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Archive for January 31st, 2011

I refuse to allow myself to get too excited about the chances of Obamacare ultimately being declared unconstitutional, but I’m definitely semi-psyched that this horrid law has been declared void by another federal judge. Here’s what the Washington Examiner has to say.

The full text of the decision from Federal Judge Roger Vinson is not available yet, but according to reporters who’ve seen the decision, he’s ruled the entire Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act unconstitutional. The ruling favors of the 26 state attorney generals challenging the law. The judge ruled the individual mandate that requires all Americans to purchase health insurance invalid and, according to the decision, “because the individual mandate is unconstitutional and not severable, the entire Act must be declared void.”

By the way, my skepticism has nothing to do with the legal merits. I have no doubt that our Founding Fathers would be horrified by much of what happens in Washington, and there is no doubt in my mind that Obamacare is wildly inconsistent with the original intent of the Constitution.

But the courts have done such a lousy job of protecting economic liberty ever since the 1930s and 1940s that I’m afraid some appeals court will give Obamacare a free pass.

But, at least for today, let’s celebrate.

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I’m in Milan, at the office of the Institute Bruno Leoni, which overlooks the famous Castle Sforza and is almost within shouting distance of the remarkable cathedral.

This evening, I’ll be talking about how Italy should balance its budget by limiting the size of government, and my message will be identical to the one I give American policymakers. Restraining spending is the only pro-growth way of lowering red ink.

Italy actually has a smaller budget deficit than the United States according to OECD data, so that should make their job easier. On the other hand, the economy seems permanently stagnant, so revenues are projected to climb by an average of only 3.5 percent annually (compared to 7 percent in the United States).

Here are the specific numbers. The Italian budget this year is about €822 billion, while revenues are estimated to be about €752 billion. If the budget is frozen at current levels, the deficit disappears within three years. If spending grows by 1 percent each year, the budget is balanced in 2015. And if spending is allowed to grow only 2 percent annually, there is a surplus in 2017. If lawmakers can maintain fiscal discipline in subsequent years, they can begin to reduce the public debt.

This last point is important because Italian politicians are actually considering proposals to either levy a temporary property tax or a temporary tax on all assets, supposedly for the purpose of reducing the nation’s debt.

Some economists might argue that one-off taxes on assets are an efficient way of collecting revenue. After all, taxes on assets punish income that already was earned and do not punish earning income today or in the future. That is true, but such a tax would represent a blatant confiscation of private capital.

If the government is successful, this policy will undermine economic confidence and give Italian taxpayers an additional reason to move their money overseas. And since the politicians can achieve their alleged goal of debt reduction by restraining spending, there is no legitimate reason to steal wealth from the Italian people.

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While many of my posts mock American politicians for their foolish, short-sighted, and corrupt choices, I’m still very happy to be a citizen of the United States. Or, to be more accurate, I’m glad that I live in a nation that is part of Western civilization.

Consider what it would be like to live in Iran, where the government executes people for victimless crimes. Here’s part of a report from AFP.

Iranian courts on Sunday sentenced two people to death for running porn sites, prosecutor general Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi said, quoted on the Islamic republic’s official IRNA news agency. …Last December, Canada expressed concern over the reported death sentence handed down to an Iranian-born Canadian resident for allegedly designing an adult website. …Malekpour was detained in Iran after returning in 2008 to visit his ailing father. He was sentenced to death in December. The Netherlands froze contacts with Tehran after Saturday’s hanging of an Iranian-Dutch woman for drug smuggling, having initially been arrested for taking part in anti-government protests.

Iran also executes gay people, so the thugs running the government get bent out of shape about all sorts of private, consensual acts.

And let’s not forget that these nutjobs apparently are on the verge of getting nuclear weapons.

I rarely comment on foreign policy, and I don’t pretend to know what, if anything, should be done about Iran. My libertarian instincts tell me that any Western intervention would backfire. That being said, the world might be a safer place if Iran’s nuclear weapons program was disabled by an Israeli strike.

The best outcome, at least to my untrained eye, would be a domestic revolution. Some people fear this means instability, but Anne Applebaum persuasively argues in today’s Washington post that the uncertainty of change is better than the certainty of oppression. She’s commenting on Egypt’s turmoil, but I think her message has wide application. As such, one can only hope that the Iranian people rise up and overthrow the current regime. At which point, maybe gay Persians should be allowed to decide an appropriate punishment for the ousted tyrants.

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