Oconee Liquor Referendum: A Vote Less Traveled

“Shall the governing authority of Oconee County be authorized to issue licenses to sell distilled spirits for beverage purposes by the drink, such sales to be for consumption only on the premises?”

 

This is a difficult question for the principled libertarian. It’s a bit like asking the antebellum electorate whether a law requiring slave-owners to not separate families should be passed. Obviously that would be an improvement but the very asking implies consent with the legitimacy of the immoral institution of slavery. Likewise allowing business owners slightly more flexibility in what they are permitted to offer to their voluntary, paying customers is a step in the right direction. But, one must also recognize that such approval implies acquiescence to the right of existence of a “governing authority” that can by decree or popular vote dictate what some people may or may not do with their own justly acquired private property within the invisible lines that define this particular segment of planet Earth as Oconee county. Ethically no such “governing authority” should exist.

To understand why this is so consider the following: People of different religious beliefs can all live side by side in the same community without any (well almost) desire to force their neighbor to conform to their particular set of beliefs. But when those beliefs are secular in nature suddenly it makes perfect sense that the beliefs of the majority are the ones that should govern not merely that majority, but all who live amongst that majority and within an arbitrary boundary. There is no logical basis as to why one type of belief should be respected and another type ignored when it comes to majoritarian impositions on one’s neighbors.

If you don’t want to imbibe a real tequila based margarita, then don’t, but you have no more of a right to tell someone else that they cannot then does an old school Catholic have the right to tell you that you can’t eat meat on Fridays or the Jew to tell you that you must power down all electrical devices for the Sabbath. Indeed it is curious that one extreme segment of the Christian community is so vociferous in their opposition to this referendum. Setting aside the ecclesiastical distortions that lead some to the opinion that alcohol is evil; there is no evidence Jesus ever said his teachings were best enforced by state decree. Following His word willingly is the only gift we can give Him. But a gift given under duress is no gift at all. Such laws rob others of the opportunity to make that willing gift. But, I digress.

Although on the one hand most Americans will espouse support for the ideas of liberty, respecting the rights of the individual and generally minding our own business, when they go into the voting booth those same Americans will engage in a process that is the antithesis of those concepts. Consequentialism, utilitarianism, call it what you will, but that is the thought process that drives many. Rights are important, but if people exercise the right to do X then that might result in Y, therefore WE can’t allow this. The ends justify the means and our rights are trimmed on the altar of Might Be. Recognizing possible deleterious scenarios and working to minimize them is fine – as long as the methods employed do not resort to aggression, that is, the initiation of violence against another. That is what law, ordinances and licenses are – implied aggression. Implied aggression becomes actual aggression if the ordinance or license is ignored.

“But without ordinances and licenses there would be chaos” is the usual rejoinder. No, there would not be chaos. There would simply be a different outcome. Different does not equal chaos. Chaos is simply code for “not the outcome I personally want to see.” But the individual is not powerless to prevent that which they fear in a world of voluntary societies free of coercive “governing authorities”. If you don’t want to see certain kinds of businesses or land use patterns within a certain distance from your residence then you can join like-minded people and put your money where your mouth is. Buy up all the land around you, and then you are free to decide how it is used. If that is too expensive then this is society’ way of telling you that it values other uses for that land more highly than you value it for the purpose you desire. Who are you to argue with society? After all, the people have spoken.

October 20 / 2014
Author Greg Morin
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Come Fly with Me

Media bias is often subtle. Those that know the whole story are aware when a slanted viewpoint arises from omitted information. Then again, there are times the “reporter” simply is unable to contain his zeal and so takes aim at his subject with all the adjectival and adverbial firepower he can muster. I don’t normally do this but I came across just such a hyperbolically biased story this week and can only perform a proper critique in blow-by-blow style. The editorial, err, I mean news story concerns a Democrat congressman Alan Grayson (Florida, 9th district) who is hell bent on tilting his lance at the proverbial windmill that is airline frequent-flier programs. Good to know our elected representatives devote their energies to solving the most pressing of ills in the world. The article, penned by a Christopher Elliott, appears in the Washington Post and by the fourth word the author is well on his way to making his opinion known. According to him such programs are “rigged to favor airlines, deceive passengers and cost consumers billions of dollars.” Rigged? Deceived? Yeah, no judgment calls there. And “cost consumers” – I’m still scratching my head on that one. How does giving consumers free stuff “cost” them billions? Next we have a quote from the good Congressman:

“Frequent flyer programs are prone to manipulation by the airlines that control them,” he wrote, likening the estimated $700 billion worth of miles to an unregulated currency. “Airlines establish the rules, the terms, the value, expiration dates, and the sales pitches.” To earn more money, airlines are constantly devaluing this de facto currency, which is “profitable for the airlines, and costly for the consumer,” wrote Grayson.”

An unregulated currency! Say it isn’t so! Every decent God-fearing person knows that unregulated = pure evil. How dare those airlines establish rules, terms and values for a VOLUNTARY PROGRAM THAT GIVES THEIR CUSTOMERS FREE GOODS? What’s next, regulating the toys in a happy meal (oh, right, that already happened). But the final bit is the height of hypocrisy. The congressman bemoans airlines devaluing the FREE STUFF they give their customers while oblivious that his employer (the Federal Government) purposefully devalues (through inflation) the US dollar every year. Such inflation (devaluing) is profitable for the government and costly for the consumer because each dollar buys less each year. Wait a minute, no, could it be? Could it be that this inflation is the proximate cause of the decreasing value of miles and other consumer complaints (fees for baggage, narrowing seats, etc.)? When inflation affects the value of money there are two ways for businesses to respond: raise the money price of the goods, or lower the goods price of the money, that is, less stuff for the same nominal money price. No one wants to be the one to raise money prices as that “seen” figure is obvious, but, decreasing the goods received is relatively “unseen” because people normally pay attention to the price of the can, not how much is in it.

The article then moves onto what irritates all progressives: inequality, even voluntary inequality. The fact that we are not all clones of each other with the exact same skills, drive, desires and tastes induces apoplexy in the progressive. For it is only in just such a world could their utopian ideal of equality not of negative rights, but of outcomes, be realized. The author states:

“Thanks to loyalty programs, airlines have completely separated their most valued customers from the rest. They lavish top spenders with perks while forcing the less valuable passengers to sit in shrinking seats and pay fees for services that should come with every ticket, such as a seat reservation and the ability to check one bag without paying extra for the privilege. Frequent-flier programs have widened the airborne caste system to the point where it’s hard to believe everyone’s on the same plane. They’re making air travel worse for all but a few privileged elites, according to critics.”

Allow me to parse this. Is he honestly saying that businesses should not be able to “discriminate” amongst their clientele by rewarding their biggest customers in a way that incentives those customers to remain their customers? Words like “lavish” and “forcing” leave the reader with the impression airlines are an aristocratic institution that “lavishes” perks on totally random people they just happen to like for no reason at all and then “force” the rest of us to ride their planes at gunpoint… after forcibly removing money from our wallet for the ticket. Oh, wait, only the state can force people to buy a product at gunpoint.

You know what Mr. Elliott, you can be part of that caste too if you like, no revolution necessary. It’s totally voluntary; just pay for the level of service you desire. No “force” involved – and in case you forgot “force” means weapons, which is what the state has and the airlines don’t.

October 20 / 2014

I’ve got a tip that will change your life…

Last week I touched on a handful of stories concerning police and civilian interaction that ended in tragedy. This week I’d like to focus on a story that should serve as a wake up call to anyone who has ever thought “not my problem” because “that stuff only happens to shady characters or people who hang around shady characters.”

David Hooks, 59, of East Dublin, Georgia was the poster-boy for least likely to be associated with a criminal element. He owned a construction company that routinely worked on military bases. Such work required numerous background checks at both the state and federal level (Department of Homeland Security and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms). Short of being vetted by the CIA you couldn’t ask for anyone with a cleaner background. This is not to suggest that those with “clean records” are incapable of committing crimes but rather that such people are statistically as likely to commit a crime as any of us are (I presume my readers also have clean records!).

So what irresponsible action on his part resulted in him becoming yet another casualty of Prohibition (the war on drugs)? Why he allowed his truck, sitting in his driveway, to be broken into and his SUV to be stolen. It turns out the guy who stole the truck, Rodney Garrett, (a self-described thief and meth addict) turned himself in to the cops claiming he found a bag of methamphetamine in the truck and thus “became scared for his safety.” So, based solely on this hearsay of a tip, a warrant was issued to search Hook’s home. Now, if the cops had executed this warrant the way the 4th Amendment intended (and the way it used to be done) there would have been no problem. They would have sent one or two squad cars over to the house, politely knocked on the door, served and then executed the warrant. They would have found nothing, hopefully apologized for the trouble, cleaned up after themselves and left.

But that is not what happened. Those accused of drug crimes, even mere possession, are presumed to be clones of Al Pacino’s “Scarface”, AK-47 at the ready 24/7. So, under a presumption of Hook’s guilt, the Laurens County Drug Task Force silently rolled up his driveway around 11 pm with no flashing lights, jumped out of their vehicles and rapidly approached the back door of the house. David’s wife, seeing dark shadowy figures moving about their house late at night logically concluded that the burglars had returned to possibly steal more vehicles or enter the house. It had only been two days since the first theft and being unaware the thief was in custody they had no reason not to suspect a repeat event.

So David grabbed a shotgun and prepared for a confrontation. What happened next is unclear because there are conflicting stories. The official version is that the police did approach with sirens and lights, they did loudly knock on the door and that when no one answered they broke the door down, saw David holding a shotgun and thus had no choice but to unload their weapons. David’s widow (and the physical evidence) beg to differ with that narrative. There were no lights, sirens or knocking. David was not shot near the back door but rather through an interior wall. In other words, they blindly shot at a wall not knowing what was behind it. Brilliant. Good thing his grandchildren weren’t visiting that night. And just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, it does. His grieving widow and family had to endure a 44-hour search of the residence. The result? Not even a trace of narcotics was found. Oops.

So, the next time you think you are safe from brutal police actions, just remember, you are just one blame-shifting-meth-head’s “tip” or wrong address away from having black-helmeted thugs appearing in your doorway unannounced and unloading an entire clip into you or a loved one because they moved their hand the wrong way or came around the corner too quickly. No one is safe if everyone is just an utterance away from a weapons-drawn raid on his or her home. Due process is not the Gestapo breaking down your door in the middle of the night and claiming procedure was followed because they left a warrant on your corpse. This is not America. But if this is what America has become, then there is nothing exceptional about it. Prohibition must end. Again.

Details sourced from: http://goo.gl/dxTD1F and http://goo.gl/XX8Nz9

October 13 / 2014
Author Greg Morin
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Lifting the Veil

“There’s a reason you separate military and the police. One fights the enemies of the state, the other serves and protects the people. When the military becomes both, then the enemies of the state tend to become the people.” Commander William Adama, Battlestar Galactica (Season 1, Episode 2)

Although the source of this quote is fictional, its perspicacious message is grounded in reality. The only twist is that it is the police who are becoming more military-like. The end result, however, is the same – civilian casualties.

I shouldn’t have to provide examples, but I will as a courtesy for those reading this a few years hence when I suspect recent events will have been lost down the rabbit hole of collective amnesia: the shooting death of Michael Brown in Missouri, the shooting death of John Crawford in an Ohio Wal-Mart, a toddler in Georgia critically injured by a flash grenade, David Hooks shot dead in his home by police in Georgia and so on. If you’d like to read more there is a website dedicated to memorializing these horrific stories. The take home message here is that if cops are going to put their safety above all other considerations, then perhaps they should find a different line of work. “Officer safety” is the oft-cited excuse for the use of deadly force, however the myth that police work is the most dangerous profession just doesn’t line up with reality. In fact in 2013 it didn’t even make the top 10 of most dangerous professions (garbage collector and roofer actually rank higher).

Now I’d like to engage you in a thought experiment. Suppose that instead of the headlines being “local police shoot man dead” they instead read “employee of private security firm at local mall shoots man dead.” What kind of response would we expect in that situation? Would we expect that the employee be given a few days off from work, found to have done nothing wrong and be back on the job within a month or two? If an employee of ANY company did such a thing there would be lawsuits galore. The security company, the employee and the mall would all be sued. The message of a lawsuit is this: someone is accountable.

But what happens when a public police force is involved? The police department can’t be sued. The individual cop can’t be sued. This is qualified and sovereign immunity at work. The municipality involved is sometimes sued in rare situations. Even if they lose the suit there is zero incentive to change. Those “in charge” are not personally held financially accountable. Instead the cost of the suit or settlement is diffused among the taxpayers in pieces so small it is hardly noticed. The normal feedback mechanism that a lawsuit provides (personal financial loss) is thus short-circuited and nothing changes.

Now imagine a world where policing is entirely in the domain of private companies. This is not at all far fetched. Many municipalities (like Sandy Springs, Georgia) now outsource a range of traditional municipal services. In this hypothetical scenario private police companies would carry liability insurance just like all companies do today. Private police companies likewise would require their employee (the cops) to carry their own liability insurance. The cost of this insurance would be directly related to the cop’s training and work history (just as auto insurance rates are related to a driver’s history). Insurers would have an incentive to regulate such police forces in order to minimize the likelihood of paying claims. Reckless cops and poorly managed policing companies would either lose coverage or find their insurance rates so high they couldn’t afford to operate anymore. No municipality would contract a company lacking insurance. The self-correcting feedback mechanism of blatant self-interested profit seeking keeps everyone in line. Insurers regulate out the bad firms so they don’t lose money paying out claims. Police firms regulate out the bad cops so they don’t suffer increased insurance rates. The public sues those firms or cops that manage to slip through. There’s nothing magical here, it works like this everyday throughout the market (when not otherwise distorted through government interventions).

This would be trivial to implement nationwide. Municipalities already utilize a bid process for many other projects; there is no reason why it could not be done for policing as well. True accountability can only happen once the veil of qualified and sovereign immunity is lifted and the self-correction of self-interest found in the market is permitted to function.

October 06 / 2014
Author Greg Morin
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ISIS IS US

Hunting conjures up war-like imagery: guns, knives, arrows, booby traps and of course camouflage. Hunting is necessarily an overtly violent affair. Farming on the other hand invokes a more pastoral and peaceful mindset. Sure, intellectually we know killing must occur on a farm, but it is clean and clinical, so that makes it civilized. But dead is dead. The means may be different, but the ends are the same.

No, this is not some vegan polemic. The point is that we too live on a farm otherwise known as the state. Our ancestors and we have inhabited the farm for so long we have contrived the comfortable illusion that orderly and civilized violence isn’t really violence at all. We have convinced ourselves that because we are a nation of laws, of rules and order, and that we engage in the very civilized process of democratic elections to collectively decide the rules of society, then that makes us better than barbaric invaders who hunt their surroundings and take what they want. But whether one is robbed at gunpoint or by way of a Form 1040 one is just as impoverished by the process (and resistance to the latter will end just as violently). This idea of democratic self-determination is nothing more than an illusion. It is a Potemkin village that we have unwittingly built that mollifies our passions and so permits our owners, the state bureaucracies, to extract from us the fruits of our labor in order to parasitically advance themselves.

 

violence is the fertilizer that ensures strong roots for the state

 

In recent weeks we have witnessed the birth of a new state: ISIS. ISIS is still in the “hunter” stage of state formation. They have not yet collected enough “citizens” to form a proper, modern, farming state like we have in the US (and other countries). Once the farm-state is established the overt violence fades from the foreground while intimidation and threats rise in the background. This hunter-state formation is a bloody, violent, disgusting affair no doubt. But it is one that all states pass through, as violence is the fertilizer that ensures strong roots for the state.

Although the hunting and farming state differ in form, their substance is identical. Consider the following: the US says to foreigners, “Do what we say or we will have no choice but to kill you.” Inevitably the US sends drones, missiles, planes, troops, mines, and bombs – all agents of death. Similarly, ISIS tells people “Do what we say or we will kill you.” Those that do not comply are beheaded or shot. But dead is dead. Does it matter if done by the sword or the drone? Or would it be uncontroversial if ISIS killed by lethal injection?

Now consider the people ISIS did not kill – those who capitulated to their demands. They chose to comply with “the law” rather than suffer the consequences. This preference for submission over death is the same glue that maintains order here as well. We have “laws” that are just as arbitrary as Sharia “law.” A law that pertains to anything other than murder, rape or theft is no law at all. It is a mere edict that masquerades as law because some believe the ends justify the means. And why are such pseudo-laws obeyed? Violence. Non-compliance with pseudo-laws here results in the same outcome resisters of ISIS encounter there: death. Consider what would happen if pseudo-law A were ignored (insert any law you find absurd). The individual doing so might be fined first. If they ignored the fine, they might then be prosecuted in a court of the state. If they ignored that illegitimate process the state would send its agents (police) to confiscate property or arrest the individual. If the individual passively resisted and did not comply with “lawful orders” to willingly submit to being jailed then the encounter would eventually escalate to drawn weapons. Further passive resistance ensures this would eventually escalate to an “officer involved” shooting of the non-compliant citizen.

If you ignore the “authority” of the state, if you refuse to believe it has no more authority over your life than does your neighbor, well, the state doesn’t take kindly to that. If we all were to engage in non-violent non-submission to authority, the true nature of the state would quickly become apparent and all would see it is the US pot that calls the ISIS kettle black.

P.S. And no, I don’t “hate America” – I hate bullies that initiate aggression or threats of aggression to get their way.

September 29 / 2014

Scottish Secession: Politics as Usual

Scotland made history last week. They held a referendum election to decide whether or not they should become an independent nation or remain part of the United Kingdom. The measure was narrowly defeated (45% for independence) although strong support among the younger generations ensures this question will resurface in the not too distant future.

However what is interesting about this event is not such much the result but rather that it took place at all. Historically the general trend has been toward greater consolidation of power under a central authority. It is a rare event to find wide popular support in the other direction. Why would this be? Fear and uncertainty. Humans, like sheep, follow a herding instinct. Biologically this makes sense; there is safety in numbers. But there is a point of diminishing returns when group size changes from hundreds to thousands to millions. When the numbers scale into the millions, our hunter-gatherer mathematically challenged brains cannot make sense of such enormous numbers; we fail to realize the gains relative to the tradeoffs are negligible and so we are easily fooled by anyone promoting confederation. We are easily herded by our so-called leaders who capitalize on our fears. But confederations only last if all parties are treated fairly. Democracy itself is inimical to fair outcomes as democracy inherently marginalizes the desires of (political) minorities. Democratic countries are born in the heat and fire of common cause. But, like glass, these democracies will suffer fractures under the pressure from the repeated blows of each election cycle. As disagreements fester, the structure weakens, until eventually the confederation will shatter like so many pieces of battered glass.

What is the take home message of any secession movement? That perhaps we might all live more peacefully if we are allowed to go our separate ways rather than be forced into unions based solely on the opinions of those living nearby. If the Methodist is not required to be a citizen of the Baptist State, even when that Methodist is a minority amongst his Baptist neighbors, then why should anyone be compelled to be part of a group they have no desire to be a part of? Why are religious convictions the only thoughts worthy of such respect?

Another interesting aspect surrounding this attempted secession is that it was done so non-violently. Historically, secession attempts often trigger an overwhelmingly violent response from the “parent” who refuses to let the “child” go its own way. Americans have long lost the ability to rationally discuss the concept of secession given the Pavlovian association it has in this country with slavery. But perhaps Scotland can finally get Americans to view secession in a new light. It is possible for secession to be about something other than racism.

Secession is a fundamental right, namely the right of association, which conversely implies the right to not associate. Secession is the only tool that minority groups have in a political union insofar as the very threat of it may be sufficient to alter the behavior of the majority. For example, Scotland achieved many concessions from the UK. Sadly most of those concession had to do with granting Scotland greater power to tax its citizens, so Scotland is certainly no poster child for some sort of Randian free-market utopia.

In reality this whole process has been nothing more than political parties jockeying for power. Their goal is not a noble quest to unburden their citizens from the oppressive yoke of a foreign regime. No, their goal is to be the ones with their hands on the reins of that yoke. However Scotland is not unique in this respect. Every act of secession has been about shifting power from one group to another. The only benefit secession confers is that as power is divided, it becomes progressively weaker and hence less of a threat. One can only hope that such attrition of power will one day consume today’s “superpowers” leaving behind a collection of small, peaceful and prosperous communities that are too busy and too weak to provoke conflict in foreign lands.

September 23 / 2014
Author Greg Morin
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The Voting Games

We are now less than two months from Election Day and the usual furor over voting has moved from low simmer to boil. Wisconsin’s voter ID law was reinstated last week setting off the usual liberal chorus about limiting votes. And in our own back yard, Georgia Republicans are chiming in to their own refrain about too much voting. It seems Dekalb County will now have Sunday voting. The Republicans have taken a perplexingly tone-deaf stance on this issue. Their oppositional argument amounts to: Sunday voting enables more minorities to vote, minorities don’t vote Republican, so this is bad. If the Republicans had any kind of political savvy they would come out in full support of Sunday voting and in fact should one-up the Democrats by supporting Saturday voting as well. It may come as a shock to some, but most people work on Tuesday (the traditional voting day). Perhaps, just perhaps, voting should occur on the day (or days) that maximizes the availability of the majority of the population. If Republicans truly are the friend of business they purport to be, then they would support weekend voting since weekday voting is invariably disruptive to business operations.

On one thing though the Republicans have a point (although not the one they intended nor the one they are being skewered for). Georgia Senator Fran Millar stated “I would prefer more educated voters than a greater increase in the number of voters.” He is of course using the term “educated” in the sense of specific knowledge about the candidates or issues even though his opponents would like to frame his comment to imply minorities voters are simply “uneducated” in a broader sense.

I agree with Senator Millar – the voters should know whom they are voting for and why – and toward that end I propose that in order to be compliant with state law regarding campaigning near a polling place, that all notations of party affiliation be stricken from the ballot during a general election. That means no more “D” or “R” or even “I” (incumbent) next to names. These notations are a form of campaigning insofar as it achieves the same effect that campaigning would: the transmission of information to the voter about a candidate, even if in broad terms. If a voter cannot be bothered to know the name of their candidate, then they truly have no business voting. Such voters are muddling the process with noise and diminishing the voice of those that did take the time to become educated. Imagine the outcome of a vote on the best baseball player if 70% of the people voting know absolutely nothing about baseball? How valid do you imagine those results would be?

With respect to Voter ID laws I have never understood the controversy. In every other organization that uses voting as a means of decision making (clubs, unions, corporations, etc) no one would ever think of allowing someone to vote without first validating that they are indeed a member of said group. Why does this generally accepted principal vanish when it comes to voting in elections of the state? If you are a “member” (i.e. citizen) of the state, then show your membership card (this by the way is the only legitimate place a state can ask its citizens for ID). Why are some so concerned with the rights of others that those others apparently hold in low regard (seeing as how they can’t be bothered to exert even the minimal effort needed to obtain a voter ID card)?

Some argue that little evidence exists of voter fraud involving non-citizens or double voting so why bother checking ID. That argument is specious; it’s parallel would be the operation of a business with unlocked doors and no cashiers because that business determined its shoplifting problem exists only to the extent they occasionally happen to witness someone shoplifting. As the Russians say, “trust, but verify.”

So maybe we can reach consensus here, if we can agree that only citizens should vote, then it follows that once proving one’s citizenship, the form, manner, timing or location of said vote casting is immaterial.

September 15 / 2014
Author Greg Morin
Comments No Comments

What is a photocopier?

Ok, I forgot about this, this is really funny… if you enjoy legal humor…

 

 

September 10 / 2014
Author Greg Morin
Category Fun
Comments No Comments

Where’s the harm?

If you’re anything like me you’ve likely always had a strange sense when buying a car that something wasn’t quite right, a sort of tingly spidey-sense that that you were the punch line to an inside joke. New car dealerships are a fraternity unto themselves. But unlike college fraternities, they work hard to keep newcomers from joining their ranks. The Internet has done much to reveal what the exclusive walls of membership formerly protected. It is not just information that has been freed, but also new modes of doing business. But last week we learned the lengths that these old school fraternities will go to in order to fight change and retain the power structure of their very unique cartel (cartel – get it?). The Georgia Auto Dealers Association filed a complaint last week  with the Georgia Department of Revenue claiming that Tesla Motors (a manufacturer of high performance, all electric cars) should be barred from selling any of their vehicles in Georgia because Tesla apparently violated some byzantine state statute that limited manufacturer owned auto outlets from selling more than 150 cars in a year. Tesla sold 173. Yes, I know, what monsters. Off with their heads.

Whether or not Tesla actually sold more than 150 is immaterial. The fact that such a law exists brings into shocking relief the ends to which automobile dealers in the state of Georgia (and indeed many other states, Georgia is sadly not alone) will go to in order to protect their own financial self-interests. Of course protectionist fervor is not how the dealers spin this. They claim they are only trying to protect the public (what selfless servants they are). Without independent dealers, manufacturers would be able to set strict non-negotiable prices, ignore warranties, and otherwise cause the marketplace to collapse into a top-down manufacturer driven oligopoly (according to a bit of NADA propaganda). So clearly in order to protect competition we must limit competition.

What these manufacturers fail to realize is that were these fascist, depression-era laws repealed it would not result in the overnight demise of the independent dealers. Rather it would mean dealers would have to compete with manufacturer outlets on price, service, or quality. Likewise the manufacturers would have to compete in precisely the same manner. At the end of the day the manufacturers don’t really care how their cars are sold, they just want them sold. If independent dealers can offer a manufacturer the ability to sell its cars more efficiently than that manufacturer can sell them (dealerships are a large capital investment after all), then they’re going to choose the cheaper, and thus more profitable route.

In short, the dealers are afraid of competition. And I don’t necessarily blame them. Who wouldn’t love to have one’s ability to earn a living protected by state sanctioned violence? Who wouldn’t love a system that created an artificially high barrier to market entry in order to keep out newcomers with new ideas that might otherwise eat into your 1940’s business model. But cartels, syndicates and state protected oligopolies are not consistent with the principals of liberty; namely that unless I’m using violence or the threat of violence to influence your actions, then you have no right to interfere in my actions irrespective of whether or not you believe it may “harm” you in the future. All competition “harms” another (whether it be economic, social or sport). But the “harm” of competition has a beneficial silver lining. It compels one to work harder, to do better and thus benefit the consumer and themselves in the long run. But if possible “harm” to someone becomes the litmus test for state intervention then I dare say we all belong in jail.

September 09 / 2014

Tax It Your Way

The recent announcement that Burger King will merge with a Canadian food chain (Tim Hortons) and shift its corporate headquarters from the US to Canada has predictably tripped the frothing at the mouth reflex of tax-hungry statists. Why? Because such a merger and move (known in tax lingo as “inversion”) means that Burger King no longer need pay the 35% US corporate tax rate (one of the highest in the world and despite popular media propaganda that focuses on a sliver of corporations avoiding it, it is in fact paid by 99.5% of US corporations) on income earned outside the US (they will still pay 35% on their US income). They instead will pay the much lower Canadian rate of 15%.

“Unpatriotic” is the word President Obama has used in the past to describe such tax inversions (which are completely legal) and his retinue are now all too eager to join that chorus – uncritically parroting the approved talking points put out by the administration. This sentiment of “economic patriotism” demands that one’s love of country directly correlate with one’s willingness to hand over whatever the state demands.

Obama has also said tax minimization may be legal but it’s “wrong.” Really? This is a rather warped interpretation of right and wrong. Traditionally “wrong” is reserved for those actions that violate one’s natural rights (theft, murder, rape). If Mr. Obama’s use of this term is technically correct then it betrays a scary proposition: individual ownership can not exist because all is owned by the collective, otherwise how else could it be wrong to keep one’s property, unless it was never yours to begin with.

This sentiment is shared by both the left and the right insofar as both are statist at their core. While they may differ in degree, they stand in solidarity on substance: the role of the individual in society is to serve the interests of the state. A vehement disagreement over whether 35% or 25% is a “fair” tax rate is much sound and fury signifying no disagreement. Shall the master allow his slaves one hour or four hours of rest? Clearly those in favor of one hour are godly and moral men while those supporting four are raving lunatics. But truly insane is the man who says slavery itself is immoral. Pay no heed to him, what he proposes would never “work” in the real world. So you see dear citizen, the profits earned by Burger King (or any company or person) are not really theirs. It belongs to us all, to the state, to the Homeland. How dare you attempt, even legally, to reduce by one red cent your contributive fair share to the communal pot?

The usual sort of justifications for unbounded taxation is that because a company receives benefits from the state (courts, policing, military, roads, research, education, etc.) this therefore establishes an obligate contractual relationship necessitating payment (of a unilaterally determined magnitude) for such benefits. If that is indeed true, then mobster-extorted protection money is equally legitimate.

Ignored in this false choice analysis is the possibility that these supposed benefits of the state would exist in the absence of the state. Naturally they would exist except in the minds of those bereft of an entrepreneurial spirit. The only difference is that privately produced “public” goods would be of higher quality and lower cost. If you’re unconvinced of this fact, just insert the word “public” in front of any good and consider which you would prefer in relation to the privately provided alternative (e.g. toilet, school, transit, food, clothing, car, healthcare, etc.) The difference in costs and quality between tax supported goods and market provided goods is the true dead weight tax cost and represents a net loss to society no different than if the government paid a million men to dig holes and fill them in.

It seems the tax-hungry-economic-patriot can’t decide what they want. If you protest the system they claim you’re unpatriotic and hate America and should leave. But when you take their advice and do leave you are then targeted with the vilest of epithets. But that sort of inconsistency should be expected; the ethics of the statist is consistently inconsistent insofar as they owe their allegiance to the mantra “the ends justify the means.”

September 01 / 2014
Author Greg Morin
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