Nanny State Doesn’t Like Competition by David Boaz

"A Michigan woman who lives in front of a school bus stop says the state is threatening her with fines and possibly jail time for babysitting her neighbors' kids until the bus comes," CNN reports.
Lisa Snyder of Middleville, Mich., says she takes no money for watching the three children for 15-40 minutes each day so that the neighbors can get to work on time. The Department of Human Services, acting on a complaint that Snyder was operating an illegal child care home, demanded she either get a license, stop watching the kids or face the consequences, WZZM says. Snyder calls the whole thing "ridiculous" and tells the Grand Rapids TV station that "we are friends helping friends!" A DHS spokesperson tells the station that it has no choice but to comply with state law, which is designed to protect Michigan children.
She's not getting paid. She's possibly not even letting the neighbor kids into her house. The kids are waiting for a school bus in front of her house, and she's told her neighbors she'll keep an eye on their kids. And the government wants her to get a license. (Something similar is happening in Britain.)  This is what people mean when they warn that an ever-expanding government threatens the values of neighborliness and community. When the government provides services for free, or when it erects obstacles to individuals' providing those services, it reduces private provision and simultaneously increases the demand for government services. If you make it illegal for neighbors to watch one another's kids, you weaken ties of neighborhood and community. Our nanny-state government not only wants to take care of us from cradle to pre-K to K-12 to homebuying to medical care to retirement to grave, it not only considers adult Americans "just like your teenage kids, [not] acting in a way that they should act," it not only wants to "nudge" us into acting the way it thinks we should, now it thinks that neighbors should have to get a license to keep an eye on the kids congregating in front of their homes. It's enough to make you think we have too much government.

Posted on September 26, 2009  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Michael Moore’s Billionaire Backers by David Boaz

I wrote in Libertarianism: A Primer, "One difference between libertarianism and socialism is that a socialist society can't tolerate groups of people practicing freedom, but a libertarian society can comfortably allow people to choose voluntary socialism." (In the final section, "Toward a Framework for Utopia.") Now Ira Stoll notes the irony that it was very successful capitalists who put up the money that allowed Michael Moore to make his anti-market screed Capitalism: A Love Story:
The funniest moments of all in the movie, though, may just be in the opening and closing credits. We see that the movie is presented by "Paramount Vantage" in association with the Weinstein Company. Bob and Harvey Weinstein are listed as executive producers. If Mr. Moore appreciates any of the irony here he sure doesn't share it with viewers, but for those members of the audience who are in on the secret it's all kind of amusing. Paramount Vantage, after all, is controlled by Viacom, on whose board sit none other than Sumner Redstone and former Bear Stearns executive Ace Greenberg, who aren't exactly socialists. The Weinstein Company announced it was funded with a $490 million private placement in which Goldman Sachs advised. The press release announcing the deal quoted a Goldman spokesman saying, "We are very pleased to be a part of this exciting new venture and look forward to an ongoing relationship with The Weinstein Company."
So maybe I should add a corollary to my claim:
One difference between libertarianism and socialism is that a socialist society won't put up the money for people to make libertarian movies, but in a capitalist/libertarian society the capitalists are happy to put up the money for anti-capitalist movies.
And if you doubt that a socialist society would discriminate against anti-socialist movies, you can either observe socialism in practice — in Cuba, China, the Soviet Union, East Germany, etc. — or read the chilling words of bestselling economist Robert Heilbroner in Dissent: Read more...

Posted on September 25, 2009  Posted to Cato@Liberty

The Seat-Warming Senate by David Boaz

With Gov. Deval Patrick's appointment of longtime Kennedy courtier Paul Kirk to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy's seat in the U.S. Senate, there are now at least three close aides holding on to Senate seats while their states go through the formality of an election. The governor of Delaware appointed Joe Biden's longtime friend and former chief of staff to fill the rest of his term in the Senate. Can you name him? It is generally thought that he is obligingly holding on to the seat until Biden's son Beau gets back from National Guard service and is able to run to succeed his father. And in Florida, Gov. Charlie Crist named his former chief of staff to fill the seat of retiring Sen. Mel Martinez until the 2010 election in which Crist is running for the seat. There are more seat-fillers in the Senate than at the Oscars. Of course, Kennedy himself took his seat when he attained the age of 30, after it was kept warm for him by family retainer Benjamin A. Smith III. Meanwhile, as of 2005 there were 18 senators who gained office at least partly through their family ties -- sons, daughters, wives, nephews of former senators, governors, presidents, and so on. The Founders envisioned the Senate as an assembly of wise and accomplished men, chosen for their experience and judiciousness. Political campaigns that favor the handsome, the glib, the panderers, and the best fundraisers are bad enough. But a Senate full of legacies and seat-warmers is especially unfortunate.

Posted on September 24, 2009  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Least Surprising Headline of the Day by David Boaz

Stimulus sparks growth in government
--USA Today, front page, old-fashioned paper edition

Posted on September 24, 2009  Posted to Cato@Liberty

“Law” in Massachusetts by David Boaz

Wouldn't it save time if the Massachusetts legislature would just pass a law saying that if the governor is a Democrat, he fills any Senate vacancy, while if the governor is a Republican, a special election must be held?

Posted on September 24, 2009  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Liberals in Power by David Boaz

Will Saletan writes that he and his colleagues at Slate seem to be increasingly engaged in libertarian sallies at the food police and other nanny statists. "Are we becoming conservative?" he worries, wringing his hands. Not quite:
We're what we were five or 10 years ago: skeptics and fact-mongers with a bias for personal freedom. It's the left that's turning conservative. Well, not conservative, but pushy. Weisberg put his finger on the underlying trend: "Because Democrats hold power at the moment, they face the greater peril of paternalistic overreaching." Today's morality cops are less interested in your bedroom than your refrigerator. They're more likely to berate you for outdoor smoking than for outdoor necking. It isn't God who hates fags. It's Michael Bloomberg.
Yes, that's the same Jacob Weisberg who wrote In Defense of Government and blamed libertarians for the financial collapse. Older and wiser every day. When Saletan takes on the stretches that the fat-tax advocates have to make to justify government regulation of what we eat, he would have done well to cite Glen Whitman's Cato paper on paternalism. And as genuine liberals recoil in horror at the actions of liberals with power, it's a good time to read Damon Root's new Cato Policy Report cover story on liberals who fled "right" from the economic and constitutional malfeasance of the New Deal. Let's hope Saletan's "new Whiskey Rebellion" spreads beyond the pages of Slate. HT: Jacob Grier.

Posted on September 23, 2009  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Taking Over Everything by David Boaz

"My critics say that I’m taking over every sector of the economy," President Obama sighed to George Stephanopoulos during his Sunday media blitz. Not every sector. Just This president and his Ivy League advisers believe that they know how an economy should develop better than hundreds of millions of market participants spending their own money every day. That is what F. A. Hayek called the "fatal conceit," the idea that smart people can design a real economy on the basis of their abstract ideas. This is not quite socialism. In most of these cases, President Obama doesn't propose to actually nationalize the means of production. (In the case of the automobile companies, he clearly did.) He just wants to use government money and government regulations to extend political control over all these sectors of the economy. And the more political control achieves, the more we can expect political favoritism, corruption, uneconomic decisions, and slower economic growth.

Posted on September 23, 2009  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Americans Don’t Want It by David Boaz

"Americans are more likely today than in the recent past to believe that government is taking on too much responsibility for solving the nation's problems and is over-regulating business," according to a new Gallup Poll.
New Gallup data show that 57% of Americans say the government is trying to do too many things that should be left to businesses and individuals, and 45% say there is too much government regulation of business. Both reflect the highest such readings in more than a decade.
Byron York of the Examiner notes:
The last time the number of people who believe government is doing too much hit 57 percent was in October 1994, shortly before voters threw Democrats out of power in both the House and Senate. It continued to rise after that, hitting 60 percent in December 1995, before settling down in the later Clinton and Bush years. Also, the number of people who say there is too much government regulation of business and industry has reached its highest point since Gallup began asking the question in 1993.
That might give an ambitious administration pause. The independents who swung the elections in 2006 and 2008 clearly think things have gone too far. An administration as smart as Bill Clinton's will take the hint and rein it in. Meanwhile, another recent poll, by the Associated Press and the National Constitution Center, shows that
Americans decidedly oppose the government's efforts to save struggling companies by taking ownership stakes even if failure of the businesses would cost jobs and harm the economy, a new poll shows. The Associated Press-National Constitution Center poll of views on the Constitution found little support for the idea that the government had to save AIG, the world's largest insurer, mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and the iconic American company General Motors last year because they were too big to fail. Just 38 percent of Americans favor government intervention - with 60 percent opposed - to keep a company in business to prevent harm to the economy. The number in favor drops to a third when jobs would be lost, without greater damage to the economy. Similarly strong views showed up over whether the president should have more power at the expense of Congress and the courts, if doing so would help the economy. Three-fourths of Americans said no, up from two-thirds last year. "It really does ratify how much Americans are against the federal government taking over private industry," said Paul J. Lavrakas, a research psychologist and AP consultant who analyzed the results of the survey.
Note that 71 percent of the respondents opposed government takeovers, with 50 percent strongly opposed, before the "benefits" of such takeovers were presented. President Obama is an eloquent spokesman for his agenda, and he has an excellent political team with a lot of outside allies to push it. But as the old advertising joke goes, you can have the best research and the best design and the best advertising for your dog food, but it won't sell if the dogs don't like it.

Posted on September 22, 2009  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Correction of the Day by David Boaz

A Sept. 18 Page One article about the community organizing group ACORN incorrectly said that a conservative journalist targeted the organization for hidden-camera videos partly because its voter-registration drives bring Latinos and African Americans to the polls. Although ACORN registers people mostly from those groups, the maker of the videos, James E. O'Keefe, did not specifically mention them.
--Washington Post, September 22, 2009 Original article here.

Posted on September 22, 2009  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Cutting Health Care Costs by David Boaz

Ezra Klein, the young Washington Post blogger who writes a lot about health care, contributed an article to the paper's Sunday Business section in which he made this compelling point along the way:
The surest way to cut health-care spending would be to make people shoulder more of the burden directly, as opposed to hiding it in taxes and lost wages.
Bingo! Exactly! So why does Klein want government to get more involved, to wrap our health care in a web of mandates and subsidies and regulations and gatekeepers and monitors? When, as he says, making the cost of health care clear and direct would be "the surest way to cut health-care spending"? Michael Cannon's proposal for "Large HSAs" would move us in the right direction. It would allow workers to receive the full amount that they and their employer spend on their health benefits as a tax-free cash contribution to the worker's health savings account. That would give consumers control over their health care dollars, giving them an incentive to shop around, ask questions, and generally hold down costs as consumers do in normal competitive businesses. You can't say it enough:
The surest way to cut health-care spending would be to make people shoulder more of the burden directly, as opposed to hiding it in taxes and lost wages.
Congress should stop moving in the other direction.

Posted on September 22, 2009  Posted to Cato@Liberty

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