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Archive for the ‘Constitution’ Category

To save the nation from a future Greek-style fiscal meltdown, we should reform entitlements.

But as part of the effort to restore limited, constitutional government, we also should shut down various departments that deal with issues that shouldn’t be handled by the central government.

I’ve already identified some low-hanging fruit.

Get rid of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Shut down the Department of Agriculture.

Eliminate the Department of Transportation.

We need to add the Department of Education to the list. And maybe even make it one of the first targets.

Increasing federal involvement and intervention, after all, is associated with more spending and more bureaucracy, but NOT better educational outcomes.

Politicians in Washington periodically try to “reform” the status quo, but rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic never works. And that’s true whether you look at the results of GOP plans, like Bush’s no-bureaucrat-left-behind scheme, or Democratic plans, like Obama’s Common Core.

The good news, as explained by the Washington Examiner, is that Congress is finally considering legislation that would reduce the federal government’s footprint.

There are some good things about this bill, which will serve as the reauthorization of former President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind law. Importantly, the bill removes the Education Department’s ability to bludgeon states into adopting the controversial Common Core standards. The legislative language specifically forbids both direct and indirect attempts “to influence, incentivize, or coerce” states’ decisions. …The Student Success Act is therefore a step in the right direction, because it returns educational decisions to their rightful place — the state (or local) level. It is also positive in that it eliminates nearly 70 Department of Education programs, replacing them with more flexible grants to the states.

But the bad news is that the legislation doesn’t go nearly far enough. Federal involvement is a gaping wound caused by a compound fracture, while the so-called Student Success Act is a band-aid.

…as a vehicle for moving the federal government away from micromanaging schools that should fall entirely under state and local control, the bill is disappointing. …the recent explosion of federal spending and federal control in education over the last few decades has failed to produce any significant improvement in outcomes. Reading and math proficiency have hardly budged. …the federal government’s still-modest financial contribution to primary and secondary education has come with strings that give Washington an inordinate say over state education policy. …The Student Success Act…leaves federal spending on primary and secondary education at the elevated levels of the Bush era. It also fails to provide states with an opt-out.

To be sure, there’s no realistic way of making significant progress with Obama in the White House.

But the long-run battle will never be won unless reform-minded lawmakers make the principled case. Here’s the bottom line.

Education is one area where the federal government has long resisted accepting the evidence or heeding its constitutional limitations. …Republicans should be looking forward to a post-Obama opportunity to do it for real — to end federal experimentation and meddling in primary and secondary education and letting states set their own policies.

Amen.

But now let’s acknowledge that ending federal involvement and intervention should be just the first step on a long journey.

State governments are capable of wasting money and getting poor results.

Local governments also have shown that they can be similarly profligate and ineffective.

Indeed, when you add together total federal/state/local spending and then look at the actual results (whether kids are getting educated), the United States does an embarrassingly bad job.

The ultimate answer is to end the government education monopoly and shift to a system based on choice and competition.

Fortunately, we already have strong evidence that such an approach yields superior outcomes.

To be sure, school choice doesn’t automatically mean every child will be an educational success, but evidence from SwedenChile, and the Netherlands shows good results after breaking up state-run education monopolies.

P.S. Let’s close with a bit of humor showing the evolution of math lessons in government schools.

P.P.S. If you want some unintentional humor, the New York Times thinks that government education spending has been reduced.

P.P.P.S. And you’ll also be amused (and outraged and disgusted) by the truly bizarre examples of political correctness in government schools.

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Back in 2013, I shared a snarky post comparing murder rates in Chicago and Houston. What made the data amusing is that any sensible person would look at Chicago’s high murder rate and strict gun control and conclude that perhaps, just maybe, such policies don’t work.

But the post speculated that a left-wing social scientist would instead conclude that “cold weather causes murder.”

Today, let’s take a more serious look at the issue.

Here’s a great video, narrated by Bill Whittle, that looks at gun ownership rates and murder rates. As you can see, America is the number one nation for gun ownership, but we’re nowhere near the top in murder rates.

Having had many arguments with leftists, I can tell you that their response to this video will be to point out that America has one of the highest murder rates if you look solely at developed nations.

That’s true, but this is why the most persuasive data in the video comes near the end when Bill looks at murder rates by major metropolitan areas.

He shows that pro-gun control cities have very high murder rates, whereas heavily armed, pro-gun places such as Plano, TX, have murder rates lower than some of the most tranquil places on the planet.

And although Bill doesn’t make the connection, it’s very much worth noting that Switzerland is one of the world’s most heavily armed nations, yet the murder rate is extremely low.

Moreover, there were no murders in the most recent years for which data are available in Monaco and Liechtenstein, yet I’ve been told during visits to both principalities that there is widespread private gun ownership.

Gee, maybe John Lott is right about more guns leading to less crime.

P.S. Since we’re sharing good news on guns, here’s a heartwarming story about civil disobedience. But this isn’t about civil disobedience solely by gun owners, as we’ve seen in Connecticut.

This is a story about civil disobedience sanctioned by a law enforcement officer!

J.D. Tuccille of Reason reports on the principled behavior of a sheriff in New York.

Fulton County Sheriff Thomas J. Lorey is already known as a supporter of the Second Amendment… Despite the Empire State’s fame as a jurisdiction unfriendly to private gun ownership—or, really, any activity beyond the reach of government officials—Lorey isn’t alone in his views. The New York State Sheriffs Association and individual sheriffs are already on record opposing tightened gun laws and suing the governor to block their enforcement. But Lorey goes a step further, and urges his constituents to defy the state’s handgun permit law. …”I’m asking everyone that gets those invitations to throw them in the garbage because that is where they belong,” says Lorey in the video below. “They go in the garbage because, for 100 years or more, ever since the inception of pistol permits, nobody has ever been required to renew them.”

Makes me proud to be an American when I read things like this.

Though I guess we shouldn’t be surprised to see law enforcement officers express skepticism about gun control. A poll of cops found that they overwhelmingly reject the left’s anti-gun ideology.

And let’s not forget about the poll showing an overwhelming majority of regular citizens would engage in civil disobedience if the government tried to confiscate guns.

P.P.S. Since it’s Super Bowl weekend, here’s a depressing reminder of the NFL’s anti-gun bias.

P.P.P.S. If you like pro-Second Amendment videos, here’s a great collection.

And if you want gun control videos that are both funny and on the right side, here’s my collection.

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As a libertarian, it’s easy for me to get agitated about the theoretical burden of high taxes, wasteful spending, and costly regulation.

But even regular people should get upset when they get exposed to specific examples of individuals who are victimized by abusive government.

Regarding the particular topic of Second Amendment freedoms and government misbehavior, I know I get very angry when I read about what happened to folks like Adam Meckler and Benjamin Srigley.

And now we can add Shaneen Allen to the list. Here’s some of what Glenn Reynolds of the University of Tennessee wrote for USA Today.

When Ray Rice beat his wife unconscious in an elevator, New Jersey Superior Court Judge Michael Donio and New Jersey District Attorney Jim McClain agreed to put him in a diversion program for 1st-time offenders to keep him out of jail. But when Pennsylvania single mom Shaneen Allen was pulled over for a traffic violation and volunteered to a New Jersey police officer that she was carrying a legally-owned handgun with a Pennsylvania permit, the response of Donis and McClain was to deny her the same opportunity as Rice. …she faces a felony conviction and a mandatory 42 months in prison. Both Donio and McClain have been unwilling to dismiss the charges, or send Allen to a pretrial diversion program. They seem to want to make an example of her.

How disgusting. A big-time athlete gets special treatment even though he brutalized another person.

But Ms. Allen, who didn’t hurt anybody and only wanted the ability to protect herself, is being abused by the heavy hand of government.

Professor Reynolds argues that this is a problem that merits federal intervention.

The problem is, she’s being punished for something the Constitution says — and the Supreme Court has agreed — is a constitutional right. …Shaneen Allen wasn’t committing gun violence, and civilians with gun permits are a very law-abiding bunch, who have passed a background check and undergone training; no sensible state would want to discourage them from visiting. …Under the Constitution, Congress has the power to protect civil rights via legislation, and this seems like a good subject for action. I would suggest a law providing that when people who may legally own guns under federal law are charged with possessing or carrying them in violation of state law, the maximum penalty should be a fine of no more than $500. This would allow states a reasonable degree of regulation, without subjecting individuals to life-ruining consequences just because some politico wants to make a point.

Speaking of politicos, I hope Governor Chris Christie intervenes and pardons Ms. Allen. Pre-emptively if that’s even legally possible.

A few years ago, he did commute the sentence of a guy who was similarly victimized by New Jersey’s awful laws, so he’s at least semi-reasonable on these issues.

Now let’s shift gears and review a more uplifting story.

Back in 2011, I wrote about the unfortunate plight of unarmed Brits who had very little ability to defend themselves when their neighborhoods were assaulted by rioters and compared that situation to what happened during the Los Angeles riots, when Korean business owners used guns to successfully protect their lives and property.

And I augmented that analysis in 2012 when I wrote about disarmed New Yorkers who were vulnerable to thugs during the chaos that followed Hurricane Sandy.

However, there are places where people can exercise their constitutional rights to self defense, so let’s look at a feel-good story from the Midwest.

Here are some excerpts from a report out of St. Louis.

After nightfall, what began as a community’s peaceful demonstration against the Ferguson Police Department’s shooting of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown turned increasingly violent. Crowds plundered a QuikTrip and burned it to the ground, and local news began reporting brazen raids on other stores in the area. After hearing of the roving bands of looters, Mike Gutierrez knew he had to protect his tattoo shop. He brought a posse with him, including Adam Weinstein, owner of County Guns… Gutierrez, Weinstein and their group arrived to find thieves tearing through a Dollar General in the same strip mall that houses their business. Weinstein says the looters attempted moving toward the shop, but were scared off by the guns.

Hooray that these guys had the freedom to defend themselves.

And I love the accompanying photo. At the risk of stereotyping, I assume that guys who run tattoo parlors are bad asses. Give them some guns and it becomes very obvious why the looters stayed away.

Though even mild-mannered suburban dads can deter looters. At least when they’re armed.

Meanwhile, what happens to store owners that rely on the government to protect them when bad things happen?

Well, there’s not a happy ending.

At the other end of the same strip mall that houses Gutierrez and Weinstein’s business, 53-year-old Silas Chung arrived at his women’s clothing store, Up N Up Fashion, to find a pane of glass shattered and a mannequin lying on its back in the parking lot. Inside the store, racks of newly stocked clothing had been stripped bare. Chung has endured a couple burglaries in the past nine years of running the store, but nothing comparable.

I hope Mr. Chung has insurance, though I would recommend that he also buy some guns and learn to shoot.

Sort of like this honest liberal.

P.S. As I’m typing this, I’m looking at the cufflinks that I received as a birthday present from the PotL. Very appropriate, wouldn’t you agree?

photo2

Perhaps not as strong of a statement as my license plate or my daughter’s t-shirt, but very nice nonetheless.

P.P.S. Here are some good videos on gun control (both serious and satirical) and here’s some good humor on the topic.

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Why are so many people upset that the Obama White House keeps arbitrarily changing parts of Obamacare – even when bad provisions are being suspended or certain groups are being exempted from bad policy?

Well, some of them may simply dislike Obama or government-run healthcare, and there’s nothing wrong with being against a politician or rejecting bigger government.

But the most important reason to be upset is that the White House is making a mockery of the rule of law.

But what exactly is the rule of law? Why, for instance, does it have such a large impact on a nation’s grade in the Economic Freedom of the World Index?

This Learn Liberty video explains that the rule of law is critical because it creates a framework for honest exchange and it limits the power of politicians and government.

As Professor Bell states, the rule of law provides “a necessary framework for civil society” and enables “tolerance, liberty, and free trade.”

I also like that the video highlights the importance of having laws that are easy to understand, which means that Byzantine schemes like Obamacare are contrary to the rule of law – even if they are administered honestly.

Which explains why the tax code also is an affront to the rule of law, whether we’re looking at incomprehensible policy, illegal regulations, or extraterritorial application.

And the corrupt TARP bailout obviously is contrary to the rule of law as well.

Let’s now step back and take a big-picture look at the issue. Perhaps the best example of the rule of law is the United States Constitution. That sacred document was written precisely to limit the power of the state in hopes or preventing the capricious rule of men.

This Thomas Jefferson quote gets to the heart of the matter.

It’s embarrassing that the United States only ranks #19 in an international comparison of the rule of law. Particularly when the presence of the rule of law is the biggest factor that separates advanced nations from the developing world.

P.S. It’s discouraging that the Constitution’s protections of individual liberty have eroded, so let’s share a bit of good news.

I’ve written before about the threat posed by international bureaucrats who want to cartelize business taxation in order to enable higher tax rates.

Well, at least some American lawmakers are not on board with this scheme, as reported by Reuters.

Republican tax law writers in the U.S. Congress and multinational businesses on Monday said international talks aimed at preventing companies from moving profits to low-tax countries could hurt the United States. Representative Dave Camp and Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah warned of the effect on U.S. taxpayers from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) work to develop multilateral tax rules. Known as the Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) project, the OECD effort calls for revising tax treaties, tightening rules and more government tax information sharing.

The Wall Street Journal also has criticized the OECD’s “global revenue grab.”

Let’s hope this is a sign that this leftist campaign for higher taxes has hit a brick wall.

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I’ve explained on several occasions (here, here, and here) that we can be optimistic about the fight to preserve our rights to keep and bear arms.

Simply stated, politicians are increasingly scared to go after gun owners and we keep seeing more and more evidence that Second Amendment freedoms make society safer.

And courts are beginning to do a better job of upholding the Constitution. A recent example comes from Arizona, where the government was trying to simultaneously undermine both the First Amendment and Second Amendment.

The latest example comes from Arizona, where a pro-gun group won a legal fight to post notices about firearms training. A controversial gun-safety ad campaign is about to return to Phoenix, after the city lost its attempt to censor the project sponsored by a gun-safety training group, TrainMeAZ, LLC. The Goldwater Institute’s Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation, which represented TrainMeAZ, LLC, was granted summary judgment for its client Thursday by the Arizona Court of Appeals, preventing Phoenix from blocking the ads. …Officials at the time told Alan Korwin, owner of TrainMeAZ, that the message was too controversial and had garnered a complaint, and so had to be removed or changed. …“Gun-rights advocates nationwide are fond of saying the Second Amendment protects the First Amendment, which is totally true,” Korwin said. “In this case, however, it’s the other way around — free speech and the First Amendment have protected our right to keep and bear arms, and in particular, our right to train our selves and our precious families in real gun safety.”

This is welcome news, particularly since the court ruled unanimously against the government’s attempt to censor.

P.S. Back in 2012, I shared an IQ test for criminals and liberals. The test had only one question, which was whether criminals would be more likely to rob the house of a gun owner or a anti-gun activist.

Here’s a humorous sign sent to me by the Princess of the Levant. I suspect it’s photo-shopped, but it’s nonetheless funny because there probably are people this stupid.

Gun Control Robbery Sign

And if you like this kind of humor, here are more examples.

P.P.S. While there have been some positive developments in the fight for firearms freedom, the news isn’t all positive. We continue to get jaw-dropping examples of anti-gun political correctness from government schools.

P.P.P.S. On a totally separate topic, I’ve already created a Moocher Hall of Fame, but I think I need to also set up a Bureaucrat Hall of Fame.

I already have a list of potential members, but there’s an overpaid drone at the Environmental Protection Agency who surely deserves to be one of the charter members.

Just how much porn does a person have to watch on their computer at work to get fired from the Environmental Protection Agency? Apparently two to six hours a day will let you hold onto your job….the employee confessed to spending, on average, between two and six hours per day viewing pornography while at work. Apparently, the employee, whose identity has not been revealed, earns about $120,000 a year and has still not been fired.

Though perhaps we should be applauding this bureaucrat. After all, if you look at some of the things EPA bureaucrats do when they’re “working” (see here, here, here, and here), the country may be safer if they spend more time watching porn.

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Since I’m a public finance economist, I realize I’m supposed to focus on big-picture issues such as tax reform and entitlement reform. And I do beat those issues to death, so I obviously care about controlling the size and power of government.

But I like to think I’m also a decent human being. And this is why I get even more agitated when politicians and bureaucrats engage in thuggish behavior against comparatively powerless citizens.

Some of the worst examples of government thuggery are the result of “asset forfeiture,” which happens when governments confiscate the property of people who haven’t been convicted of any crime. Heck, sometimes they’re not even charged with any crime.

*Such as when the government wanted to steal someone’s truck because a different person was arrested for drunk driving.

*Such as when the government tried to steal the bond money a family has collected to bail out a relative.

*Such as when the government seized nearly $400,000 of a business owner’s money because it was in the possession of an armored car company suspected of wrongdoing.

*Such as when the government sought to confiscate an office building from the owner because a tenant was legally selling medical marijuana.

*Such as when the government killed a man as part of an anti-gambling investigation undertaken in hopes of using asset forfeiture to steal other people’s cash.

But we do have a bit of good news. All these horror stories seem to be causing a backlash.

Fox News has a very revealing article on how this system is under assault. The story begins by explaining how asset forfeiture is an open invitation for abuse and grossly inconsistent with the Constitution.

Civil forfeiture is when police and prosecutors seize property, cars or cash from someone they suspect of wrongdoing. …authorities don’t have to prove guilt, file charges or obtain a conviction before seizing private property. Critics say it is a process ripe for abuse, and one which leaves citizens little means of fighting back. “You breed a culture of ‘take first, ask questions later,’” Larry Salzman, an attorney with the Institute for Justice, told FoxNews.com. “It’s thuggish behavior.” …civil forfeitures represent a dangerous area of the U.S. justice system where, by law, a person is supposed to be presumed innocent until proven guilty and not the other way around.

The report from Fox cites a couple of reasons why asset forfeiture is misguided. One major problem is that it gives cops a budgetary incentive to steal.

In Tennessee, local law enforcement agencies get to keep 100 percent of all property seized through civil forfeiture – an incentive some say can tempt police to go after property for the wrong reasons.

Fortunately, people are now fighting this horrible procedure. The story explains that a former law enforcement official who is now a state lawmaker, Barrett Rich, is trying to reform Tennessee’s awful bill.

And Minnesota actually has eliminated this odious tactic. Here are some excerpts from a Forbes column.

In a big win for property rights and due process, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton signed a bill yesterday to curb an abusive—and little known—police practice called civil forfeiture. Unlike criminal forfeiture, under civil forfeiture someone does not have to be convicted of a crime, or even charged with one, to permanently lose his or her cash, car or home. …Now the government can only take property if it obtains a criminal conviction or its equivalent, like if a property owner pleads guilty to a crime or becomes an informant. The bill also shifts the burden of proof onto the government, where it rightfully belongs.

Wyoming’s state legislature also is considering reform, so there are positive developments in many different states.

For more information, click here for a very good introductory video about civil asset forfeiture.

If you like videos, click here for a horrifying video about the government stealing $17,000 from an innocent man.

And here’s another video, this one about the government stealing money from a family grocery store.

Last but not least, if you want to get more upset, here are some additional examples of non-forfeiture related government thuggery.

Gee, it’s almost enough to make a person a libertarian!

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It’s easy to get discouraged if you believe in small government and individual liberty.

It seems that the burden of the public sector is always expanding and that politicians and bureaucrats are always figuring out new ways to restrict our freedoms.

But let’s not lose hope.

We still have a lot of economic liberty, particularly if you count non-fiscal policy factors.

And we still have the Second Amendment.

Heck, we don’t just have the right to keep and bear arms, we exercise that right in massive numbers.

Take a look at this impressive graphic. We’re #1 in some bad ways, but it seems we’re also #1 in a very good way.

Make sure to share this graphic with your statist friends and colleagues. It’s guaranteed to put them in a glum mood for the rest of the day!

And when you share this with your misguided acquaintances, ask them why guns don’t cause murder in nations such as Switzerland and Finland. Maybe you’ll have a breakthrough and they’ll confess that gun control isn’t the solution.

Incidentally, in addition to having lots of guns in America, we also are quite ready to defy the government if politicians try to take them away.

What’s happening in Connecticut is merely one example of this wonderful form of civil disobedience.

Since we’re on the topic of gun ownership vs. gun control, here’s another image that will cause heartburn for your leftist friends.

Schindler guns

Same theme as the 4th image in this post.

And let’s not forget the best-ever poster on gun control.

Last but not least, here’s a poster sent to me by the PotL.

photo1

It’s the same message found at the top of this post and at the bottom of this post.

If you want more info – both serious and humorous – on gun control, click here.

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