I Am Not Making This Up by David Boaz

Dec. 17 (Bloomberg) -- World leaders flying into Copenhagen today to discuss a solution to global warming will first face freezing weather as a blizzard dumped 10 centimeters (4 inches) of snow on the Danish capital overnight. Copenhagen (CNN) –- In a strange twist, a Washington snowstorm is forcing Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, to make an early departure from a global warming summit here in Denmark. Pelosi told CNN that military officials leading her Congressional delegation have urged the 21 lawmakers to leave Copenhagen several hours earlier than scheduled on Saturday. The Speaker said she has agreed to the new travel plan so that lawmakers can get back to Washington before much of the expected storm wallops the nation's capital. Washington Post: Before long, we will be buried by several times that amount making this a record breaking December storm. Double digit accumulations have already been reported to our south in central Virginia. This is a dangerous, severe storm with the worst still to come. ... True enough, as President Obama's courtiers at Media Matters remind us, one day's weather doesn't change the climate. Indeed, they quote Pat Michaels making that point last year in the New York Times:
Patrick J. Michaels, a climatologist and commentator with the libertarian Cato Institute in Washington, has long chided environmentalists and the media for overstating connections between extreme weather and human-caused warming. (He is on the program at the skeptics' conference.) But Dr. Michaels said that those now trumpeting global cooling should beware of doing the same thing, saying that the ''predictable distortion'' of extreme weather ''goes in both directions.''
Still, I think we know that if it were unseasonably warm this week, there'd be people pointing that out on television from Copenhagen.

Posted on December 19, 2009  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Deck the Halls with Health Care Taxes by David Boaz

As Congress heads toward Christmas, debating an increasingly unpopular bill that will raise federal spending and taxes, Senate leaders are beating up on anyone — like Joe Lieberman — who seems to threaten quick passage of the bill. Next week, when senators want to get home for Christmas, the pressure on recalcitrant members to give in and vote will become even stronger. And so, kids, gather around for a Christmas story from the olden days. Back in the last century, in the year 1982, the Washington establishment decided that the gasoline tax should be raised by a nickel a gallon. Ronald Reagan, Tip O'Neill, Bob Michel, Howard Baker, Bob Dole, Dan Rostenkowski — they all wanted it. But Senators Jesse Helms, Don Nickles, and Gordon Humphrey stood in the way. They filibustered right up to the night of December 23. Finally the Senate worked its will, and the tax increase passed.  Helms in particular was the subject of calumny from across the Washington establishment, politicians and media alike, both for opposing a much-needed tax increase and for cruelly delaying Christmas for the senators (while trying to preserve it for the taxpayers). And how did the voters respond to "Senator No"? In a front-page article in the Washington Post of January 2, 1983, describing Helms's drive home on December 23 after the grueling Senate debate, David Maraniss told the story:
Hours after his fortnight battle against the gasoline tax increase was over and lost, he was bone-tired and bleary-eyed as he drove down Interstate 95, and a few times during the five-hour trip his car lurched precariously toward the shoulder of the highway. Finally, when he reached the exit for South Hill, Va., he decided to pull over and make a pit stop at Hardee's. No sooner had the senior senator from North Carolina approached the counter of the fast-food establishment than a truck driver recognized his unforgettable mug. "Hey, there's Jesse Helms," said the trucker. Heads turned, mutters of awareness filled the room, and suddenly, spontaneously, some 15 or 20 fellow travelers were on their feet applauding. "That," Helms would say later, "was the first time I ever got a standing ovation at Hardee's." In fact, it was one of the few times he had received a warm reception anywhere during December. He had left Washington with a few more nicknames attached to him by his enemies, and even some friends, who had been frustrated by his long, and in the end unsuccessful, attempt to talk the gasoline tax increase to death. "Scrooge," they had called him, and the "Grinch Who Almost Stole Christmas."
Where are the senators who will suffer the obloquy of the Washington establishment this Christmas to protect the taxpayers and earn a standing ovation outside the Beltway?

Posted on December 18, 2009  Posted to Cato@Liberty

More Sightings of Libertarian Voters by David Boaz

Michael Petrilli created a stir with his Wall Street Journal op-ed, "Whole Foods Republicans," on Monday. He noted that the American electorate includes more college graduates every year, and in 2008 the Republican nominee for president lost the college-educated vote for the first time since the 1970s. Republicans need to stop sneering at the "arugula vote" and start appealing to educated, progressive voters:
What's needed is a full-fledged effort to cultivate "Whole Foods Republicans"—independent-minded voters who embrace a progressive lifestyle but not progressive politics.... What makes these voters potential Republicans is that, lifestyle choices aside, they view big government with great suspicion. There's no law that someone who enjoys organic food, rides his bike to work, or wants a diverse school for his kids must also believe that the federal government should take over the health-care system or waste money on thousands of social programs with no evidence of effectiveness.... Even more important is the party's message on divisive social issues. When some Republicans use homophobic language, express thinly disguised contempt toward immigrants, or ridicule heartfelt concerns for the environment, they affront the values of the educated class. And they lose votes they otherwise ought to win.
These voters are part of the "libertarian vote" that David Kirby and I have been exploring. Libertarian voters tend to be more educated than average (see "The Libertarian Vote," table 11, page 17), and they can be described as "fiscally conservative and socially liberal." It's good to know other people are noticing them, and we hope that soon candidates and consultants will take note. For those who are still dubious, the day after the Wall Street Journal column, the Washington Post published this letter:
When I read House Minority Leader John Boehner's Washington Forum commentary about the GOP's thoughts on economic policy and job creation -- as compared with that of the Obama administration ["A better plan for jobs," Dec. 11] -- I wanted to cheer. I am concerned about America's increase in debt and think that the health reform plan is interventionist and has no hope of reforming health care.
But I can't cheer. Because I apparently can't be a Republican -- limited government, fiscal conservative -- unless I am also willing to vote for "pure conservative" candidates a la the purity test being proposed to the Republican National Committee: pro-life, anti-gay marriage, draconian immigration policies ["A party both united and divided," front page, Nov. 30]. These are policies I refuse to support. So, whom do I vote for next year?
Kathy Rondon, Falls Church
I don't know if Ms. Rondon shops at Whole Foods, but she's definitely a part of the "libertarian vote." Republicans wondering why they lost in 2006 and 2008, and Democrats worrying about slipping poll numbers during 2009, should take a look at the libertarian slice of the electorate.

Posted on December 17, 2009  Posted to Cato@Liberty

The Consequences of Regulation by David Boaz

The city of Alexandria, Virginia, passed a law in 2005 to require that each cab respond to two dispatch calls every day. WAMU reports on the results:
Says [driver Chaudhry] Ahmed, “If they're going to do this kind of stuff, then for sure we’ll be out of business and standing in line at the unemployment office.” Alexandria created the rule back in 2005 to prevent taxi drivers from spending all their time picking up fares at hotels and the airport. Since that time, one company has closed because it couldn’t meet the requirement and another has been put on probation. But Transportation Chief Bob Garback says the city doesn’t want to shut anybody down: “Our objective is just to make sure that we have reasonable taxi service here. Shutting companies down doesn’t really serve that purpose.”
Alexandria didn't want to shut companies down. Someone just had an idea and decided to codify it, without much thought as to where cab drivers actually find passengers, how much it costs to respond to dispatches, and so on. No doubt most regulators and legislators don't want to shut companies down. But special interests and activists and irate citizens press their ideas, and policymakers respond. It always seems like a good idea at the time: guarantee every worker a minimum wage, put a cap on rising rents, or make sure that banks lend money to borrowers who can't really afford a house. And then when low-skilled workers become too expensive to hire, or builders decide they can't make a profit on new apartment houses, or millions of mortgage holders are unable to make their payments -- well, "Our objective was just to do something reasonable. We never intended to screw up the workings of the market and cause firm closings, unemployment, apartment shortages, or a wave of defaults." But that's the result of throwing a monkey wrench into the economy.

Posted on December 17, 2009  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Are You a Conservative Yet? by David Boaz

Cato senior fellow Johan Norberg writes on his blog:
14:49 - A LIBERTARIAN WITH A DAUGHTER: A Swedish conservative columnist recently expressed surprise - she found it strange that I am still a classical liberal even though I have discovered family happiness and love my son. But she hoped that I would change my mind if I got a daughter: "A conservative is a libertarian with daughters." Well, we are about to find out. Because this weekend, my wife gave birth to the cutest little girl I've ever seen. They're both in great condition and so far Alexander is just happy and curious about the little gift we brought from the maternity hospital. Obviously, I will focus on the family in the coming weeks, so my activity here and elsewhere will be reduced. So any conservative symptoms yet? Well, preliminarily I can only say that I am delighted that she is born into a part of the world and in an era when women have greater freedoms and more equality than they have ever had anywhere else, as a result of liberal reforms over the last 150 years - reforms that conservatives objected to.
Congratulations, Johan and Sofia. And remember: the best conservatives are the ones who embrace and defend the advances that libertarians (liberals) fought for.

Posted on December 16, 2009  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Red Team, Blue Team by David Boaz

In a report on Attorney General Eric Holder's approach to seeking the death penalty, NPR reports:
A few months after Holder made that statement, he authorized a capital prosecution in Vermont, a state that does not have the death penalty. When Ashcroft brought a federal death penalty case in Vermont seven years ago, the mayor of Burlington called it "an affront to states' rights" and "not consistent with the values of a majority of Vermonters." But this time, there was hardly any outcry.
So the former antiwar movement doesn't complain about President Obama's expansion of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And opponents of capital punishment don't protest the Obama administration's seeking the death penalty in liberal Vermont. It's beginning to look a lot like the Bush years, when conservatives put up with a great deal from a Republican administration that would have sent them into apoplexy if it had been done by Democrats.

Posted on December 10, 2009  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Rick Santorum and Limited Government? by David Boaz

santorumScary news today from Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker: despite losing his reelection bid in 2006, former senator Rick Santorum is still thinking about running for president. He tells Parker that he represents the Ronald Reagan issue trinity: the economy, national security and social conservatism. And he's the limited-government guy:
Both pro-life and pro-traditional family, Santorum is an irritant to many. But he insists that such labels oversimplify. Being pro-life and pro-family ultimately mean being pro-limited government. When you have strong families and respect for life, he says, "the requirements of government are less. You can have lower taxes and limited government."
But Santorum is no Reaganite when it comes to freedom and limited government. He told NPR in 2005:
One of the criticisms I make is to what I refer to as more of a libertarianish right. You know, the left has gone so far left and the right in some respects has gone so far right that they touch each other. They come around in the circle. This whole idea of personal autonomy, well I don’t think most conservatives hold that point of view. Some do. They have this idea that people should be left alone, be able to do whatever they want to do, government should keep our taxes down and keep our regulations low, that we shouldn’t get involved in the bedroom, we shouldn’t get involved in cultural issues. You know, people should do whatever they want. Well, that is not how traditional conservatives view the world and I think most conservatives understand that individuals can’t go it alone. That there is no such society that I am aware of, where we’ve had radical individualism and that it succeeds as a culture.
He declared himself against individualism, against libertarianism, against “this whole idea of personal autonomy, . . . this idea that people should be left alone.” Andrew Sullivan directed our attention to a television interview in which the senator from the home state of Benjamin Franklin and James Wilson denounced America’s Founding idea of “the pursuit of happiness.” If you watch the video, you can hear these classic hits: “This is the mantra of the left: I have a right to do what I want to do” and “We have a whole culture that is focused on immediate gratification and the pursuit of happiness . . . and it is harming America.” Parker says that Santorum is "sometimes referred to as the conscience of Senate Republicans." Really? By whom? Surely not by Reaganites, or by people who believe in limited government.

Posted on December 9, 2009  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Who Wants to Make Sarah Palin the Leader of the Republican Party? by David Boaz

Could it be the Washington Post? Bannered across the top of the Post's op-ed page today is a piece titled "Copenhagen's political science," titularly authored by Sarah Palin. I'm delighted to see the Post publishing an op-ed critical of the questionable science behind the Copenhagen conference and the demands for massive regulations to deal with "climate change." But Sarah Palin? Of all the experts and political leaders a great newspaper might call on for a critical look at the science behind global warming, Sarah Palin? What's even more interesting is that the Post also ran an op-ed by Palin in July. But during this entire year, the Post has not run any op-eds by such credible and accomplished Republicans as Gov. Mitch Daniels; former governors Mitt Romney or Gary Johnson; Sen. John Thune; or indeed former governor Mike Huckabee, who might be Palin's chief rival for the social-conservative vote. You might almost think the Post wanted Palin to be seen as a leader of Republicans. I should note that during the past year the Post has run one op-ed each from John McCain, Bobby Jindal, Newt Gingrich, and Tim Pawlenty. (And for people who don't read well, I should note that when I call the people above "credible and accomplished," that's not an endorsement for any political office.) Still, it's the rare political leader who gets two Post op-eds in six months, and rarer still the Post op-eds by ex-governors who can't name a newspaper that they read.

Posted on December 9, 2009  Posted to Cato@Liberty

It’s Stossel Thursday by David Boaz

Yes, folks, it's the moment we've all been waiting for: John Stossel launches his new weekly show on the Fox Business Network Thursday evening at 8 p.m. (Even though the vaunted Fox News machine can't seem to put a notice about it on their website, I have it on good authority that the show will go on!) Rumor is he'll be talking about Ayn Rand on the first show. It's a good time for a show about freedom and limited government -- as the Baltimore Sun says, "Stossel's new show should have no trouble finding an audience of viewers eager for a discussion about the pedal-to-the-metal pace of expansion [of government] since Barack Obama took office." Some people ask, Why give up ABC for the smaller Fox networks? (Presumably, these are not the same people who asked Stossel for years, "Why don't you go to Fox?  They'd love you there.") The good news is that now Stossel has an hour a week to talk about freedom -- as well as appearances on other Fox shows such as Beck and O'Reilly. His hour-long specials at ABC were excellent, and drew solid ratings, but ABC hasn't put one on in more than a year. And even his "Give Me a Break" segments on 20/20 had become rare. So what's the point in being part of a big but declining network that isn't actually interested in serious political commentary? Now he's on a smaller but growing network that wants him to do 44 hours of pointed commentary and analysis, plus contribute to other shows. If you haven't seen Stossel's ABC specials, you need to. I can never decide which one I think is best. Of course, I'm partial to "John Stossel's Politically Incorrect Guide to Politics," in which I get a bit of screen time. But "Greed," with Walter Williams, David Kelley, and Ted Turner, is great, too. And so is "Is America #1?," featuring Tom Palmer. But there were plenty of others -- "Stupid in America," "Are We Scaring Ourselves to Death?," "John Stossel Goes to Washington," "Sex, Lies, and Consenting Adults." You can view some of them, including "Is America #1?," at a website called Freedom Channel. And for the time being, at least, you can still watch lots of shorter Stossel videos at ABC News. But meanwhile -- tell your mama, tell your pa, to watch "Stossel" this Thursday at 8 p.m. on Fox Business Channel. And note: it will repeat at 10 p.m. Friday, giving you a chance to show ABC what they lost by watching "Stossel" instead of "20/20."

Posted on December 8, 2009  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Palmer and Cowen on the Nature of Liberty by David Boaz

Two leading libertarian thinkers, Tom Palmer and Tyler Cowen, discussed Palmer’s new book, Realizing Freedom: Libertarian Theory, History, and Practice, at a recent Cato Book Forum. You can see the video or download a podcast here. Two years ago, Cowen and Palmer were among the contributors to a Cato Unbound colloquy on the past and future of libertarianism. Cowen was interviewed for Cato's Daily Podcast and expressed a more critical view of the concept of "negative liberties" than classical liberals typically do. A few days later, in another Daily Podcast, Palmer took on what he considers the coercive confusions of "positive liberty" and defended the necessity of "negative liberty" to a free society. Listen to them both and buy the book. Update: Here's a portion of Palmer's talk that focuses on the rule of law:

Posted on December 8, 2009  Posted to Cato@Liberty

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