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Monday, February 28, 2005

Your Home is Your Castle

Florida legislators are getting at least a few things right. S.B. 436, if passed, will authorize homeowners to use deadly foce against intruders. It's unfortunate that we need a law for such a common-sense idea, but it's moving in the right direction.

Bill Would Paint Target on Backs of Intruders
By Alisa Ulferts at The St. Petersburg Times

Under current law, homeowners cannot use deadly force unless they believe an intruder intends to kill them or a loved one, or severely harm them. Although criminal case law tends to favor homeowners, anyone who kills an intruder can be arrested.

Would you burglarize this guy?Under the bill, anyone who breaks into an occupied house or car would be presumed to have deadly intent. Victims would no longer have to determine the intruder's intent.

"You can't expect a victim to wait and ask, "Excuse me, Mr. Criminal, are you going to rape me and kill me, or are you just going to beat me up and steal my television?' " said Marion Hammer, lobbyist for the National Rifle Association.

The bill has law enforcement support because it does not allow homeowners to shoot law officers who legally break into homes, such as when they believe someone is in harm or evidence is being destroyed.

"I think if you talked to the average Joe or Jane Citizen they would say, "There ought to be a law.' This is your chance to make a law," said David Murrell, lobbyist for the Florida Police Benevolent Association.

The bill does not allow people to shoot intruders outside the home.

read more

Props: Florida Politics

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

What We Think II

I am working on submitting a few pieces for What We Think II by College Tree Publishing. I encourage any of my young readers to do the same.

Posted on the message board:

Hello! I just stumbled on your site. I am Seth Spores, the Libertarian/Centrist leaning editor for College Tree Publishing.

What We Think: Young Voters Speak OutWe contacted hundreds of university and college conservative, libertarian, green and liberal groups, political science departments, and university news papers and requested essay submissions from people in the 17 to 25 year old age group on political and social issues. The end result was What We Think: Young Voters Speak Out, which was put out nationally in late October. The book was meant to be a running forum for political expression of America's youngest voting demographic, and in that regard has been a success. Since the book was published in October, the book has already received national press on CNN, MSNBC, an hour long special on CSPAN-Book TV and has been nominated for the Franklin Award.

We are a non-partisan company possessing a Republican, Democrat and Libertarian leaning editor, trying to give fair and equal voice to all ideologies present among college age youth. We are currently accepting submissions for our next two books, What We Think 2 and What We Think About God and looking to increase the number of well written pieces. Our goal is to receive 10,000 submissions from now through summer, and to publish the top 200 to 300 in late third quarter.

Because there seems to be a liberal leaning on most college campuses, we are trying to branch away from requesting submissions through simply the college scene. Hence, I am contacting many blogs and other forms of media not necessarily connected to Universities, in hopes of reaching a wider base of essayists. We would like to know if you would run a short story on your blog, stating that we are requesting submissions for national publication. We'd love to have people who are already writing for your site submit to us. All authors are given full credit for their work, a short bio is dedicated to them in the back of the books, and we've been arranging book signings and talks across the country for authors in our current edition so these young authors get the credit and visibility they deserve.

Please feel free to contact us with questions or requests for more information,
Seth Charles Guy Spores
Editor and Co-Founder of College Tree Publishing
509-483-4079 (Office)

I'll post updates.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

On the Japanese Internment

Today, February 19, is the Japanese-American Internment Day of Remembrance. Stephen Gordon posts a brief history in photographs of bigotry in America with a warning: Don't let it happen again.


Props: Flash of Freedom

On the LP Reform Movement

I often get discouraged about the state we're in.
Virtually every news story points to more government expansion and control, more weathering away of the vision that was the Founder's America. Public discouraged facediscourse has shifted to a position where the discussion assumes that government can solve any problem at hand; we debate how the government should solve the problem rather than the extent to which government should be involved and how the problem began in the first place. We debate trivial facts rather than ideals and principles. My generation totally suxors (how else to describe the youth's patent inability to think? -s), for a variety of reasons, and the entrenched academia is aligned staunchly against us. What's more, the opposition force we make up is desperately undersupplied and unorganized. The National Libertarian Party, which should be a shining beacon for the hundreds of thousands of disenfranchised, both Republicans and Democrats, during this dismal period of American history, is increasingly on the fringe. The National Headquarters' inability or refusal to foster an online community and an organized activist network is leading us on the path to extinction. I believe the majority of Americans already agree with us, fundamentally. They only need to be presented our ideas in a rational, moderate, common-sense manner. Frankly, the National LP leadership is making this difficult to do.

Thankfully, the hard work of Stephen VanDyke and Stephen Gordon will pay off soon. They'll soon go live with their "libertarian supersite," a network and central hub for blogs, political campaigns, activist efforts, and fundraising. An excerpt from Stephen VanDyke's post:

Anyone will be able to sign up and start their own journal, or integrate an existing blog into the site via RSS or permanent migration and redirection (I will eventually be migrating Hammer of Truth into the new site permanently). While there will of course be issues that we still have not tackled, we hope to create a central meeting place for libertarians in order to harness the numbers we do have and grow the potential numbers at our horizon.

This will begin the jumping point for the masses of libertarianism to grow as a political voice, regardless of whether our own stuffy relic of a political party wants to let control be wrenched from its hands or not. Sadly, there is one thing they should have realized: they never had a choice.

excited faceI am genuinely excited to be a part of this. That is why this project is so great, why it will succeed. Everyone will contribute, regardless of how modest or insignificant their independent role in the blogosphere. This project will result in something far greater than the sum of its parts.

This is a big deal.

Props: The New Libertarian, Hammer of Truth, Flash of Freedom

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Abortion and the Right to Life

There is an interesting discussion regarding abortion going on at Ken Grandlund's blog, Common Sense. My comments:

I do not suggest that life is sanctified. But the fact remains that every individual is the sole owner of his body and life. This is not a religious principle, it is a rationalist one derived from the facts of nature and reached through reason and common sense. Except when the pregnancy endangers the mother's life, there is absolutely no scenario in which the abortion of a person should be legal.

Congratulations, it's dead.On the flip side, it seems to me that the abortion of a fetus before it becomes a person ought to be totally legal and unregulated. There are many things that are "bad for us" that I am sure you do not advocate state intervention in. I am proud to be able to eat Hardee's Monster Burgers and Oreo cookies and occasionally stay up all night reading blogs. These things are bad for me, but making the personal decision of whether or not or how often I will partake in them confirms my status as a sovereign individual; society has no right to dictate how I use my own personal private property, in this case the property being my body. How do abortions differ? Fundamentally, how are they different than ear piercings, tattoos, or liposuction? From where does society assert the right to dictate to a woman how she uses her own body? This essay and your recent one on the drug war seem to contradict each other.

Essentially, there is no gray area in this debate. Either a given fetus is a person and owns its life, or it is only a part of the mother's body, no more of an individual person than her arm or foot is. If yes, it is murder, in every sense of that word, to abort it. If no, then the question of whether or not to abort the particular pregnancy becomes an amoral one -- the fetus has no rights to consider.

Your attempt to remove religion from the debate also removes ethics, the most central and crucial branch of philosophy. Popular opinion ought not have any weight in this discussion.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

About-Face of the Gingrich Brigade

Republicans love big government! It's not very often that I'm tempted to insert expletives into my posts, but this is certainly an exception. God damnit, stop voting for them!

from The New York Times

The Revolution that Wasn't
Sheryl Gay Stolberg

WASHINGTON — If the history of the Republican revolution were being written today, a single overarching question would have to be answered: Whatever happened to the promise of smaller government?

That question was asked again last week, when President Bush unveiled a $2.57 trillion budget for 2006, the largest in the nation's history. The cuts he called for, in areas like veterans' medical care, farm subsidies and vocational training, were met in Washington with doubts that they would ever get through the Republican Congress.

"Republicans have lost their way," lamented Newt Gingrich, the government-slashing firebrand of a decade ago.

The About Face of the Gingrich BrigadeIn 1995, a band of 73 freshman Republicans swept into the House of Representatives, with Mr. Gingrich as their speaker. Flush with ideological zeal and determined to get government off the backs of the people, as Ronald Reagan would say, they pushed through a budget resolution that called for eliminating scores of programs and three federal departments.

Their fervor was so politically potent that in 1996, a Democratic president, Bill Clinton, declared, "The era of big government is over."

Yet government has only grown. The Cato Institute, a libertarian research institution, says overall federal spending has increased twice as fast under Mr. Bush as under Mr. Clinton. At the same time, the federal deficit is projected to hit a record high of $427 billion this year.

These trends seem likely to continue. The White House estimated last week that the cost of prescription drugs for Medicare beneficiaries, originally projected at $400 billion from 2004 to 2013, would, in fact, be $724 billion from 2006 to 2015. Republicans called for scaling back the benefit, but on Friday, Mr. Bush said no and vowed to veto any changes to the Medicare bill...

read more

Click on the picture inset to see the full size graph. I'd love to have it printed on a poster. It would be so useful for beating people over the head with.

Props: Marginal Revolution, Mises Economics Blog

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Over-Regulation and Drug Prices

Does the FDA cause the prescription drug crisis? Its regulations force companies to spend decades testing life-saving drugs before they can be brought to market and make many drugs for treating relatively rare diseases economically impossible. Two new studies examine the financial costs.

A study by Joseph DiMasi, Ronald Hansen, and Henry Grabowski and published in the Journal of Health Economics in 2003 found that the average total cost to pharmaceutical companies of developing a new drug is $802 million. Responding to criticisms that these results were doctored or fake, two economists at the Federal Trade Commission attempted to replicate the study using a different data set. They concluded that the actual number is substantially higher, somewhere between $839 and $868 million. They also point out that certain drugs, for instance, drugs for treating AIDS, are developed at nearly half of the cost of developing the average drug and suggest that this difference is due to differences in regulatory policy.

Discussions of these studies here and here at Marginal Revolution.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Stephen VanDyke's Politics of Fear

Stephen VanDyke created this beautiful poster to market the Libertarian Party's foreign policy positions. We are not anti-war.

Props: Hammer of Truth

Friday, February 11, 2005

Kim Jong Il is a Dickhead

Just look at him.

It's rare for a news item to make me genuinely angry. Here's one that does.

North Korea has Executed Seventy Returned Refugees

Kim Jong Il the DickheadSEOUL, Feb 11 (Reuters) - North Korea has executed about 70 refugees who were captured in China and sent home, a South Korean group that helps North Korean refugees said on Friday, citing informants in China.

The Commission to Help North Korean Refugees, a private, Seoul-based conservative group, said about eight or nine of the 70 executed last month were put to death in public to discourage others from trying to slip across the border into China.

This guy is a maniacal murderer. He ought to be dealt with just as soon as he starts making those nuclear threats. And the sooner the better.

Jesus, if any country needs "liberation," if any country is "a threat to the civilized world," it's North Korea, not Iraq or Iran.

Props: Deleted by Tomorrow

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Attention Randroids:

I'm a few days overdue for the obligatory "libertarian-blogger's-Rand-centennial-post" post. Actually, I'm a few days overdue for any kind of post. So, without any further ado...

First, I have some email to share from some guy named David Gulbraa:

Dear Admirer of Ayn Rand,

Peter Schwartz, chairman of the board of directors of the Ayn Rand Institute, is scheduled to appear on C-SPAN 2 this coming Saturday, February 12, 2005 at 11:30 a.m. Eastern Time. Mr. Schwartz was taped by C-SPAN giving a speech and answering questions on "The Virtue of Selfishness" at the recent Ayn Rand Centenary celebration. This program is two hours long. Please check your local listings for program times in your area.

I suppose I'll watch this, or at least record it and mean to watch it for a few weeks. And I'll write about it, too.

Also, I finally got around to reading Ayn Rand at 100 by Cathy Young in the latest Reason Magazine. Here are a few comments and highlights.

Reading Rand's philosophy can be an exhilarating, head-turning experience... Rand's rejection of the moral code that condemns selfishness as the ultimate evil and holds up self-sacrifice as the ultimate good is a radical challenge to received wisdom, an invitation to a startlingly new way to see the world... In Rand's hands, the "virtue of selfishness" was not a dry, abstract rationalist construct with a bloodless "economic man" at its center. It became a bold, ardent vision of defiance, struggle, creative achievement, joy, and romantic love.

"Exhilarating" certainly is a good description. I might go so far as to use "emotional." Even a large portion of her nonfiction writing is exciting to read, most notably the essays in For the New Intellectual, The Virtue of Selfishness, and Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. While reading, she seems to anticipate your own thought process and complete your ideas for you, mid-thought. And it's certainly rousing when she reminds you insistantly that you've really been right all along, even if you didn't know it. "Whatever we are, it's we who move the world, and it's we who'll pull it through." I read Atlas Shrugged the summer before my sophomore year, and lines like that one still stick in my mind.

Perhaps Rand's biggest error was the totalism of her philosophy. Having rightly concluded that the values of the free market were moral, she went on to make the sweeping assertion that those values were the only moral ones, and that all human relations must be based on the principles of "trade."

I always get lost everytime she uses a phrase such as "morality of death" or the like when describing non-Objectivists. Couldn't a utilitarian call Objectivism a "morality of suffering," just because it doesn't hold humanity's net happiness as its highest goal? Whatever.

Politically, too, Rand's insistence on de-emphasizing, or even denigrating, family, community, and private charity is not a particularly clever tactic for capitalism's defenders. These are the very institutions that can be expected, in the absence of a massive welfare state, to meet those human needs that people prove unable to satisfy through the market.

Amen, preach it sister! Listen up, Randroids.

Rand's unshakable belief in the power of the human mind led her to refuse to recognize the mental deterioration of her husband, Frank O'Connor, and she tormented him with exercises in "psycho-epistemology." When she herself was diadnosed with cancer, she refused to disclose her illness publicly, evidently because she believed, according to Barbara Branden, that cancer was the result of philosophical and psychological errors.

Rand was definitely an extremist, attempting to apply her philosophy unilaterally to every conceivable aspect of human life. This is most clearly seen, in my opinion, in her essays concerning emotion and art in The Romantic Manifesto. She was absolutely positive of the perfection and completeness of her work, even to the point of refusing to stand behind it in debate if she viewed it to be beneath her. Among her close followers in New York City, a strict dogma was adhered to. Many were ostracized for mundane differences of opinion or reading the work of a frowned-upon author. Reading a non-Objectivist's book, even for the purpose of rebutting the author's ideas, gave that author's work the reader's "moral sanction," Rand asserted.

For all her flaws, Rand remains a towering figure on the last century’s cultural landscape. She arose in an era of competing totalitarian ideologies and declared that communism and Nazism were not opposites but evil twins, and that their true opposite was freedom. In an era when collectivism was seen as the way of the future, she unapologetically asserted the worth of the individual and his right to exist for himself, and declared the spiritual dimension of material achievement. In an age of existential doubt, she offered a celebration of creativity, of the human mind, of the joy of life on this earth.

This, I think, summarizes the whole of Rand's work. Life and happiness were her moral goals. That joy is a moral virtue, that man's nature is to be beautiful and great, that is quite an uplifting message indeed.

"I need no warrant for being, and no word of sanction upon my being. I am the warrant and the sanction."

"Show me your achievement, and the knowledge will give me courage for mine."
--The Fountainhead

"The world you desired can be won, it exists, it is real, it is possible, it's yours. But to win it requires total dedication and a total break with the world of your past, with the doctrine that man is sacrificial animal who exists for the pleasure of others. Fight for the value of your person. Fight for the virtue of your pride. Fight for the essence, which is man, for his sovereign rational mind. Fight with the radiant certainty and the absolute rectitude of knowing that yours is the morality of life and yours is the battle for any achievement, any value, any grandeur, any goodness, any joy that has ever existed on this earth."
--Atlas Shrugged

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Political Bumper Stickers

I came across a site selling political bumper stickers yesterday, Here are some of my favorites:

The Invasion of Iraq has Made You Less Safe. FDR: No Longer the Worst President in History. What's So Conservative About the Biggest Budget in the History of the Whole World? Ron Paul for Chief Justice Don't Blame Me, Libertarians Never Win Screw Left and Right - Choose Liberty The Right is Wrong, The Left is Stupid There's Nothing Conservative About Being a Republican Government is Best Which Governs Least Only Congress Can Declare War

If anybody from drops by here, maybe I should get a couple freebies, eh?

Instant Runoff Sucks - an Update

This is an update to my earlier post about Instant Runoff Voting. I want to clarify my position that 1) IRV sucks and pursuing it is a huge waste of energy, 2) Condorcet and Approval Voting are both superior to IRV, and 3) Condorcet is the most accurate method, but the cost of switching to it make it an impractical short-term goal.

I fully support Approval Voting as an immediate solution to the problems caused by the current system. Approval Voting allows the voter to vote for multiple candidates for a single office. For instance, I would have voted only for Michael Badnarik, but my family could have voted for both Badnarik and President Bush. Implementation would not require any new equipment, and the alterations to the existing ballot design would be limited to changing the wording of the instructions from "choose one" to "choose as many as you wish." It can be implemented immediately and costlessly, and is a huge advancement over Plurality Voting and much better than Instant Runoff. Approval Voting is not as accurate as Condorcet, but the potential financial costs and the learning curve that would be associated with switching to Condorcet make Condorcet desirable as a long-term goal. Approval Voting is a practical solution with definite positive results that can be implemented TODAY.