Friday, September 02, 2005
The natural disaster caused by Hurricane Katrina has often moved me. The scope of the devastation caused by it, and especially the human misery, has often given me pause over the past few days.
However, the subhuman reaction by many in New Orleans has also given rise to anger in me. There is enough human misery there already, and no need to compound it with the general lawlessness.
AP report on general lawlessness. Unfortunately, the police are a large part of the problem. Beyond participating in the looting themselves, this quote seems to sum up their attitude:
Tourist Debbie Durso of Washington, Mich., said she asked a police officer for assistance and his response was, "'Go to hell - it's every man for himself.'"Here, we are unfortunately seeing the result of actions by so many within a society that do not respect individual rights or property rights. These are most assuredly not libertarians looting and raping. Indeed, the justifications for the looting in particular offered by so many are classic socialism. As you can see, socialism unleashed is a frightening spectacle.
Pics from the scene. Pictures are worth 1,000 words. The one that shook me to my core is of a little girl abandoned by her family, who was overjoyed at receiving bottled water.
Let's get around to teaching property rights to the people of New Orleans once the rebuilding is reasonably completed. Natural disasters can occur at any time, and it is likely that New Orleans will again see flooding and hurricanes. The misery caused by natural disasters cannot be prevented. The misery caused by humans in the aftermath can- and should- be prevented.
As a Libertarian spokesman who often engages in debate over policy solutions, I so frequently hear that a move to a more libertarian society would bring anarchy. Well, New Orleans is experiencing real anarchy right now, and it isn't happening because there is a widespread belief that one's home is his castle, that any theft is theft no matter the reason, or that it is wrong to initiate force against another human being. Look on it well. This is the result of teaching socialism, that individual need trumps individual rights.
In fact, New Orleans could have used a libertarian mindset over the last few days.
Thursday, September 01, 2005
Every day, Neal Boortz posts his running commentary, that are equal parts show notes, mini op-ed columns, and reading assignments. Today's is excellent, and addresses many things I would like to cover in the wake of Katrina given unlimited time and energy. The following is all from Neal Boortz. I don't usually cut such large portions of other's work, but this is so good and really, I would just be duplicating him, so I may as well just step aside and give Boortz the floor and the credit.
Boortz on looting:
I saw a picture on Yahoo News yesterday. The picture showed two people wading through chest-deep water in New Orleans. The lady has some food with her. The caption says "Two residents wade through chest-deep water after finding bread and soda from a local grocery store after Hurricane Katrina came through the area in New Orleans, Louisiana" Finding? They found the food? Sorry ... they stole it. Just because they're white doesn't mean they "found" food. Another picture on Yahoo News showed a black person with food taken from a grocery store. This person was
identified as a "looter." White, black ... whatever. It's stealing.
Fellow Hoosier Libertarian Rob Beck has excellent commentary on looting.
Boortz on gas prices:
There has never in the history of the world been a better way to allocate scarce resources than to simply allow the law of supply and demand to take its course. Whenever government steps in to interfere, shortages occur and chaos often reigns.
The way to handle the gas panic in Atlanta yesterday was to RAISE PRICES! It's not price gouging. It's the law of supply and demand at work. Today there will be people in Atlanta who might not be able to drive their own cars to work, to doctors appointments or to buy groceries who would otherwise be driving if gas stations throughout Atlanta had raised their prices in response to the increased demand and limited supply.
Let me explain:
As the panic spread, and the demand increased, the prices at the pumps were pretty much unchanged ... for a while. As a result people decided to top off every vehicle they owned .. .no matter how much gas remained in the tank. The predictable result was that stations soon ran out of fuel. The word spread, and more people hit the streets to fill more cars. Today people in Atlanta will find that many gas stations still have their pumps shut down. Throughout the night tanker trucks were busy trying to replenish the stations, but there simply aren't enough trucks to meet this demand. Another supply problem.
So .. what was the solution? For the politician the solution may have been to pander to the electorate by talking about imposing fines on gas station operators who "overcharge", whatever that means, consumers. The real solution, though, was to increase prices in response to the increased demand and limited supply. This is what the uninformed and the political class call "price gouging."
Let's take a look at what would have happened if the free market had been allowed to do what it has always done so well -- when left alone -- and that is to allocate scarce resources. If gas prices had risen strongly yesterday (as they in fact did at some stations) then people would have given a second thought to filling every car they own. If the prices were, say, $5 a gallon, consumers would have purchased what they thought they might need to get through the next few days, and would have started making plans for conservation., Certainly few people would have been shuttling back and forth filling up every car they owned. As a result, the gas that one consumer didn't pump into his second or third car because the price was so high would have been gas available for someone to put into the car they actually needed to get to work.
Keeping the prices artificially low encouraged over-consumption and hoarding.
This is why we can expect to find shortages in Hawaii, California, or any other place that puts artificial price caps on gasoline. A dear price makes you think carefully about use. This is one thing environmentalists understand about the mechanism of price when they call for artificially high prices. I hope those folks are happy now.
Boortz on "price records" and refining capacity:
At long last, we finally have a gas price record. The media has been reporting for years about "record gas prices," but they never have actually been records. The left, in their never-ending quest to demonize the oil industry, doesn't adjust gas prices for inflation. You simply cannot compare prices from one era to the next without adjusting for inflation.
So what was the record? In 2005 dollars, gasoline cost an average of $3.08 a gallon in March of 1981. It only took almost a quarter of a century to break the record. So what about bringing down prices now?
Prices have shot up in the wake of Katrina because 10% of the United States' refining capacity has been knocked out. Those refineries are along the Gulf Coast. Since there are only 149 gasoline refineries in the United States, and since none have been built in the last 30 years, knocking a few offline means supply doesn't meet demand. Thus the price goes up.
The answer is to build more refineries...and fast. If we had enough refineries to pick up the slack and continue meeting the demand, the rest of the country wouldn't be paying so much at the pump right now. So who is to blame?
Your friendly neighborhood environmentalist, that's who. It takes years to get a permit to build a refinery, if it can be done at all. We haven't built any in so long because Democratic, liberal, leftist, socialist enviro-wackos are preventing the permits from being pulled. No new refineries means every last one is running at full capacity in the summer. A hiccup of any kind means an interruption in supply. It's made worse by the fact that the oil companies have to refine dozens of special environmental blends to satisfy the politicians in various cities.
So as you fill up today and tomorrow for your holiday weekend, just know that you are paying so much because of the radical environmental movement in this country.
Yes, it's bad. It's to where the price per gallon is where we've never seen it before- even in California! This is my photo from the local Co-Op, in Noblesville:
For perspective, gasoline pump prices are now on par with where they were in the early 1980s. Adjusted for inflation, that is. The screaming is that the prices are the highest ever. That screaming was happening a dollar per gallon ago. Now it's finally true.
So, since it is finally true, perhaps we can start to address the root of the problem- the lack of refining capacity in the United States.
Wednesday, August 31, 2005
Here's a reason to wake up early on Labor Day. Libertarian Party Executive Director Brad Klopfenstein will fill in on the Abdul In The Morning show on WXNT 1430-am, from 6-9am, next Monday morning. I will be Brad's guest.
If you want to listen from outside the Indy area, go to WXNT's website and pick up the streamed signal. Remember that Indiana is on Central Time right now.
The Fishers Town Council Meeting will air three times today on Channel 19 (at least on Insight cable). I'll be checking it out to see my speech. I'd love to tape it and make it available somehow. Anyhow, here's the schedule: 1pm, 5pm, and 9pm.
Update: Total rip-off!!! The one-hour broadcast just happened to conclude with the end of Scott Faultless' remarks... and just before I took the podium!
In fact, none of the remarks of anyone but Council members and the Town Manager were aired. The non-vote on the food & beverage tax was not aired. The Council members' rationales for voting against the tax were not aired. What gives?!
These programs are supposed to be a public service, not merely a propaganda service on behalf of the members of government. I'll be looking into this nonsense.
What makes the Libertarian Party of Indiana distinct from some other state parties is that we offer solutions, not merely criticism.
Margaret Fette is the Chair of the LP of Monroe County. She recently submitted a proposal for a map redistricting for Bloomington. Her map meets the requirements for distributing roughly equal populations per district, but is free of electoral bias. It lets the voters decide who will be their representative rather than the party bosses.
From the Hoosier Times:
The Monroe County Libertarian Party, not wanting to be out of the loop in the Republican-pushed mid-decade county redistricting process, has submitted a map for new county council districts that merits serious consideration by the redistricting committee when it meets Wednesday.
(T)he map makes a lot of sense - more than the one the Democrat-controlled
redistricting committee and county commissioners approved in 2001.
It's not enough to criticize. Offer a counter-proposal, submit it, and stand behind it. Margaret showed that even in a fairly hostile political environment such as in Bloomington, good ideas cut through the fog like a beacon of light.
Margaret's map is an important strike against the practice of gerrymandering, which serves the major political parties well, but is a major disservice to the people in such districts, and is damaging to the democratic process by ensuring unresponsive elected officials.
Note: I would include a link to the Hoosier Times story, but it is only available to subscribers.
Tuesday, August 30, 2005
Monday, August 29, 2005
After a lengthy campaign, the Libertarians in Hamilton County finally helped Republican Council members re-discover fiscal conservatism and defeat a tax.
Fishers Town Council voted to not vote on the proposed 1% food & beverage tax tonight, effectively allowing it to die on the vine. It was curious that they chose not to vote. You would have thougth that they would have wanted to be on record voting against a tax.
Coverage from the Noblesville Daily Times.
The Libertarian Party provided the only consistent opposition to the food & beverage tax increases. Libertarians spoke out against each tax. These were considered and passed in Hamilton County, then Carmel, Noblesville, and Westfield.
Libertarians wrote several letters that were printed in the Noblesville Ledger and Daily Times. We spoke on WXNT 1430-am. We directed an email campaign to contact the Councilors. We led pub crawls that finally gave the business owners and patrons a voice. This has all been chronicled on this blog over the last few months.
All of the Councilors on all of these bodies are Republicans. We beat them up for being tax-and-spenders. Finally, one of these bodies decided it didn't want to get beat up on this any more.
This is the value of having Libertarians on the ballot. If we weren't on the ballot here in Indiana, there would not have been any opposition to the taxes. The Republicans created them. The Democrats, such as exist in Hamilton County, stood by silently, absently. They attended no meetings.
If Libertarians didn't show up in all of these places, this tax would have passed.
After Town Council President Scott Faultless gave a powerful speech in favor of the tax, I got up to speak in opposition to the tax, but also in support of keeping my Town great, and in support of Fishers' restuarant and tavern owners.
My main points were pretty simple, and followed from what Mr. Faultless gave me. He cited the #1 statewide ranking the Town of Fishers was awarded by Money Magazine. He also cited the Town's fiscal conservatism of the recent past. He meant this latter as justification that one little tax hike now isn't a big deal. My counter was that the high ranking and the low tax rate are not inseperable. If the Town moves away from what made it great and earned the high ranking, we can only expect that ranking to slip.
Mr. Faultless cited several other targeted taxes we have in Fishers- on tobacco, on alcohol, on hotel rooms, and on a host of others. Rather than having made the case that the trend justified extending, I felt that Faultless made the opposite case, that we sure do single out a lot of little groups of people, and that's unfair. The hospitality industry shouldn't be singled out to carry the tax load.
The ordinance included language that cited the fact that restaurants were subject to the same 1% extra tax, so adding it in Fishers wouldn't put our restaurants in a comparative disadvantage. I argued that by defeating the tax, the Council could instead put Fishers restaurants at a comparative advantage compared to those in Carmel, Westfield, Noblesville, and Indianapolis. I argued that the Town should always act in such a way to make Fishers more attractive to business, not less.
My arguments won the day. Of course, I was not alone. John Livengood from the Hospitality Industry spoke, as did Dave Dore of White Castle. Fishers resident Gregg Puls also spoke.
Sunday, August 28, 2005
I am currently in the draft mode for an article on the gerrymandering of districts. Think it isn't a problem in Indiana?
In 2004, there were 100 races for State Representative, as all 100 seats are contested each year. I use the word "contested" with some hesitation. 32 seats were not contested at all. Completely unchallenged. Free pass for the incumbent.
Of the remaining 69, 9 were challenged only by the Libertarian candidate. One more was contested by a write-in candidate, who received five (5) votes.
In fact, only 13 of the 100 were in any way competitive. In this sense, I define competitive as a non-blowout, where the second-place finisher was at least within 10% of the victor.
On over to the State Senate in 2004, 25 races were "contested". Here 9 seats were completely unchallenged, with the incumbent getting a free pass. 5 seats were contested only by a Libertarian candidate.
Only one race, for District 5, was competitive. Get that. Only one. 24 of the 25 races were uncompetitive, meaning, blowouts.
If you are wondering why your elected officials seem a bit aloof to your concerns, here you go. Both sides know they are going to be re-elected in certain districts because people are not willing to vote against their natural inclinations no matter how bone-headed the elected official is with policy; and, the major party opposition will not field a serious candidate with serious financial backing to honestly challenge. The reason these two statements are so is gerrymandering: The practice of creating electoral districts in such a way that satisfies electoral rules for population distribution, while creating outcome certainties so that the major political parties can largely conserve their resources.
Not exactly representative government at its finest.
This is one of two issues that will make up my main campaign platform.
Yesterday's Wildcat Parade in Markle was great fun, and a nice chance to get in front of some voters. The theme of the parade was Mardi Gras, and we gave away beads- about 50 dozen all told.Ame and Isabel look on as I untangle beads with Sheri Conover Sharlow.
Jeannette Jaquish's daughter Zephyr dressed as Lady Liberty, and led the parade. My son Alex is holding my banner as he waits for the line to start moving.
Interestingly, not all of the Democrats of Republicans were marching in the parade. Some lined the streets, probably so that they could more directly work the crowds. I made it a point to give beads to some from both parties. They were speachless, which was amusing. I wished them good luck in the elections in 2006, and finally they were able to manage weak smiles. I never understand what the constant feeling of antagonism is all about with those guys.
This was Isabel's first parade, and was not merely a spectator. Actually, as Ame pushed her in the stroller, Isabel slept. This was amazing, because we were followed by emergency vehicles that ran their sirens almost continuously. This shot is from the end of the parade, and I had given out nearly all my beads.
I remarked to the family that I may well spend every Summer weekend in 2006 this way, as the campaign gets along towards the election. We'll test that theory that everyone loves a parade.
There were people who said that they would vote for me, only because I gave their kids beads and others didn't. It's not the best reason, but it matters, and I'll take it.