Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Why I am voting Libertarian

None of the Above

If the Republicans win, it will probably be by a whisker. They will spend money in a manner that will make the last six years look like a model of fiscal restraint in an effort to maintain control of the House, the Senate and the Presidency in 2008. The Democrats will go along for two reasons. One is that they like nothing better than spending money. Secondly they will be able to blame the wildly excessive spending on the Republican president.

If the Democrats win, it will probably be by a whisker. They will spend money in a way that will make a drunken sailor on shore leave seem like the epitome budgetary parsimony. They will blame George Bush for the resulting rise in the deficit.

Some are worried that if the Democrats win, there will be two vacancies on the Supreme Court that will be filled by activist, liberal judges because current sitting liberals are waiting for Democrat control. Probably true.

If the Republicans win, however, the current liberals will just wait until 2008 (actually 2009) to resign because, if the Republicans win in 2006, Hillary will win in 2008 as a backlash for the massive Republican spending between 2006 and 2008. In any event, we are doomed to having a more liberal court.

As an aside, this supposedly conservative court has made two rulings that defy any logic. Obviously one is the Kelo decision. Even though some states have passed some laws to try to ameliorate this whacko decision, there should have been a message from the Court that eminent domain is not for private use.

The other decision was Raich (sp?) which gave the Court the perfect opportunity to overturn Wickerd. Wickerd vs. Filburn (early 1943), passed in the heat of the second world war, gave Congress the power to declare virtually any action by anybody as interstate commerce and to regulate it accordingly. That particular decision certainly ranks in the top 5 as one that institutionalized the loss of freedom in America.

So the only real alternative is to vote Libertarian to send a message to whoever wins that they do not have a mandate to go hog wild on spending. Voting Libertarian is a way of voting for "none of the above." A pox on both your houses.

I am voting for one Republican, Katherine Harris, because she is a very capable lady and she is in favor of the Fair Tax.


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Apologies for no show

Missed Last Saturday
Sorry guys. Last Saturday was a bust, so now show was recorded. Jimmy is finally going to have to figure out how to run his own studio.

As a consolation prize I will post here the letter I wrote this evening to the local County Commission.

Dear Commissioners,

First of all let me thank you for listening to me when I spoke the other evening, during citizen comment time, on the very general subject of County spending. I won't call what you do a thankless job, but it is certainly one that you could not pay me some $5,000 each month to do. In the alloted three minutes I had to skip some points, so I would like to take this opportunity to "revise and expand" my remarks. Most of you know me, and you know not to take anything here personally.

Recently Ron Cunningham over at the Sun asked readers to respond to the question, "Is spending by Alachua County government out of control?" I invite (dare?) the commissioners to go online and read the responses. Furthermore, while there, you might give us your views on why government spending is not out of control. You can even do this anonymously without any sign-up, although I don't know why you would want to.

So, is Alachua County government spending out of control? This is a rhetorical question, right?

Oh, there is the perfunctory genuflecting in front of the cross of fiscal restraint every election year, but otherwise it's the same old, same old. Even windfall revenues such as we had this year are not enough. Plans are afoot to garner yet more revenue.

Spending is out of control because there is no control. Asking the County Commission to control its spending is a little like asking a college kid to control his spending when he has his parents' credit card. The difference here is that the college kid doesn't have a gun. He can't force his parents to give him money.

You, on the other hand do have a gun. You are the only ones legally empowered to collect money at the point of a gun, and with that comes an awesome responsibility.

There are two questions that I never hear asked by commissioners during budget or new laws and regulations hearings.

One is, "What happens if this plan doesn't work? What if our assumptions turn out to be wrong? What is my fallback position? What is my plan 'B'?"

The second is, "Am I prepared to send the sheriff with full authorization to use any force necessary to collect the monies for this program?"

The answer to the first question is all too often to do more of the same. Make the program more inclusive and intrusive. "Tighten it up" is a phrase we often hear.

The answer to the second question must be "Yes" or else the program would not pass muster.

The reasons for overspending by the county are systemic and endemic to all governments at all levels. The commissars want to be liked and to do good things for the people. There are always unmet needs and wants. There is nothing so permanent as a temporary government program. Once started, programs not only become entitlements, but their "needs" increase every year. Job security requires the invention of a never-ending stream of crises that only the government can cure by extracting yet more revenue from the populace.

The beauty of our system is that the government can identify a new "crisis", say healthcare, put it on an out-of-the-way election day, convince 10% of the electorate into voting for it, and, voila!, a new program that requires everybody to pony up millions. This is known in government parlance as a mandate.

Our leaders sometimes forget that government is the overhead of society and they themselves are responsible for reigning in spending. There is no automatic check as there is in the private sector. Bill Gates may have an operating system monopoly, but he will never send one of his goons to my front door to force me to buy his product. One the other hand, government failure is rarely punished. Heck, half the time it's rewarded with a new plaque for services well done.

Private companies react rapidly to deteriorating market conditions by cutting back. When governments screw up, we don't get so much as an "oops" out them. Governments often react not by cutting back, but by instituting larger, more comprehensive programs.

Look, we citizens have given you the exclusive right to legally collect our money, by force if necessary, for purposes you deem essential. Nobody else, however rich or powerful, has that privilege. All we ask in return is that you don't abuse that very special franchise by spending our money on questionable items.

Think of it this way. We have a bank where we keep our money, and we have said to you, come on in with your loaded guns and take what you need. We know you need the guns because there are always some recalcitrant folks who object to your taking any money. But we trust you to take from us only what is absolutely essential.

Can you honestly say that every dollar you take is absolutely essential to the benefit of the entire community?


Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The Gainesville Sun - flack

Socialist Sun flacks for the county
The Gainesville Sun is a willing accomplice to local Socialist tendancies with the notable exception of Jake Fuller. I know that the Sun must feel they are doing a bang-up job, because they do receive some flack from the commissions. It's that old story in the media, "If both sides complain, then I must be right in the middle."

Nope, sorry, you don't get off that easy. Recently headlines have touted the reduction in the millage rate as a reduction in taxes. This in the face of an increase in the budget of virtually every governmental agency with more on the way. So where is all this extra money coming from? (That is a rhetorical question).

A recent example of the Sun flacking for the County. Headline: Buildings to Benefit County's Economy. And then there is the sidebar with a picture of Randall Reid, the county manager saying, "There is a good economic benefit to government spending."

Now Cindy (Swirko) is a long time reporter for the Sun, so I don't understand why she didn't ask the question(s) that immediately spring to my mind.

"Say there, Mr. Reid, isn't the $108 million taxpayer money that would have been spent anyway? I mean if you take a dollar from the private sector and spend it in the government sector, isn't the economic "benefit" just a wash? In fact isn't it a bit of a loss since we have to pay the staff to collect and disperse these monies?"

"And, Mr. Reid, where are the workers going to come from? It's not like we have any unemployment here in Alachua County, so are you not going to have to bid away the local workers from private construction by offering them more money? Won't that increase the cost of private construction thus raising the price of housing?"

"And, Mr. Reid, won't this ripple throughout the local economy by leaving less money for the citizenry to buy cars, flat screen TV's and Christmas presents?"

"And, Mr. Reid, will there not be more folks who simply not be able to afford the higher price of housing, and then will not the county step in and "solve" this problem by taking yet more taxpayer dollars and subsidizing housing for the newly poor?"

Thursday, September 21, 2006

800 Number for the show

Some of you may know that we are "live" on the internet at ztlk.com on Saturdays from 3 until 5 P.M. We now have an 800 number you can call in during the show to ask questions or make (very short) comments. It's 1-866-955-4669 aka 866-95-JIMMY.

During other times, please feel free to call the number and leave voicemail. I check it several times each day.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Gold Standard

Libertarian Rants
Dear John,

There are two ways to have a gold "standard." One is simply to decree that gold is the legal tender of the United States, and the other is to allow the government to hold the gold and issue receipts for an amount of gold as denominated in dollars.

If gold is the legal tender, then there is no reason for the government to have any in storage. The gold would be distributed among the populace and stored wherever.

If the government is to be entrusted with issuing gold receipts, then the government does need to hold an amount of gold in its vaults to redeem the receipts it issues.

Unfortunately, the government does not have a real good track record.

Allow me to rehash a little history.

Putting aside for a moment the government's disastrous foray into the bimetallic standard, $20 would buy you an ounce of gold until 1933. In fact the government issued official signed promises to that effect for 20 years starting in 1913. Prior to that time, the regional banks did the work with the same result since the price was guaranteed at $20 per ounce.

In 1933 the federal government realized that it had issued way too many of these paper receipts, and that it did not have the gold to back them up, so they defaulted.

Well, they couldn't admit to such gross mismanagement so they used the depression as a shield and outlawed the ownership of gold. People were required to turn in their actual coins at $20 per ounce and were issued new receipts that made no mention of gold, but simply said "$20."

As soon as the gov figured that all of the suckers that were going to be suckered had been suckered, it raised the price at which you could not own gold to $35 per ounce. An instant 75% windfall profit.

There was a loophole, and it was (fortunately) exploited by a surprisingly large number of non-suckers, and that was that you could still buy and sell "numismatic" coins and jewelry. Suddenly an awful lot of formerly circulated coins became "numismatic," and were spared from the smelter at Ft. Knox.

For nearly 40 years (until 1971) the U.S. was sort of and somewhat constrained from rampant inflation because, although we (the US citizen) could not own gold, it was still used to settle international accounts at $35/oz.

There was a little dust up in the late 50's when the French figured out that the US was printing up too much paper money and demanded that the actual gold be actually shipped from the US to Paris. The US authorities reacted with surprise and asked of the French, "What? You don't trust us?" The French replied as how, well, yeah sure, they trusted us, but they wanted the gold anyway. They got it, and other countries started to get nervous.

Well, by the late 60's the run on the US gold bank was on, and, to make a long story short, Nixon told anybody who wanted to exchange their dollars for gold to shove it. By any other name, it was a default on solemn promises made by the U.S. government.

Not content with stiffing foreigners, Nixon decided to spread the pain to the locals by instituting wage and price controls and proclaiming, "We are all Keynesians now." Within nano-months the economy did something that the Keynesians had for 40 years proclaimed was mathematically impossible: High unemployment along with high inflation. We coined a new term for it: Stagflation. The revered Phillips Curve which was a sacred cornerstone of Keynesian economics was shown to be as permanent as a fart in a windstorm. The stock market fell by over 50%, and the arabs decided to pile on with the first oil embargo in 1973. Armageddon was upon us.

At that point, the gov threw in the towel and said it was going to be OK to own bullion gold again. In anticipation of that event, in December, 1974, the market turned around (the DJ was about 475), and on January 1st, 1975, U.S. citizens were allowed to own gold in any form they wished. Gold overshot to $200/oz. , reacted to $100/oz., then really overshot to nearly $800/oz., and finally settled at roughly $300 + or - $50 for about 20 years.

So, now, that's the history and on to address your e-mail.

First with regard to counterfeiting. What I meant was that you cannot make a fake bullion gold coin. The fakes are way too easy to spot. Anybody with a scale and a glass of water can determine whether or not the coin he is handed is gold or not. A home made replica of a bullion coin would not be a problem since it would have to have the requisite amount of gold in it to be passed. Not so with paper. Witness the almost perfect currency coming in from North Korea.

To be sure counterfeiting could be a problem with a gold standard in that the receipts might be counterfeited. For example today counterfeiters find it easier to pass fake cashiers checks or even company checks. Interestingly, I have not heard of much of a problem with the Traveller Check people.

You say that the traditional gold standard means that each paper note is backed up by a set amount of gold in the US Treasury. Not true. What the notes said was that they could be turned in for, say, $20 in gold coin. There is nothing to stop the treasury from minting a gold coin 1/2 the size of a dime and stamping the words "$20" on it.

I unclear on your worry that a big boat from China will load up with all our gold. First of all, China has a fiat currency even more tightly controlled than the dollar. When the boat (junk?) shows up here, it's not the government that would give them gold, but rather Wal-Mart or some other retailer. You can bet that they are not going to give away more gold than the incoming products are worth.

As far as the deficit and debt are concerned, the US government will do what it has always done and default. Oh, they won't call it that, but you can bet that all those folks holding dollars overseas will end up taking it in the shorts.

Of course the real solution to stabilizing money would be to get the government out of the banking business all together. Not gonna happen because then the government would lose the power of inflation which has been called the invisible tax.

You say that you don't agree with a fixed standard, but I think you do. I mean you don't want to wake up every morning with all the prices on everything changed from the day before. In the very short term, the dollar is pretty well fixed, and you and I count on that, but that could change at the whim of the government. They have done it before.

I am not saying that a return to an anchor of gold would solve all problems. Even smart people get carried away sometimes. We would still have booms and busts, but they would be shorter, more localized and less severe than what we are headed for right now.

Hope this helps and please don't hesitate to write if you have more questions.


Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Listener writes in - I respond

Libertarian Rants

I received an e-mail from our listener asking if Wal-Mart was too big a la the article in July Harpers. Here is my response.


Thanks for listening. I hope you can tell that we have a good time
doing these shows, and we might have another one up by the end of the
week with Jack Rhodes sitting in as #4.

I pulled down the Harper's article from their website, and as I write
this, I have only finished about 2 or 3 pages, but I find it hard to
believe that what I am about to say will change much upon further

There was a very erudite refutation of this article in an op-ed
somewhere, but for the life of me I cannot seem to locate it. That's
the curse of reading about 20 publications each day.

The Harper's article is so chock full of erroneous premises leading to
false conclusions that it is difficult to know where to start, so
let's do one.

"The problem is that Wal-Mart, like other monopsonists, does not
participate in the market so much as use its power to micromanage the
market, carefully coordinating the actions of thousands of firms from
a position above the market."

There is no such thing as "above the market" any more than a man can
be above humanity. Wal-Mart, like every human action is part and
parcel of the market and subject to it's natural, self-correcting

Every single human action involves a choice, and those are of exactly
two varieties: voluntary and coerced. Voluntary choices are exactly
like the coerced ones with one exception: coerced means that one of
the parties has a gun and will use it.

This is not to say that some voluntary choices are almost equally
unpleasant, but at least they do not have certain death as one of the

Somehow it is thought that because of its size that Wal-Mart is
different from the average consumer. This is not so. When I go garage
sailing, I often dictate the price I will buy at. And often the price
I am willing to pay is below the price I know I can sell the item for
on Ebay. The seller may groan and moan, but in the end he has a
choice, and no guns are involved.

Involving the state in a Wal-Mart transaction as the article suggests,
would be no different than if the garage sale seller enlisted his
armed neighbor to force me to pay the price he wanted.

There are other less obvious costs and problems when one involves the
state. What if they are wrong? Who regulates the regulators? Who holds
the reins if you "bridle" free enterprise? Who pays for the
regulators? Do you think that there might be a chance that politics
might enter into the equation along with the state?

The state is the camel's nose in the tent. And the camel is armed.

To (finally) answer your question(s): There is no such thing as "too
big" as long as guns are not involved. The same holds for your
question #2 on Laissez Faire.

Thanks again for listening. Write any time.


Thursday, July 13, 2006

Libertarian Rants

Libertarian Rants
Imagine my joy when I read the headline in the [B section of the July 6, 2006] Gainesville Sun: "[County] Budget proposal contains tax cut."

However as I continued reading, I noticed that the county will get a raise of some $50 million. But how can that be? How can county revenues increase by over 17% and I get a tax cut? Where is that windfall coming from?

Upon further reading I discovered the wonders of government accounting. I will get a millage cut, however the check I write will be larger than last year. And what did I do to deserve this privilege? Actually, nothing. It turns out that my neighbor sold his house for a bunch of money so it appears that my house is worth more and I get to pay more.

Well, at least I can rest easy knowing that after selling a kidney to pay for the increase that the county will spend the money wisely on parks (Didn't we vote that down last year?) and bribing the homeless to stay here.

Maybe next year I can sell a cornea.