Thursday, May 2, 2013
The proposed federal Marketplace Fairness Act (MFA)
grants states the authority to compel online and catalog retailers (“remote sellers”), no matter where they are located, to collect sales tax at the time of a transaction—exactly like local retailers are already required to do.
The issue the bill purportedly aims to address is the need of equal protection under the law. Currently, a state can compel a retailer to collect sales taxes only if the retailer has a physical presence in the state. This state of affairs, the MFA’s supporters claim, renders in-state retailers “at a competitive disadvantage” relative to out-of-state retailers. The MFA, they say, would “level the playing field.”
Granted, the MFA would “level the playing field” in a certain respect: It would cripple businesses that are not currently being crippled, thus rendering all businesses equally crippled by sales taxes.
A sales tax violates rights, harms businesses, and increases costs for consumers. The MFA, if passed into law, would harm all and financially ruin many internet businesses. The moral way to level the playing field is not to increase the extent to which rights are violated, but to decrease it. Sales taxes should not be expanded; they should be eliminated.
Of course, from the perspective of state governments, the MFA is a pragmatic means to financing their spending sprees. The MFA’s official website states explicitly that the act is intended to “help the many states now facing significant budget shortfalls.”
The Marketplace Fairness Act is a rights-violating, statist gimmick being pushed under the guise of “fairness.” Americans had better open their eyes, see it as such, and reject it wholesale. Once something like this is passed, there is usually no turning back.
- Don’t Expand Sales Taxes, Abolish Them
- The American Right, the Purpose of Government, and the Future of Liberty
Posted in: Taxation
Wednesday, May 1, 2013
Dr. Beth Haynes makes a surprising but warranted claim in her recent article for Huffington Post: “Very few Americans have health insurance . . . because what people call health insurance really isn’t insurance at all.”
Real insurance, Haynes explains, covers high-cost, catastrophic events, not routine care. What usually passes for health insurance today is actually “prepayment of medical expenses.” Unfortunately, Haynes notes, ObamaCare makes this problem worse by mandating that “insurance” cover various types of routine care such as “health maintenance checks.” Haynes points out the absurdity of this: “It’s like having a law requiring homeowner’s insurance to pay for lawn care, house painting and water heater replacement.”
The consequence, Haynes notes, is that insurance companies have less money to cover truly catastrophic events; thus, “when we are at our most vulnerable, we are less protected.” Because the federal government requires insurance companies to spend more on routine care, that money is not available for emergencies or catastrophes. The government’s solution to the problem? To heck with the emergencies! Haynes offers the example of the American Academy of Pediatrics, “under pressure” to declare fewer premature infants eligible for treatment and to restrict the amount of care that insurance will cover for them.
Haynes admirably describes some of the key problems with ObamaCare and insurance mandates, and she identifies part of the solution: “We have to allow our health coverage to conform to the requirements of true insurance.” But I would like to emphasize the moral principle that ObamaCare and all such mandates violate: the principle of individual rights.
Insurance providers have a moral right to offer insurance packages they deem best for business, and customers have a moral right to seek the type of insurance that best meets their needs. Because the federal government increasingly violates the rights both of providers and consumers of health insurance to freely negotiate terms according to their own judgment, the government increasingly throttles people’s ability to serve their own interests.
Kudos to Dr. Haynes for pointing out some of the destructive consequences of government interference in health insurance. Let’s demand an end to this rights-violating practice.
- Moral Health Care vs. “Universal Health Care”
- How the Freedom to Contract Protects Insurability
- Government-Run Health Care vs. the Hippocratic Oath
Posted in: Health Care
Tuesday, April 30, 2013
As Ayn Rand observed, “There is a fundamental conviction which some people never acquire, some hold only in their youth, and a few hold to the end of their days—the conviction that ideas matter . . . that knowledge matters, that truth matters, that one’s mind matters.”
Joshua Lipana was one of the few. He held this conviction from the core of his soul, and it radiated on the world with his every deed.
In this portrait of Joshua, which was commissioned for me by Linda and Quent Cordair, Bryan Larsen captures this aspect of Joshua’s character—and, consequently, his independence, his confidence, his love of life. This is Joshua.
Thank you, Bryan, Linda, and Quent. I will cherish this portrait forever. —Craig Biddle
Posted in: Announcements
Sunday, April 28, 2013
Although you’re far more likely to die in a car crash than at the hands of a mass murderer, you face some risk of a criminal assault or a terrorist attack, especially when our government is failing on multiple fronts to eliminate the threat of terrorism. So it is worth learning at least the basic principles of how to deal with such situations if they arise. Knowing a few essential tactics can radically improve your chances for survival.
The main point to grasp is that action often is possible even when facing horrific violence. In some cases of a shooter attempting to commit mass murder, the intended victims take no action against the perpetrator, and the crime ends only when police (men with guns) arrived on the scene—usually too late. In other cases, the intended victims do take action and manage to stop the perpetrator.
And the actions of a single individual can spur others to action. For example, after the perpetrator of the 1993 Long Island rail murders emptied two gun magazines, killing six and injuring another nineteen, someone finally yelled “grab him,” and three other passengers tackled the criminal. Had passengers taken such action earlier, they might have saved more lives.
The New York Times reports on the work of researchers at Texas State University, who looked at 84 mass shootings from 2000 to 2010. According to the Times:
In 16 of the attacks studied by the researchers, civilians were able to stop the perpetrator, subduing him in 13 cases and shooting him in 3 cases. In other attacks, civilians have obstructed or delayed the gunman until the police arrived.
As one of the researchers, J. Pete Blair, told the Times, “You’re not helpless and the actions you take matter.”
That is precisely the attitude behind the production of a new video, Active Shooter Survival, produced and directed by Alon Stivi of Direct Measures International. (I’ve taken gun classes with Stivi, and Stivi has worked with my father, Linn Armstrong, in western Colorado to train police and administrators at schools in security and response tactics.)
The 75-minute video combines classroom discussions by Stivi and live demonstrations of tactics. The scenarios involve an assault on a classroom or an office where the intended victims do not have guns.
Stivi summarizes the basic options early in the video:
Either escape, evade, disengage; or barricade, hold your ground; or, if absolutely necessary, and there’s no other way, engage the active shooter. [That’s] better than just being shot.
Stivi demonstrates a variety of tactics: barricading a door, hiding if circumstances permit, safely exiting a room or building, and taking down the perpetrator if there is no other option.
In one particularly poignant segment, Stivi has participants play out two different scenarios. In one, having heard “shots” down the hall, all the intended victims crawl under their desks before the perpetrator enters the room. The result is that the criminal has all the time he needs to murder everyone in the room. In another scenario, after hearing “shots,” the participants assume defensive postures. When the attacker enters the room, the intended victims grab the attacker’s arms, tackle him at the knee, and then pile on top of him, subduing him.
Near the end of the video, Stivi discusses the prospect of physically confronting a criminal:
Once again, this is a last-resort survival measure. We trust and we hope that we will never have to . . . do something like that. But if we do, this is better than just being shot under a table and dying. And as you can see, this is not rocket science. It’s simple tactics that you could teach or translate to [other] people—those who want to do something, not those who have the victim mentality. The victim mentality is the problem; [if you want to survive] you can’t have it. [And] not everybody does [have it]. So you find those in the classroom [or elsewhere] who are willing to fight for survival. You coordinate their efforts, and your chances of survival are good—if you know what you’re doing.
If we want to deter criminals from attacking people in a public setting, the best thing we can do, if we find ourselves in such a situation, is to take action to save our lives. If no other option is available, that may involve taking down the attackers and pummeling them until they surrender. If so, their mangled faces can serve as a deterrent to other potential attackers by showing that some people refuse to be victims.
- “No Substitute for Victory”—The Defeat of Islamic Totalitarianism
- Interview: Linn Armstrong on Self-Defense and Guns
Posted in: Guns and Self Defense
Saturday, April 27, 2013
At the fifth annual Tax Day Tea Party in Chicago, Jonathan Hoenig delivered an excellent speech on the principles of Americanism and the need to return to them.
Focusing on what made America unique in history, he pointed out what it means to be free and what it means to be enslaved, and he made one crucial point after another with crystal clarity. For example, regarding the meaning of freedom:
In a free nation, the government does not regulate citizen’s lives. It doesn’t tell you what type of health insurance you have to buy, it doesn’t tell you what type of light bulb you have to put in your home, it doesn’t tell you what size soda you have to buy. You’re free to make those decisions on your own.
And regarding what we should fight against and what we should fight for, Hoenig accentuated the positive:
We should fight against taxes. We should fight against regulation. But what we should fight for is Americanism: individual rights, the rebirth of the self-interested, individualistic American principle that regards each of us, not as sacrifices for “the greater good,” but as sovereign individuals, each with our own life, our own liberty, and our own happiness. If this country is to survive, that is the Americanism we must fight to revive.
Watch Hoenig’s speech below, and share it with your freedom-loving friends. This is a message everyone should hear.
Posted in: Individual Rights and Law
Friday, April 26, 2013
As the New York Times’s Suzanne Daley recently reported, Denmark’s massive welfare state imposes “the highest marginal income-tax rates in the world” in order to subsidize “able-bodied” Danes with “no intention of taking a demeaning job.” Consequently, the nation faces massive and growing unemployment; “only 3 of Denmark’s 98 municipalities will have a majority of residents working in 2013,” compared to 59 in 2009.
One need not be a professional economist to understand that when government punishes those who work in order to reward those who do not, the result is that fewer people work.
Denmark’s economic problem is a consequence of its moral problem. Its government violates the rights of its citizens by forcing them to finance the welfare state—and the government does this because Danish citizens regard selfless service to others as moral.
Denmark will not restore economic sanity until its citizens recognize the individual’s right to keep and use the fruits of his labor according to his own judgment. And they won’t recognize that right until they come to see that self-interest—thinking and acting on one’s own behalf, keeping and using the fruits of one’s own effort, and leaving others free to do the same—is moral.
Image: Wikimedia Commons
Posted in: Welfare State
Thursday, April 25, 2013
During a pre-game ceremony at Fenway Park last weekend, the Boston Red Sox commemorated the city’s return to normalcy following the capture of the Boston Marathon bombers. Addressing the crowd, and on live television, popular Red Sox slugger David “Big Papi” Ortiz shouted, “This is our f***ing city, and nobody is going to dictate our freedom.”
This (ironically) violated the rules of the Federal Communications Commission, which precisely dictates what Americans may and may not say on television.
Fortunately for Ortiz and the Red Sox organization, the FCC decided not to take action against them. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski wrote on the agency’s official Twitter account, “Ortiz spoke from the heart. . . . I stand with Big Papi and the people of Boston.”
On the surface, the FCC’s decision not to take action in this instance is good news. This was a heated moment in the wake of a terrorist attack that murdered and maimed Americans. Moreover, the government should not punish anyone for speaking his mind anyway (unless doing so incites violence or violates rights in some other way). But the leniency here is also chilling, as it highlights the arbitrary nature of the agency’s political power. Indeed, while the FCC is letting the Red Sox off the hook, the agency may proceed to punish CBS for Joe Flacco’s exuberant use of the same f-word after the Super Bowl earlier this year. Surely Flacco “spoke from the heart,” too. But whether the FCC will “stand with” him or against him depends on the preferences of the agency’s bureaucrats.
Although the informal tone and manner of Genachowski’s absolution of Ortiz conveyed support for the city, its underlying message is ominous. The fact that the FCC made an official statement at all serves as a reminder that speech in the United States is broadcast not by right but by permission.
For an indication of why this issue is crucially important to a free and civilized society, ask yourself a simple question: Given that the FCC is empowered to arbitrarily decide when people may and may not use certain words, what is to stop the agency from arbitrarily deciding when people may and may not refer to Muslim terrorists as Muslim terrorists?
There is no place in a free country for an agency that regulates speech. Decisions about the content of broadcasts properly belong to private individuals and businesses who are free to deal with each other (or not) as they see fit. If a broadcaster chooses to permit profanity, a viewer who is offended by such speech can exercise his prerogative in a manner consistent with freedom: He can change the channel.
Image: Wikimedia Commons
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Boston bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev once said, complaining about American culture, “There are no values anymore.” What his actions demonstrate is that there are no values through Islam, the religion to which he turned for guidance and meaning.
According to the FBI, “in early 2011, a foreign government” informed the Bureau that Tsarnaev “was a follower of radical Islam [i.e., he took the religion seriously] and a strong believer.” What “values” did he then embrace? An indication can be found on YouTube, where Tsarnaev created a “terrorists” playlist and “liked” a video proclaiming that “no one can stop jihad.” Further indication of his “values” can be seen in his terrorist actions at the Boston Marathon.
Tsarnaev turned to Islam for “values,” and what he got was murderous rage against the United States, against Americans, against life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Contrary to Tsarnaev’s faith-based assertion that there are no values in America, our culture and citizens are rich with values. The Boston marathoners value physical health, friendly competition, and personal achievement. Parents, siblings, and friends of the runners value (or valued) their loved ones and the spectacle of seeing them strive to accomplish their goals. People across America value their careers, romance, education, and innumerable other things that sustain and enrich their lives. These are the kinds of values—life-serving values—that Tsarnaev’s religion forbade him to recognize as values.
Tsarnaev, embracing the antilife religion of Islam and taking it seriously, sought to destroy life-loving Americans and their life-serving values. And he achieved some measure of success in his vile, faith-based pursuit. He even achieved his own death—the ultimate goal of a consistent Muslim.
“There are no values anymore?” At his own personal level, Tsarnaev got that right. That’s what he gets for embracing a religion that worships death.
- Great Islamic Thinkers Versus Islam
- The Ground Zero Mosque, the Spread of Islam, and How America Should Deal with Such Efforts
Image: Wikimedia Commons
Posted in: Religion
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Events last week surrounding the hunt for the Boston Marathon bombers were instructive regarding the contradiction that is anarchy.
Anarchy, the absence of government, leaves political justice to the will of the general public. How would that have played out in this instance?
Had there been no government—that is, no police, no law, no final arbiter restricting what people may do—how would these killers have been identified and apprehended? By individual citizens investigating and prowling around on their own? By multiple private “defense agencies,” each working for different individuals or groups and following their own favored practices regarding the use of force?
Over the course of that week, how many people were wrongly identified as “suspects” by the police, by professional journalists, by random citizens and people on social media? Without force being subjugated to the rule of law and due process, how many innocent people would have been assaulted and possibly slain? Shudder to think of it.
The hunt for and apprehension of these terrorists illustrates why the use of retaliatory force (outside of immediate self-defense) must be placed under objective control—that is, control of pre-established legal processes enacted by a government strictly limited to the protection of individual rights.
Yes, government can violate rights, as illustrated throughout history and by our current government’s myriad uses of initiatory force to interfere in people’s peaceful choices. But the solution is not to eliminate government. The solution is to strictly limit government to its only legitimate function—that of protecting individual rights and of using retaliatory force only in compliance with rights-protecting law.
- The American Right, the Purpose of Government, and the Future of Liberty
- How Would Government Be Funded in a Free Society?
- The Problem of Gary Johnson’s Libertarian Affiliation
Image of Murray Rothbard: Wikimedia Commons
Posted in: Libertarianism
Monday, April 22, 2013
My dear friend, and assistant editor of this blog, Joshua Lipana died this morning after a heroic, nine-month battle against cancer.
To know Joshua was to love him. To know him well, as I did, was to love him like another self.
Joshua loved life with a contagious passion. He thought at levels well beyond his years. He wrote with an eloquence few writers ever acquire. And he laughed with a joy earned only through perfect virtue. His death is a monumental loss not only for those of us who knew and adored him, but for every person on Earth who values human ability, rationality, freedom, flourishing.
I’m too devastated to say more now.
Good bye, my good friend. What I would give to laugh with you again.
Posted in: Announcements
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