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At my wedding

Very sad news from Vermont.

My dad passed away last night.

He lived a full life and good life, died peacefully, and was surrounded by his wife and seven of his kids at the end.

All things considered, a decent way for a bad thing to happen.

Although he didn’t seem very interested in politics and public policy as I was growing up, he was involved in the founding of the Conservative Party of New York.

So he must have given me some good genes. No wonder I don’t like RINOs.

And he definitely passed along being a Yankees fan. Some of my best memories include going to games at the old Yankee Stadium as a kid.

Many thanks to those who already have expressed condolences, as well as to those who will.

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The left wanted to get one thing from the Supercommittee, and that was to seduce gullible Republicans into a 1990-style tax increase deal in order to enable bigger government.

But I was pleasantly surprised when GOPers failed to surrender, which means that taxpayers didn’t get raped and pillaged. But winning a battle is not the same as winning a war.

The real fight is now whether the sequester is allowed to happen. In other words, will politicians preserve the provision that will automatically slow the growth of the federal budget so that spending over the next 10 years  grows by about $2.0 trillion rather than $2.1 trillion.

This may not seem like much of an achievement, but it is a very important indicator of what will happen in the future. If we want to protect against higher taxes in the long run, we need to figure out how to restrain government spending.

At the very least, this means following Mitchell’s Golden Rule so that the private sector grows faster than government. This would slowly but surely shrink the burden of federal spending as a share of economic output, though actual spending cuts would be preferable and they would more quickly get us where we need to be.

The main obstacle to the sequester, at least on the right, is that it would slow the growth of the defense budget. According to recent calculations, the Pentagon budget would increase by only about $100 billion over the next 10 years if the sequester is implemented.

That might not be enough to keep pace with inflation, and some are wondering whether this puts America’s national security at risk. But  this chart, which was developed by Cato Institute colleagues, shows that the United States dominates global defense spending.

Not only does the United States account for 48 percent of total defense spending, our allies in Europe and the Pacific Rim account for another 24 percent of military outlays.

And even if we use an absurdly expansive definition of possible enemies (Russia, China, all of Central/South Asia, and the entire Middle East and Africa), the military expenditures by those nations and regions don’t even amount to one-fourth of the world total.

More important, the combined spending by all potential adversaries is only about one-half of what the United States is spending, and only one-third of the combined spending of the United States and our allies.

This isn’t an argument for blindly slashing the defense budget. Nor is it an argument that says a sequester is the best way to prune military spending. But it certainly suggests that some modest restraint won’t put America in danger.

Moreover, perhaps the sequester will trigger some much-needed analysis of how best to protect America’s national security.

Maybe Mark Steyn and Steve Chapman are correct and it is time to revisit our spending on NATO, an alliance that was put together to fight the Warsaw Pact, an adversary that no longer exists.

Perhaps it means we shouldn’t spend huge sums of money to defend South Korea, which is far richer and stronger than its crazy northern neighbor.

Or maybe it means that the United States shouldn’t be engaged in nation-building exercises that exacerbate anti-American sentiment in other nations.

I’m not a defense/national security expert, so I don’t pretend to know the right approach to all of these issues.

But I have some familiarity with the way things get done in Washington. Politicians, lobbyists, interest groups, and bureaucracies will all act like the world is coming to an end if budgets are not endlessly expanded. That’s just as true for the Pentagon as it is for all other parts of the federal government.

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One of the sacrifices I make for liberty is traveling to foreign lands. Previous hardship duty includes trips to Monaco, Bermuda, Cayman IslandsSwitzerland, and Anguilla.

I’m currently in Antigua, which is a remarkably beautiful island. But nice places nonetheless have un-nice governments.

View from my window

When I arrived yesterday, I didn’t know the address where I was staying. That detail didn’t seem important since I was being picked up at the airport.

But there was a “residence in Antigua” slot on the immigration form and the bureaucrats refused to let me in the country without knowing that irrelevant piece of information.

This isn’t the first time this happened to me. I was once detained at Heathrow Airport in the U.K. because I didn’t know the address of my friend’s flat. After a couple of minutes, though, the bureaucrat was overcome by common sense and let me through.

That was not the case in Antigua. I had to wait an irritatingly long period of time before one of the bureaucrats accompanied me into the arrivals section to find the person who was picking me up. Then, after putting the address on the immigration form, I was finally allowed in the country.

I realize I’m whining a bit (just like I did with my personal stories about Amtrak, tax returns, traffic tickets, and air travel), but what possible purpose did it serve for the government of Antigua to create an unpleasant experience for me?

After all, there’s no welfare system in Antigua, so I wouldn’t be sneaking in the country to mooch off local taxpayers.

Unfortunately, the government did recently introduce an income tax after decades of independence without that burdensome levy. So perhaps it’s just a matter of time before politicians augment that mistake with a welfare state.

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In a perverse way (pun intended), I admire German politicians for their creativity. They will figure out ways to tax just about anything.

Their latest scheme is a plan that requires streetwalkers to put money in parking meters in exchange for a slip of paper that entitles them to…um…ply their trade for a specified period of time.

Here are some excerpts from the Daily Mail report.

German Parking and/or Prostitute Meter

Prostitutes working the streets of the former German capital are now having to pay £5.30 per night to a modified parking meter – to gain permission to ply their trade. Sex workers in Bonn face hefty fines for not forking out the new ‘income tax’ which has been brought in to try and regulate the outdoor aspect of the industry. It is to bring them into line with the country’s brothel workers who already pay out a percentage of their profits in tax, which varies depending on the region. …if caught without a valid ticket, offenders would be reprimanded. They would then face fines, and later a ban. The fee is a daily charge, and irrespective of how many punters are entertained. …specific quarters have been designated as sex work zones. City officials have created ‘consummation areas’, which are wooden parking garages where customers driving cars can retreat to with their prostitutes. Dortmund has a similar system where prostitutes buy tickets from petrol stations.

I suppose this is the point where I normally would make some snide comments about greedy politicians, or perhaps offer some analysis about the economic impact of taxation.

But this story is so bizarre that I can’t even get to that stage.

What happens if you’re just a regular motorist and you put money in the meter and press the wrong button?

And I know that most governments will put a boot on one of your tires to disable your car if you don’t pay your parking tickets. Does this mean hookers who don’t buy a street-walking pass will get a chastity belt?

Does the city government also charge for use of the garages in the “consummation areas”? And when did it become the responsibility of German taxpayers to finance something like that?!?

And for the hookers in Dortmund who get their passes at the petrol station, do the mechanics check “under the hood” if they use full service? (okay, pretty lame, but I couldn’t resist)

Most important, will the politicians take this idea to its logical conclusion and put prostitute meters in Parliament? In other words, require politicians to put money in a meter before  they try to buy support from interest groups by providing handouts and special preferences.

That’s one tax increase even I could support.

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I’d rather have 1,000,000 dollars. Or maybe even 1,000,000 airline miles.

But I suppose it’s worth a brief mention that International Liberty, as of this morning, has received more than 1,000,000 views.

I don’t know if that’s good or bad after two-plus years of blogging, but I’ve mentioned before that I’m encouraged to continue so long as there is a steady increase in the number of readers.

And that seems to be happening. Here’s a screen capture from my administrator page earlier today (click for larger image). In addition to breaking the one-million mark, last month was my first with more than 100,000 views.

I suppose this might be the time for a few additional observations about blogging. I’ve learned that Glenn Reynolds is the Top Dog of the Blogosphere. Nothing generates traffic like an Instapundit link. Indeed, traffic from his site is responsible for 9 of my top 10 posts and 22 percent of my total views. I owe him a steak dinner.

I’m also semi-gratified that International Liberty is at least somewhat international. It wasn’t until the end of last year that I learned to put up a “flag counter,” but in the past 7-plus months the blog has been visited by people from 193 jurisdictions, accounting for about 13 percent of total views.

I figured people from the Anglosphere would be most likely to visit the blog, but I’m surprised India is in 5th place. I also never would have guessed that Greece would be in 13th place and that I’d have more visitors from Portugal (18th place) than Spain (19th place).

I’d like to break the 200 mark, so the folks in places such as North Korea, Greenland, Chad, Niger, Turkmenistan, Pitcairn Island, Vatican City, and American Samoa need to join the parade.

Last but not least, I want to thank those of you who comment, as well as those who share blog posts with others, either via email, Facebook, or Twitter. You have played a role in whatever modest success this blog enjoys.

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I don’t care one way or the other about the gay marriage debate, for the simple reason that I’ve never been convinced it is the job of the state to sanction marriages.

So you won’t be surprised that I find Steve Chapman’s column about de facto polygamy rather persuasive.

When it comes to sexual relationships and cohabitation among consenting adults, Utah takes a permissive approach. If a guy wants to shack up with a lady, that’s fine. If he wants to shack up with several, no problem. He can father children by different roommates, with no fear of the law. But if he marries one woman and represents three others as his “spiritual wives,” like Kody Brown? Then he’s committed a felony. Not because of the stuff that goes on behind closed doors. It’s the public act of claiming to be part of a lifelong “plural marriage” that raises the specter of jail. …So Brown went to court claiming that his constitutional rights have been violated in various ways. Though it may come as a surprise to hear, he’s got a perfectly reasonable argument. Brown and his lawyer, George Washington University professor Jonathan Turley, don’t say the state must sanction such arrangements in law. Nor did Brown try to get multiple marriage licenses, in defiance of the state ban on polygamy. His case is about freedom, not state recognition. Unlike gay couples who say they should be allowed to legally wed, Brown isn’t asking the state to officially accommodate his chosen form of matrimony. He’s just asking to be let the hell alone. Other people, after all, are exempt from such control. Turley says Brown and his women “would not be prosecuted if they claimed no religious obligation and merely had casual or purely sexual associations.” He notes, “Monogamists are allowed an infinite number of sexual partners, and consequently have the right to bear children with multiple partners, so long as they do not claim to be committed to such partners in a union or family.” The law doesn’t prevent any man from living with several women, having sex with them and siring their offspring. This behavior is a problem only when a man claims to be permanently wedded to the women — only, that is, when he behaves more responsibly than a tomcat. …If Brown wants to live with five women and call them his girlfriends, his shorties, his harem, the Seattle Storm or the 101st Airborne, it is of no earthly concern to the rest of us. And if he wants to call them his wives, the state of Utah should say, “Knock yourself out, dude.” That, or nothing.

I will admit that I don’t like the idea of children being born into that situation, but I’m also not happy about children being born to single mothers. What really matters, though, is that I certainly wouldn’t want the government to interfere in such matters, absent real proof of abuse.

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I’ve already pointed out the two nicest things ever said about me. One was intentionally flattering, as Dick Armey mentioned in his book that I was one of the few people to take a principled stand against the TARP bailout back in 2008. The other was meant to be negative, as a left-wing English journalist said that I was “a high priest of light tax, small state libertarianism.” But I thought it was a wonderful endorsement.

Now the time has come for me to confess the nastiest things ever said about me. But I’m not thinking of the people who occasionally rip me in the comments section of this blog or attack me in the comments section of my videos.

Instead, I think it’s terrible when people say things that imply I might be getting soft and selling out.

This happens a lot in Washington, so much that free-market supporters call it the “strange new respect” award – a term that became infamous in certain circles after the Washington Post used it to applaud former Senator Bob Dole for acquiescing to the left on some issue.

Simply stated, if some statist person or institution is saying nice things about you, that probably means you’re doing something very bad. With that bit of background, here are the two awful things that were written about me.

o Albert Hunt used to write a weekly column for the Wall Street Journal, and was also a regular on CNN’s Capital Gang.  He was a scion of establishment left-wing thinking, so I was horrified in 1994 when he wrote that I was a “responsible economic expert on the right.” After all, left wingers usually say people like me are “responsible” if we are willing to roll over and surrender.

o More recently, Nicholas Shaxson just wrote an anti-tax haven book called Treasure Islands. In one of the chapters, he wrote that I was one of the “noisiest and most active defenders” of low-tax jurisdictions. That was fine, but then he cold-cocked me by writing that I was “a man of striking warmth and great personal charm.” It goes without saying that this means I wasn’t vigorous enough in my defense of liberty during our meetings.

I don’t know if there’s a three-strikes-and-your-out policy, but I will work diligently to make sure I don’t receive any more praise from the wrong people.

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