from the Denver Post. Thomas Graham of Arvada totally gamed the guide.

Here are Graham's comments, published at taxpayer expense:

The following summaries were prepared from comments filed by persons FOR the proposal: ...

Senior citizens with fixed incomes are hard-pressed to shoulder increases in property tax. These people should recognize that their reduced productivity calls for them to be replaced by the youth of our nation. This measure calls for some of the property taxes to be earmarked for: "Expanding options for career job skills and technical training to prepare students for today's work world." Half of these should be committed to the following:

Seniors on fixed incomes, to whom this school tax is burdensome, need training, as well as compassion. They must be offered the opportunity to learn how to locate more modest accommodations than those they currently occupy, and how to cope, in other communities if necessary.

This tax increase furthers the goals of our teacher unions. It is consistent with a presidential candidate's promise for change, and hope for progress toward the Socialist utopia through education. This increase could create a pad until the oppressive TABOR measures can be repealed, and the Amendment 23 extra millions for schools be made permanent. The same criteria and logic should be applied in consideration of ballot question 3B, resulting in a resounding approval of the $754 million debt. This will add as much as $69 million to the $34 million for 3A, annually, a picayune amount considering the future of our youth and well-being of the District's employees.


The Post reports:

Superintendent Cindy Stevenson said the district was prevented by law from substantially changing or eliminating Graham's comments.

Graham submitted the language minutes before the deadline for inclusion in the booklet that voters began receiving this weekend, Stevenson said.

The district's lawyers said case law prohibits "substituting their judgment with our judgment," Stevenson said.


The language is totally inappropriate (even if it's hysterical). As much as I like the spending restrictions of the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights, I don't like the provision that requires tax funding for the distribution of people's opinions about ballot measures.

Article X, Section 20, subsection 3(b)(v) states that a voter guide must be sent out with the following:

Two summaries, up to 500 words each, one for and one against the proposal, of written comments filed with the election officer by 45 days before the election. No summary shall mention names of persons or private groups, nor any endorsements of or resolutions against the proposal. Petition representatives following these rules shall write this summary for their petition. The election officer shall maintain and accurately summarize all other relevant written comments. The provisions of this subparagraph (v) do not apply to a statewide ballot issue, which is subject to the provisions of section 1 (7.5) of article V of this constitution.


I wish TABOR had been simpler; maybe then it would not have been continually eroded.

Update: 9News reports additional interesting details on the matter. It turns out that Graham is 84 years old -- one of the senior citizens of which he writes.

Jefferson County Schools superintendent Cindy Stevenson said (9News reports), "This did not come from Citizens for Jeffco Schools or from the district... I want to be very clear, we cherish our seniors. The statement in there is cruel."

No, what's cruel is Stevenson's plan to forcibly take more money from citizens like Graham to spend on other people's education (and, incidentally, Stevenson's own salary). The proposal is cruel; Graham's statement merely reveals that cruelty.

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AP Details Palin's Tax-Funded Church Tours

The Associated Press has published an eye-opening report on Sarah Palin's use of her office to promote religion in Alaska. The AP summarizes that Palin's "record as mayor and governor reveals her use of elected office to promote religious causes, sometimes at taxpayer expense and in ways that blur the line between church and state... Palin and her family billed the state $3,022 for the cost of attending Christian gatherings exclusively..."

Palin has also used her political offices to undermine abortion rights and promote faith-based welfare, the AP reports.

The report makes more clear what we already knew: Palin vigorously promotes faith-based politics. We have every reason to expect her to continue to do so in the office of vice president -- or president.

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Mark Your Colorado Ballot for Liberty

The following article originally was published on October 13, 2008, in Grand Junction's Free Press. On the same topic, see also Diana Hsieh's voting recommendations.

Mark your ballot for liberty

by Linn and Ari Armstrong

We suggest a single standard as you mark your ballot: liberty. If a measure advances liberty, vote for it. If not, vote no.

The federal government has been spending our money like there's no tomorrow, and state Democrats have spent the extra billions brought in by Referendum C. No matter how much of our money we give them, politicians and special interests will always want more. Thus, we face several new proposals to hike taxes.

People have the right to spend their income as they see fit. It's wrong to force Peter to pay for Paul's needs, even if 51 percent of the voters allow it.

Vote no on Amendment 59, which would permanently eliminate refunds under the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights. This is a forever net tax increase. It is also a blank check. While its advocates call it a "Savings Account for Education," it would free up general funds for whatever politicians want. Special interests are already lining up to take a chunk of your money.

Mesa County voters should reject 3A and 3B, which would raise taxes for schools run by politicians, bureaucrats, and unions. We spend an absurd amount on education for generally pathetic results. People have the right to spend their money on the educational services they want, whether for themselves or others.

In Grand Junction, voters face 2A and 2B. Vote no. These are forever net tax increases. Local politicians need to allocate existing funds more prudently, not demand more. The city refers to an unsafe city court and security problems in the evidence room, yet your elder author has spoken with officers who believe improvements could be achieved at low cost. Don't be fooled when advocates point to popular expenses; the measures, like Amendment 59, sign a blank check at taxpayers' expense.

We hope the residents of Fruita vote down 2C, which would unjustly force some people to fund a community center they don't want that undermines some local businesses.

For more good discussion of the local measures, see Gene Kinsey's blog at LivingTheGrandLife.blogspot.com.

At the state level, the most dangerous ballot measure is Amendment 48, which would ban abortion even in cases of rape, incest, fetal deformity, and health risks, subject to severe criminal penalties. It would also ban the birth control pill and fertility treatments. See "Amendment 48 Is Anti-Life" at SecularGovernment.us.

Amendment 46, which would eliminate race-based hiring and admissions in government, wouldn't accomplish much, but it would reinforce the crucial principle that all people are equal under the law.

We don't like 47, which interferes with the freedom of contract between employers and employees. Unions have undue power due to federal controls, but the answer is not state controls.

Vote yes on 49, which would stop the government from transferring funds from the paychecks of its employees to unions. We don't care if you contribute to unions, we just don't want that to be a government function.

Yes on 50; this would modestly lift gambling limits. No on 51, the sales tax for the disabled. If you think the disabled deserve more of your money, then please give it to them. Just don't force everyone else to follow your choices in charitable giving.

No on 52; the state constitution is no place to micromanage highway funding. No on 54; this limitation on political spending by government contractors infringes free speech. No on 58, another tax hike. Energy companies deserve to keep the money they earn.

We have no problem with Referendum L, which would let 21-year-olds serve in the legislature. Frankly, if more legislators could muster the maturity of a 21-year-old, we'd be pleased. Measures M and N repeal obsolete provisions; that's fine.

Referendum O would make it harder to amend the state's constitution. We like that. Contrary to the assertions of some of our conservative friends, the ability to change a state constitution via petition is not what the First Amendment is getting at. The First Amendment Center notes that, under the First Amendment, petitioning means "any nonviolent, legal means of encouraging or disapproving government action, whether directed to the judicial, executive or legislative branch."

The initiative process necessarily falls within government rules. And we think those rules make it far too easy to amend the constitution by popular vote. We do not advocate majority rule; we advocate individual rights. A separation of powers, with distinct branches of government and indirect popular oversight, provides the best hope for protecting individual rights, though certainly that's not sufficient.

O requires signatures from each congressional district for constitutional changes, further separating power geographically. We're not thrilled that O makes it easier to make statutory changes by popular vote, but we can live with the trade-off.

What do we need beyond thoughtful structures of governance? A populace that takes seriously our heritage of liberty and works to protect it.

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Saturday, October 11, 2008

John Lewis vs. EPA Tyranny

On October 18, John Lewis of Duke University will speak in Arvada. His topic: "A Call to Action: Understanding and Defeating the EPA's Plan for Environmental Dictatorship." The talk is sponsored by Front Range Objectivism.

Read the details, and rsvp by Monday, October 13.

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Becky Clark's Fight for Free Speech

Gus Van Horn alerted me to an important Colorado story that, somehow, I'd missed till now. Becky Clark got sued for exercising her right of free speech without filling out the right bureaucratic forms.

While I have not independently checked her story yet, Clark tells a fascinating tale:

Way back in the early part of 2006 our little unincorporated neighborhood of about 300 houses in Parker, Colorado was all abuzz over the efforts of two of our neighbors who thought it would be a good idea to annex into the town. After my husband and I studied the facts and talked to our neighbors, we decided we were against annexation for a variety of reasons, the most important to us being the huge sales tax increase we'd be hit with.

So, because we own a printshop and can make signs, we made a couple that said "No Annexation" and "Annexation is a permanent tax increase" and planted them in our front yard.

Our neighbors kept stopping by asking if we'd make some for them, so we did. Pretty soon the neighborhood was filled with these signs and it was pretty clear most everyone held the same opinion that we did. ...

[In July] six of us, and our printshop, were slapped with a lawsuit by two of our neighbors, the two who were for the annexation. ...

They said we were not in compliance with campaign finance laws and we needed to register as an issue committee. I had no idea what that meant and I'd never even heard the phrase "issue committee" before. ...

They wanted to shut us up. The litigation was clearly an attempt to intimidate us.

We had no choice but to file as an issue committee... It fell to me to do the paperwork, and let me tell you, it's no picnic. ...

These campaign finance laws need to be changed so no one can try to shut up the people who oppose them. After all, free speech -- to me -- is the free exchange of differing ideas and the right to voice them without the fear of harassment and intimidation.

What has happened to our society that people are so threatened by an honest difference of opinion that they can file suit against anyone who speaks with an opposing voice?

I think I should be able to stick a political sign in my front yard without my neighbors slapping a lawsuit on me. And I think you should be able to also.


In a follow-up, Clark talks about "September 2008 when the judge finally ruled on our lawsuit. The federal judge said we should not have been sued for our speech opposing the annexation, BUT the ruling did nothing to stop future abuses of campaign finance laws in Colorado or elsewhere. The decision also lets stand the burdensome red tape required under Colorado law for grassroots groups that simply want to speak out about issues on the ballot."

Clark also reports that she's been interviewed by 20/20 for a story that will air October 17.

Stay tuned. I need to read a lot more about the details of this case, but so far Clark's account squares with my understanding of Colorado's campaign finance laws. Could Clark be to free speech what Kelo was to property rights?

Can you imagine somebody like Sam Adams filing "issue committee" paperwork with the government?

Who'd have thought that America's Republican candidate for president would join forces with the socialist left to impose censorship -- or that the American people would let them get away with it.

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Big Wide World

I was reminded tonight (Friday) that I'm simply unaware of much of what goes on in the world outside my core interests. The people I usually talk with share many of those interests, so it can be easy to forget that, to many others, what I tend to follow seems alien to day-to-day life. (Even though, obviously, the issues I'm working on at any given time are the most important ones at least in the region.)

A friend of mine introduced me to a number of interesting sources, a couple of which I'll mention here.

I never read food critics. I just don't care. If I go to a restaurant -- a rare event -- usually it's a chain, and usually it's a chain that I already know I like. (I make an exception for Ralibertos, which serves good, fast, inexpensive, authentic Mexican food. The place even has real Mexican coke, with sugar instead of corn syrup. I joke that the hardest part was importing the flies.) The very idea of food criticism strikes me as bizarre; do enough people actually read that sort of thing to, you know, pay people to write it? I have started to cook quite a lot, and even experiment with spices and such, so I am more appreciative of good food than I was in my frozen-dinner days, but still. I don't want to have to read an article to figure out where I should eat dinner.

But then I was introduced to the work of Jason Sheehan, the food critic for Westword. I had been led to believe his column is about a lot more than food, and I was not disappointed. The first article I read had me chuckling:

Because I don't ski and have no particular love for T-shirt stores or year-round Christmas shops, this was the first time I'd been to Breckenridge. It was like Boulder with all the hippies and college students replaced by day-tripping foreign tourists gabbing away in a dozen languages and sidewalk-stalking yuppies complaining about the crowds...


By the end I actually wanted to eat at the restaurant. Not enough to make a special trip to Breckenridge, but, hey, if I'm ever in the area...

The upshot is that I'll no longer be able to scan through Westword by the grocery carts or read only the occasional feature. Food. Criticism. Who knew?

Next, Ken Schroeppel writes a blog called DenverInfill, about development projects around the city. The first thing I read tied into the global economic crisis:

I'm just happy a bunch of our big downtown tower projects managed to get their loans and get under construction before the floor dropped out on our financial markets.

I've heard recently that a number of infill projects around the downtown area have been shelved: Mestizo 31, the Spanos project in Jefferson Park, 1780 Downing, Old Market Lofts... I'm sure there are many more. The failure of any real estate project to get underway is not unusual. Regardless of how strong the economy is, some projects just don't make it off the drawing board.


Schroeppel is an urban planner. Well, I'm not exactly "planner" friendly. Yet I am persuaded of two things: first, Schroeppel is truly motivated, not by a desire to control people, but to make the world more beautiful, and, second, much of what such planners do would continue in the sort of political system that I advocate. (I like plans, I just want them to be developed in a system of property rights and voluntary associations.) I'm confident that Schroeppel and I could find many issues on which to disagree. Yet I don't have to agree with him about everything to appreciate his unique angle on local history.

While I remain happy to be a 'burb guy, with easy access to both Denver and Boulder without the need to put up with the nonsense of either, I'll take Schroeppel's blog as a reminder that cities are complicated things with a life of their own, largely invisible to most. I guess like people.

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Friday, October 10, 2008

Allard Against the Bailout

Following is an e-mail letter I received from Senator Wayne Allard:

October 10, 2008...

Dear Ari:

Thank you for writing to me about the recent troubling activity on Wall Street. I understand your concern and appreciate your taking the time to contact me.

The U.S. economy began facing challenges last year due in large part to problems in the subprime mortgage market. The severity of the problems became quite apparent in March 2008, when Bear Stearns collapsed. At the beginning of September 2008, the federal government took control of the two housing government sponsored enterprises, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Unfortunately, the difficulties that began in the subprime mortgage market had spread to other market sectors, causing Lehman Brothers to file for bankruptcy and Merrill Lynch to be bought out by Bank of America. The Federal Reserve and Treasury intervened to prevent a bankruptcy filing by AIG and took over the company. Additional firms showed weakening under market pressures.

These events touched off a significant crisis of confidence in our financial markets. Without capital flowing freely, illiquidity left them virtually frozen. The frozen capital markets represent a threat not only to the financial sector, but the business sector and entire economy as well.

To prevent a financial crisis, Treasury Secretary Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke released a proposal to allow the federal government to purchase up to $700 billion of the troubled, illiquid assets. These assets would be held by the government for some period of time, after which they would be sold, potentially for a profit. The Treasury Department believes this will promote market stability and help protect American families and the U.S. economy by fundamentally and comprehensively addressing the root cause of our financial system's current distress.

After receipt of the initial Treasury plan Congress made several key changes. While the legislation provides the Secretary of the Treasury with the authority to use up to $700 billion to purchase troubled assets, the money is not available all at once. An initial amount of $250 billion is available followed by installments of $100 billion and $350 billion, upon approval of the President. The legislation establishes a Department of the Treasury insurance program for distressed assets that guarantees those assets, including mortgage backed securities, that were issued before March 18, 2008. Treasury would collect premiums from financial institutions that chose to participate. Additionally, the bill increases the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) limit from $100,000 to $250,000 through 2009. Another adjustment made was a limit placed on executive compensation or "golden parachutes" for firms in which the government acquires a significant stake. To address concerns over long term accountability, an oversight board comprised of federal banking regulators is established and a provision in the package states that if, after five years, the government has incurred losses from the program, the President must put forth a proposal for recovering government assets from firms that profited from federal assistance.

After long and careful deliberation I voted against the bailout package. Taxpayers are and have always been my number one priority. I have serious concerns that Congress held no hearings in creating this $700 billion package, nor did it use a deliberative process to provide a reasonable assurance that this proposal would even work. I am unwilling to leave a huge legacy of debt for generations to come without confidence that it would be worth the price. I have always believed that the government should live within its means and thus have opposed increasing the federal debt limit. The bill before Congress would significantly increase the national debt.

I have seen no evidence that the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act is in the best long term interests of taxpayers and the economy, and I also strongly oppose the additional spending provisions rolled into the bill. We shouldn't spend this kind of taxpayer money on assumptions and guesswork. I believe that Congress can find a way to unfreeze the credit markets without unfairly penalizing American families for the greed and mismanagement on Wall Street.

Congress should act to preserve our free-market tradition. We have never propped up failed businesses on Main Street; we should not prop up failure and malfeasance on Wall Street. During my remaining time in the Senate I will continue to advocate for this belief.

Sincerely,
Wayne Allard
United States Senator

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Thursday, October 9, 2008

Vote No on 48, 59: Two New Web Sites

Diana Hsieh has created two new web pages criticizing Colorado's Amendments 48 and 59.

"Vote No on Amendment 59" describes what the measure would do -- and why it's a bad idea. As Diana points out, one problem with the measure is that it would expand political control of other areas:

Amendment 59 isn't about increasing funding for Colorado's government schools. Instead, the measure frees up general funds currently spent on education. So it enables politicians to spend more of your money on their pet projects.

Even the supporters of Amendment 59 admit that. The Rocky Mountain News quoted Amendment 59 supporter Carol Hedges of the Colorado Fiscal Policy Institute as saying that "a dedicated source of funding for schools could reduce the pressure on the general fund, and in turn allow legislators more opportunity for investing in other priorities, such as health care, higher education and transportation." The same story also quoted David Miller of the Denver Foundation as saying: "As I understand it, SAFE does more than just support education. If it passes, it would free up general fund dollars for health care, which is why the Colorado Health Foundation is a big supporter."


Hsieh's page against 48 summarizes the paper that she and I wrote, "Amendment 48 Is Anti-Life," and links to related letters, releases, and articles.

For her work Diana deserves the praise of all Coloradans who care about liberty.

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Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Schwartz Refutes Amendment 59 Claims

Brian Schwartz writes for The Denver Post:

Amendment 59 would raise your taxes. [Former Colorado State Treasurer Gai] Schoettler denies this, saying that “Amendment 59 will ensure that your tax rates will stay exactly the same as they are now.”

But Amendment 59 would raise taxes without raising tax rates. The Colorado Constitution guarantees taxpayers a refund when the state collects excess taxes. Amendment 59 would force us to donate this refund to a so-called “Savings Account for Education.” That’s a tax increase. Ms. Schoettler’s mentioning constant tax rates is misleading.

A second deceit is that Amendment 59 is a “Savings Account for Education.” There’s a difference between education and government-funded schools. Just Google “college illiteracy.” Further, Schoettler writes that 59 “frees up money for critical things our citizens need.” That is, not schools. If you want to spend your own money on education not favored by politicians, tough luck. To Schoettler, the needs you want to finance with your own money are irrelevant.


Coloradans should vote down Amendment 59. Then, in a couple of years, the legislature can refer a measure to repeal the existing constitutional spending mandate for schools that generates some of the budgetary problems.

For more information, see my op-ed regarding Amendment 59.

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Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Visitor

The Visitor is a great movie of both powerful writing and acting. First the basic story: Walter Vale is a lonely, burned-out college professor who meets a young couple when he shows up at his city apartment and finds the two living there. Okay, so it's a device: the couple are the victim of a scam; they thought they had rented the apartment. Obviously, the three become friends, and this opens up Vale in some interesting ways. The major theme revolves around Vale seeing the meaningless of his life -- and then finding meaning in new friends and hobbies.

Politically, the movie is a sustained and emotional critique of America's immigration policies. The couple are immigrants and in the country illegally. Vale's anger at irrational and immoral U.S. immigration restrictions is powerfully portrayed by actor Richard Jenkins, who is amazing in the film (as are the other major actors).

Not long ago I was talking with a smart, well-educated, affable European -- who may not be able to stay in the country. I've heard enough maddening immigration stories that The Visitor steamed me. Indeed, the film's strong political theme is also a distraction, for those of us who care about this issue. See it, whether in spite of or because of the film's politics.

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Sunday, October 5, 2008

Sock Puppets for Amendment 49

This is why I love Jon Caldara. This is a fun, low-budget, and effective explanation of Amendment 49. I endorse the measure, despite the facts that it shouldn't be a constitutional matter and I'm tired of Republicans pretending that all of their problems stem from financial disparity. The problem with Colorado Republicans is not that the government funds union lobbying, but that Colorado Republicans often run on their worst ideas and flub their few good ones. Nevertheless, I think Amendment 49, which prevents government from diverting money from the paychecks of government employees to unions, is a good idea. As Jon's sock puppets note, the measure in no way interferes with the ability of government employees to give money to whatever groups they like, only the government can't "help" them do it.

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Saturday, October 4, 2008

Harsanyi Lists More Bailout Pork

A few days ago, I mentioned a few items of pork that the Senate loaded into the so-called bailout. Dave Harsanyi of The Denver Post has listed a few more:

Republican New Hampshire's Judd Gregg, who was actually referred to as the money man, told America, "This is not a time for rhetoric; it's a time for responsibility."

Responsibility? Does Gregg mean the inclusion of $6 million for the manufacturers of kids' wooden arrows? ... How about $128 million cost-recovery for motor-racing tracks? Are the film and television industries in such desperate straits that they need $10 million? At least we know those perks were inducement for three votes.

But then, what is the anxiety-ridden citizen to make of the $192 million headed to the Puerto Rican and Virgin Islands rum producers? Or the $33 million in credits headed to business interests in gorgeous American Samoa?


The bailout is quite possibly the biggest politician- and media-perpetrated scam in my lifetime. This is organized theft on a massive scale.

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Letter to Mark Udall Regarding the Bailout

Dear Congressman Udall,

I am writing to thank you for voting against the so-called "bailout," not just once, but both times. That showed real guts, and the sort of independence that Colorado could use in the U.S. Senate. You took on not only the bullying of the Bush administration and "leaders" of your own party, but their sycophantic media, which promoted the bailout in "news" stories and editorials alike.

For the most part, the American public saw past the ruse and opposed the bailout. Most members of Congress and most journalists failed the American people on this matter, utterly. But you stood with us.

I'd also like to thank Senator Allard for voting against the bailout, along with Congress members John Salazar, Marilyn Musgrave, and Doug Lamborn.

The mortgage crisis was caused by ill-conceived federal controls -- particularly programs that encouraged and even required risky lending -- and the bailout will just add more of the same. What we need are not massive new wealth transfers and more concentration of power in the hands of bureaucrats, but a truly free market, in which the government rigorously protects rights of property and contract, roots out fraud and deception, and otherwise leaves people free to manage their own affairs and enter into voluntary agreements.

I was already already going to vote for you, though reluctantly, based on your strong endorsement of the separation of church and state and religious freedom. Now, even though I disagree with you on many other issues, I will be proud to vote for the man who, knowing the bailout was wrong, stood up and courageously voted against it.

Please note, however, that I will vigorously oppose you if ever you take the wrong side and try to reduce or restrict the liberty of the American people. Your recent vote, though, gives me some hope that you will remain open to reason and honest argument, and closed to the shrill pleadings of interest groups looking for political favoritism.

In our age, political cynicism is the coin of the realm. But this time your vote was pure as gold. I sincerely hope you have struck a vein, and I will vote for you for the office of U.S. Senate with that hope.

Sincerely,
Ari Armstrong

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Thursday, October 2, 2008

Palin Lets Biden Disparage Free Market

In the debate between Sarah Palin and Joe Biden, Palin proved that she has no understanding of the free market and no ability to defend it.

Moderator Gwen Ifill asked about the mortgage crisis: "[T]he next question is to talk about the subprime lending meltdown. Who do you think was at fault? I start with you, Governor Palin. Was it the greedy lenders? Was it the risky home-buyers who shouldn't have been buying a home in the first place? And what should you be doing about it?"

Palin answered, "Darn right it was the predator lenders..."

No, it wasn't.

Yaron Brook explains the real causes of the crisis in an article for Forbes. Brook points out that "Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac--the government-sponsored, government-regulated mortgage giants," composed only one aspect of the "massive control over the housing and financial markets" exercised by the federal government. Brook notes that "for years irrational lending standards have been forced on lenders by the federal Community Reinvestment Act." The purpose of Freddie and Fannie was to "purchase, securitize and guarantee loans made by lenders and whose debt is itself implicitly guaranteed by the federal government." In addition to these problems, "the Federal Reserve Board's inflationary policy of artificially low interest rates made investing in subprime loans extraordinarily profitable." Finally, the federal government's "quasi-official policy of 'too big to fail'" communicated to lenders that, if they got into trouble, the federal government would pump in billions of tax dollars -- which seems to be the policy now headed through Congress.

So federal politicians encouraged and required risky lending, and now many of these same politicians blame the non-existent "free market" for the problem.

Thanks to Palin's ignorant remarks, Biden's repetition of this lie was as easy as hunting moose in a barn.

Palin called for "government strict oversight," implying that the problem was caused by a lack of such oversight, rather than the presence of foolish federal controls.

Biden was only too happy to amplify Palin's false assumption. Biden said the problem was the Republican tactic of "cutting regulations;" he blamed "the tried and true Republican response, deregulate, deregulate. ... You had actually the belief that Wall Street could self-regulate itself." Morever, "John [McCain] recently wrote an article in a major magazine saying that he wants to do for the health care industry deregulate it and let the free market move like he did for the banking industry."

Biden's message is that the free market doesn't work, deregulation equals the free market, deregulation has failed, and government controls are the alternative to deregulation.

Unfortunately, Republicans often have used the term "deregulation" because they don't want to talk about the fundamental issue: individual rights. Because they don't favor individual rights. As Bush II has proved, Republicans (in general, not in every particular) are enthusiastic about government controls and political power.

The problem is that the term "regulation" is a package deal. "Regulation" means to make regular. Well, we want things to be regular, don't we, as opposed to irregular? For example, the Constitution grants to Congress the power "To regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states..." Those of us of the individual-rights persuasion like to think of that clause as granting to Congress the ability to "make regular" trade; that is, to free it of state interference.

Government plays a crucial regulatory role. The proper role of government is to protect individual rights. In the sphere of economics, that means protecting property rights and the right to contract. It means fighting fraud. It means eliminating the initiation of force. In those functions, the government regulates -- makes regular -- the economy. Protecting individual rights is regulation.

But what Biden means by "regulation" is a host of federal controls that violate, rather than protect, individual rights. These rights-violating controls do not make the economy "regular;" they make it irregular and chaotic. For example, the federal controls that forced lenders to make risky loans are "regulations" of this sort. The mortgage crisis is a crisis not of the free market, not of the regulation of protecting individual rights, but of the "regulations" of government controls that violate rights of property and contract.

What we need is not some out-of-context "deregulation" or "regulation." What we need is a government that protects individual rights rather than violates them. That is the very definition of the free market. That is what Joe Biden condemns, and what Sarah Palin cannot even conceive.

Update: As disturbed as I've been by the Rocky Mountain News's endorsement of the bailout, the paper has done a good job at pointing to the federal policies that caused the crisis. In its Friday editorial, the News rightly complains that Palin "let Biden largely escape with his (and Obama’s) tedious riff that the current implosion on Wall Street is largely a result of Republican deregulation -- when Democrats were by and large the strongest defenders of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac's trip into the wild side of lending."

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Gordon Explains CO Ballot Shakeup

State Senator Ken Gordon provides important news about this year's ballot. I disagree with some of his analysis, but I'll save those comments for another time.

I got my (now outdated) Blue Book in the mail a day or two ago; it's also online.There are now 14, not 18, ballot measures. Following is Gordon's message:

* * *

When something dramatic happens in Colorado politics, I like to send out a "Flash Update" so that people on my email list can be the first on their block to know.

I just walked over to the Capitol from the press conference where Governor Ritter and members of the labor and business community announced an agreement that affects seven of the ballot measure on this fall's ballot. This qualifies as dramatic.

The genesis of the problem was a decision by a businessman to put Amendment 47 on the ballot. Amendment 47, called by its proponents "Right to Work," makes it impossible for employees to vote for a union shop. This makes it very hard for unions to organize because every employee of a business gets the benefit of the unions' collective bargaining whether or not they support the union. There is no incentive for an employee to pay union dues. "Right to Work" has been proposed numerous times in the legislature and has never passed. Employees earn less money in "Right to Work" states and have fewer benefits. The unions call it the "Right to Work for Less."

In response, unions put Amendments 53, 55, 56 and 57 on the ballot. These measures created criminal responsibility for business executives, required an explanation for the termination of an employee, required businesses to give health care to all workers and created additional remedies for injured workers. Business felt that if these measures passed new businesses would avoid Colorado, and businesses already here would leave.

Negotiations around removing all of the measures have been going on for months. Most of the business community felt that the labor-business climate in Colorado was fine, and that they didn't need "Right to Work," so they tried to persuade its backers to remove it. They were unsuccessful.

The agreement announced today was that labor would withdraw Amendments 53, 55, 56, and 57, and the mainstream business community will help labor oppose "Right to Work," which is Amendment 47 and two other Amendments (49 and 54) which are problematic for labor. The Labor-Business combined message is "Oppose Amendments 47, 49 and 54."

Governor Ritter helped broker this deal, and it seems that both the labor and mainstream business community acted like responsible adults. The proponents of Amendment 47 were excessively ideological and rigid, not acting in the best interests of Colorado.

This whole topic raises questions about the use of ballot measures and the relative ease for monied interests to get matters on the ballot. It is an argument for Ref O which makes it somewhat harder to get Constitutional Amendments on the ballot, but this is a topic for more discussion at a later date. I wanted to get this out quickly, so I will end now.

As always, don't hesitate to write back with comments or questions, and feel free to forward or republish this email in any format.

Sincerely,

Ken Gordon
Majority Leader
Colorado Senate

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Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Media Cheerleaders Push Bailout

I am stunned by the level of media cheerleading for the bailout. This is quite possibly the most serious example of journalistic dereliction of duty in my lifetime. Every news story I've read on the matter is grotesquely biased in favor of the bailout. While the editorial pages I've seen have been little better, at least some of them have passed along substantive dissenting views.

Nevertheless, one can learn some interesting facts from the news accounts; even cheerleaders often follow the game. I'll take a peek at the Associated Press article currently leading at the web page of the Rocky Mountain News.

The article relates the statement of Senator Wayne Allard, who voted against the bailout:

“In considering proposals to stabilize the economy, taxpayers have always been my top priority,” said Allard. “In creating this $700 billion package, Congress held no hearings, nor did it use a process to provide a reasonable assurance that this proposal would even work. I am unwilling to leave a huge legacy of debt for generations to come without confidence that it would be worth the price.

“I have always believed that the government should live within its means and thus have opposed increasing the federal debt limit. The bill before Congress would increase the national debt to a whopping $11.3 trillion. I believe that Congress can find a way to unfreeze the credit markets without unfairly penalizing American families for the greed and mismanagement on Wall Street.” ...


It would have been pleasant if Allard had correctly identified the cause of the crisis -- primarily federal encouragement of risky loans -- rather than blame the foggy "greed and mismanagement on Wall Street." (Senator Ken Salazar, who voted in favor, says he's "angry and frustrated" that "the economy has reached this point." But "the economy" is the sum total of all the players, including the federal politicians who caused the crisis.)

But at least Allard points to the simple fact that all this money is going to come from... thin air. Meaning inflationary, deficit spending.

The AP relates: "Senators loaded the economic rescue bill with tax breaks and other sweeteners..." That's grand. At the same time the federal government is going to be spending more money, it's going to be taking in less money. Tax cuts without corresponding spending cuts are worthless -- except insofar as they cloak redistributions of wealth.

What are the other "sweeteners?" Federal backing of more bank deposits. So that banks can mismanage their assets without scaring their customers. Various other forms of tax cuts (again without any corresponding spending restraints). "$8 billion in tax relief for those hit by natural disasters in the Midwest, Texas and Louisiana." "Help for rural schools was aimed mainly at lawmakers in the West." Because what we need right now is even more deficit spending, even more forced wealth transfers. The article's closing paragraph contains this gem: "The rescue bill hitched a ride on a popular measure that gives people with mental illness better health insurance coverage." I don't know the details of this, but presumably it's some sort of mandate that will transfer certain insurance costs to other premium payers.

As the AP summarizes, "the long list of sweeteners [the Senate] added was designed to attract votes from various constituencies." In other words, the $700 billion transfer by itself didn't pay off enough special-interest groups.

And if all that weren't comforting enough, Victor Davis Hanson offers a a heartening preview of the foreign-policy implications of America's economic woes.

This thought has been crossing my mind quite a lot lately: certain things are starting to feel altogether too much like the decaying world of Atlas Shrugged.

But, hey, who is John Galt?

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Colorado Republican Committee Pushes Anti-Abortion Agenda

Some Colorado Republicans want to overturn Roe v. Wade and outlaw abortion, and they've funded a flyer to promote that agenda. The flyer was redistributed by the Republican Majority for Choice -- with criticisms. That group recently hosted an event featuring former Senator Hank Brown.

The flyer, "Paid for by Colorado Republican Committee," urges recipients to vote for candidates who will appoint Supreme Court justices "who will protect life," euphemism for outlaw abortion.

Meanwhile, "21st Century Colorado" continues to hammer Libby Szabo over her answers to a Colorado Right to Life survey. That group's flyer makes it clear that Szabo is a Republican; she is shown with President Bush near the Republican logo. (That side of the flyer is not provided here.) Colorado Republicans certainly are making themselves easy targets for the Democrats. Maybe someday they'll learn that faith-based politics turns off freedom-minded independent voters, as well as Republicans who respect the separation of church and state. But the latest GOP flyer reminds us not to count on it.




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Capitalism In Two Minutes

After my dad and I wrote a column criticizing candidates for their general inability to defend capitalism, one of the candidates asked us if we could defend capitalism in two minutes. Granted that it's easier to write something down than to come up with it spontaneously, following is what I came up with (which obviously owes a great deal to Ayn Rand):

Capitalism is the only economic system that recognizes the right of each individual to his own life and pursuit of happiness. Under capitalism, the government's sole responsibility is to protect individual rights, including the right to life, the right to control one's own property consistent with the equal rights of others, and the right to interact voluntarily. No person may use force against any other except in lawful self-defense.

Capitalism does not mean today's mixed economy, in which some property is held by individuals, some by the government, in which politicians control most aspects of the economy with reams of controls, in which nearly half of all produced wealth is forcibly redistributed by politicians. Do not blame capitalism for the current economic mess, which was caused by government-controlled lending institutions and political rules that forced other lenders to make risky loans.

Capitalism is the only system that recognizes the right of each individual to live by his own judgment. Each person is free to choose what to study, how long to study, what career to pursue, when to change careers, how long to work, where to live, where to shop, and where to recreate. However, no person may force anyone else to provide any good, service, job, or relationship. To get something from someone else, each individual must freely trade to get it or rely on gifts given voluntarily. Because each individual acts on his own judgment, capitalism is the system geared to the production of wealth. Individuals can make economic mistakes, but when they do they are less able to induce others to exchange goods and services. Capitalism thus forbids all political action beyond the protection of rights as instances of force, the effect of which is to disrupt the rational plans of individuals as they produce and interact. Capitalism rewards good judgment and productivity, leading to an increasingly wealthy society in which any honest, hard-working person can prosper and the most productive can keep what they richly deserve.

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Economist Akacem Opposes Bailout

Metro State economist Mohammed Akacem adds his voice to those who oppose the bailout in today's Rocky Mountain News:

... Supporters of the bailout warn us against the systemic risk involved if we do not do anything. Well, of course there is financial pain involved, but we need to decide whom we want to feel the pain. Should those who were responsible for causing this debacle -- whether banks or unwise borrowers -- pay for this? Or should the innocent taxpayer who had nothing to do with it in the first place pay for it?

Just as the supporters of the bailout warned us about what could happen if we did not go along in order to scare us into submission, it is time to warn them about what could happen if we do. Rewarding risky behavior simply invites more of it. It is called moral hazard. If we decide to remain hostage to the too-big-to-fail doctrine and succumb to the fearmongering that goes along with it, we might as well say goodbye to the market economy as we know it. ...


Paul Hsieh also quotes some good commentary opposing the bailout. And the Ayn Rand Center has put up a web page devoted to the matter.

For a couple of more humorous takes on the mess, see recent posts by Diana and Paul. In fact, the last post is so funny -- so painfully funny -- that I'll repost it below:

SUBJECT: REQUEST FOR URGENT BUSINESS RELATIONSHIP

DEAR AMERICAN:

I NEED TO ASK YOU TO SUPPORT AN URGENT SECRET BUSINESS RELATIONSHIP WITH A TRANSFER OF FUNDS OF GREAT MAGNITUDE.

I AM MINISTRY OF THE TREASURY OF THE REPUBLIC OF AMERICA. MY COUNTRY HAS HAD CRISIS THAT HAS CAUSED THE NEED FOR LARGE TRANSFER OF FUNDS OF 800 BILLION DOLLARS US. IF YOU WOULD ASSIST ME IN THIS TRANSFER, IT WOULD BE MOST PROFITABLE TO YOU.

I AM WORKING WITH MR. PHIL GRAM, LOBBYIST FOR UBS, WHO WILL BE MY REPLACEMENT AS MINISTRY OF THE TREASURY IN JANUARY. AS A SENATOR, YOU MAY KNOW HIM AS THE LEADER OF THE AMERICAN BANKING DEREGULATION MOVEMENT IN THE 1990S. THIS TRANSACTIN IS 100% SAFE.

THIS IS A MATTER OF GREAT URGENCY. WE NEED A BLANK CHECK. WE NEED THE FUNDS AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE. WE CANNOT DIRECTLY TRANSFER THESE FUNDS IN THE NAMES OF OUR CLOSE FRIENDS BECAUSE WE ARE CONSTANTLY UNDER SURVEILLANCE. MY FAMILY LAWYER ADVISED ME THAT I SHOULD LOOK FOR A RELIABLE AND TRUSTWORTHY PERSON WHO WILL ACT AS A NEXT OF KIN SO THE FUNDS CAN BE TRANSFERRED.

PLEASE REPLY WITH ALL OF YOUR BANK ACCOUNT, IRA AND COLLEGE FUND ACCOUNT NUMBERS AND THOSE OF YOUR CHILDREN AND GRANDCHILDREN TO WALLSTREETBAILOUT@TREASURY.GOV
SO THAT WE MAY TRANSFER YOUR COMMISSION FOR THIS TRANSACTION. AFTER I RECEIVE THAT INFORMATION, I WILL RESPOND WITH DETAILED INFORMATION ABOUT SAFEGUARDS THAT WILL BE USED TO PROTECT THE FUNDS.

YOURS FAITHFULLY MINISTER OF TREASURY PAULSON

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