Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The natural state of affairs

The political Left is widely and reasonably identified as people opposed to the status quo.  They sure are.  There is virtually nothing at present existing in the world that they would not like to overturn if they could.  Such a big overturn can only be attained via a revolution but, ever since the French revolution,  Leftists have managed quite a few of those.  And the French revolutionaries even wanted to change the calendar.

But the awkward fact is that conservatives don't like the status quo either.  In fact nobody does.  I have yet to meet anyone who is completely happy with the world about him.  I suspect such a person would have to be a hebephrenic or some other sort of mental case.

So how come Leftists are so identified with opposition to the status quo?  The easy answer is that they are more passionate about it and more involved over it.  They are driven by anger about things that others feel they can live with.  The emotional importance of change differentiates and drives them.  They are hell-bent (sometimes literally) on change.

While that is all undoubtedly true it doesn't provide a really sharp differentiation of the Left from others.  And I think we can improve on it.  And to do that I think we have to refer to the natural state of affairs.  "The natural state of affairs"?  What is that?  It is a concept sometimes used in both law and economics but I want to broaden its applicability.  I think it is actually quite easy to define in a generally applicable way.  It means whatever people would do in the absence of external constraints.

And Leftists are big on external constraints.  They are continually trying to make laws and regulations that will move people away from doing what they otherwise would do.  There is general agreement that some basic laws are needed -- prohibition against assault, murder, theft etc. but Leftists go far beyond that.  In a celebrated case one of them even wanted to forbid you from buying fizzy drinks in a container that was bigger than a certain size.  Leftist would regulate EVERYTHING if they could.  And in the Soviet Union they went close to achieving it.  Leftists are the ultimate authoritarians.  They want to STOP people doing what they would do in a natural state of affairs.

So I think we can now make a pretty sharp distinction between the changes Leftists want and the changes that conservatives want. Leftists want change AWAY from the natural state of affairs while conservatives want changes TOWARDS the natural state of affairs -- or at least changes that respect the natural state of affairs.

For instance, in a natural state of affairs people would tend to discriminate in various ways.  They would and do tend to give various sorts of preference to people like themselves.  And conservatives generally understand that.  But to Leftists discrimination is an offence deserving of severe punishment.  They want to stop people doing what they are normally and naturally inclined to do.  Their need for change and the dreams of utopia that drive them make them the enemy of the natural state of affairs.


Baltimore: The Intersection of the Grievance Culture and the Welfare State

After the mysterious death of suspect Freddie Gray, the Maryland state’s attorney for Baltimore charged all six Baltimore police officers involved with his arrest and transport. The crimes ranging from “second-degree depraved-heart murder” to involuntary manslaughter, assault, misconduct in office and false imprisonment. Locals cheered her decision to charge all six. The charges followed three days of riots triggered by Gray’s funeral and came almost immediately after the medical examiner filed his report calling Gray’s death a “homicide.”

Now for the hard part.

Not only will the charges be difficult to prove but three of those charged are black. The claim of illegal “racial profiling” argues that white racist officers possess an unwarranted fear of young black men. But what happens to that analysis when the accused officers are black? If black cops are just as likely to engage in race-based misconduct, why did Ferguson demonstrators demand a “diverse” police force?

If the Ferguson outrage and riots were about “lack of representation” or “lack of voice,” this cannot be said about Baltimore. The city council is majority black, the police department is approximately 40 percent black, the top two officials running the department are black men, the city has a black mayor, the state’s attorney for Baltimore City — who charged the six officers — is black, the new U.S. attorney general is a black female, and of course the President of the United States is black.

The left has created a culture of anger and entitlement based upon government dependency and the false assertion that racism remains a major problem. Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., for example, said that the recent police killings mean “open season on black men in America.” The Baltimore mayor’s shameful embrace of the Rev. Al Sharpton, the race-hustling incendiary who demanded an arrest of Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, did not help matters. Some actually believe this tripe about “institutional racism.” Of those, how many rioted over Freddie Gray’s “murder,” no matter the race of the mayor?

Police shootings over the last several decades are down. Cop shootings of blacks are down more than 75 percent over the last 45 years, while the death-by-cop rate for whites has increased slightly. According to the CDC — which tracks all causes of death, including shootings by law enforcement — over twice as many whites are killed by police as are blacks.

Police “profile” because out of a relatively small percentage of the population come more than 50 percent of homicides and 40 percent of the people behind bars. Blacks are 13 percent of the population, but young blacks — the category that disproportionately commits crime — are 3 percent of the population.

Speaking of “root causes,” Baltimore has not had a Republican mayor since 1967. So why haven’t the Democrats addressed the “root causes”? In 1992, then-presidential candidate Bill Clinton blamed the “Rodney King riots” in Los Angeles on “12 years of denial and neglect” under the Reagan/Bush presidencies. Can we similarly attribute Baltimore’s riots to six years of Obama’s “progressive” policies?

Baltimore, Democrats say, needs a “new Marshall plan.” But, according to The Heritage Foundation, we have spent over $22 trillion on anti-poverty programs. On education in Baltimore, in 2012 (the latest year available), they spent $15,287 per student. Yet almost half of urban Baltimoreans fail to graduate high school, and of those who do, many cannot read write and compute at grade level. Spend more?

In 1965, 25 percent of black kids were born out of wedlock. Today that number is up to 72 percent. Obama said that a kid without a father is 20 times more likely to go to jail. Blame the welfare state that incentivizes women into marrying the government.

Last year 189 blacks were killed in Baltimore. Where were CNN and President Barack Obama and then-Attorney General Eric Holder and Sharpton? Chicago averages 35 to 40 murders per month, the majority by and against blacks — and most remain unsolved. Where are CNN/Obama/Holder/Sharpton?

Obama has now misfired in at least four “racial” matters: the Cambridge police/Harvard professor incident; Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman; Michael Brown/Darren Wilson; and now Baltimore.

Obama’s claimed the “Cambridge police acted stupidly” in arresting black Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., who falsely and belligerently accused a white officer of racial profiling.

In the case of Trayvon Martin, Obama said, “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.” But the jury found Zimmerman not only not guilty, but jurors later said that during their deliberations race never came up.

In the case of Ferguson, the Department of Justice found that Michael Brown very likely did not have his hands up and that the cop acted appropriately when he killed Brown, a charging suspect who posed a risk of death or serious injury.

Who would’ve thought that after the election and reelection of the nation’s first black president, we’d see race riots in our nation’s cities? Baltimore is what happens at the intersection of the grievance culture and the welfare state.



Americans need their lost 4th Amendment protections

The GOP Senate Majority Leader is pushing to reauthorize the Patriot Act without any changes or alterations.

It’s absolute madness. He says he is a defender of the Constitution however he has introduced legislation that absolutely guts the Fourth Amendment.

The Patriot Act is the law that allows law enforcement to spy on you and tap your phones without a warrant. This is the law that allows the police to hold you in prison indefinitely as long as they claim you’re connected with terrorism. This is the law that gave the NSA the power to record everything that Americans do on the internet.

The law expires in only a couple of weeks. Yet, instead of allowing this horrible law to die, Mitch McConnell is pushing to have it reauthorized!

A lot of you will probably ask what the big fuss is. You might even say there’s nothing to worry about if I have nothing to hide.

These aren’t the British Colonies anymore. Our forefathers fought a war of independence so that Americans wouldn’t have to worry about this sort of government intrusion.  For goodness sake, they fleshed it out in the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution!

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated…”

This is supposed to protect us against warrantless wiretaps, NSA surveillance, and other illegal searches. But under the Patriot Act, it’s all fair game as long as some bureaucrat or agent claims you’re a terrorist.

There’s a reason that both the right and the left are united in opposition against this horrible law. It doesn’t happen often, but this is one of those instances.

The most horrendous parts of the Patriot Act are set to expire on June 1st of this year. These are three of those provisions:

* Section 215: This part of the law is what grants the NSA the power to spy on Americans and collect cell phone and internet records. If this provision expires, the NSA loses the authority to spy on innocent Americans. This is the best chance we have of reining in the NSA!

* Lone Wolf Provision: This is what allows law enforcement to bend the rules and violate the Constitution. Claiming that an individual is a “lone wolf terrorist” gives law enforcement unprecedented powers to surveil and apprehend individuals.

* Roving Wiretap Provision: This part of the law is what is known as Section 206. Imagine if the FBI had the authority to, with a single search warrant, raid every house or business you have been to or associated with in the past year. Well, stop imagining because this is exactly what Section 206 does. It’s completely unconstitutional.

Anyone who supports renewing the Patriot Act is against the Constitution. Period. And they need to be reminded that their actions speak louder than words.

For months, we have heard politicians on both side of the aisle give their stump speeches claiming that the NSA and other intelligence agencies need to be reined in. This is our chance.

Tell your Congressman and Senators to honor their oaths and STOP Democrat and Republican leadership from renewing the Patriot Act!



How occupational licensure hurts small business

On this year’s Small Business Week, it behooves us all to examine some of the policies that keep entrepreneurs from achieving their potential. While support of small business is a favorite talking point of both political parties, there in fact remain many government-created barriers designed to protect big businesses from smaller competitors. One such barrier is occupational license requirements.

Nearly 30 percent of workers in the United States now require a license to perform their job. If you ask a politician why this is so, they will likely justify licensing with appeals to safety and consumer protection. When it comes to practicing medicine or operating heavy machinery, this explanation makes some amount of intuitive sense, but there are plenty of other occupations for which the rationale is less clear.

Here is a partial list of occupations that require licenses in at least one state: florist, hair braider, interior decorator, hypnotist, personal trainer, landscape architect, auctioneer, dietitian, barber, librarian, makeup artist, funeral attendant, travel agent, shampooer, home entertainment installer, and so on, and so on. Some of these appear to make sense, but it’s pretty hard to see how consumers place themselves in danger by patronizing an unlicensed florist.

But what’s the big deal, right? Why shouldn’t these people prove their competence before being allowed to serve the public? The answer is that these policies are not really about protecting consumers, but about protecting existing businesses from competition. License requirements vary heavily across the country, but compliance costs are often very high both in terms of time and money– high enough to deter would-be entrepreneurs from entering the business unless they have a lot of startup capital.

For example, a license to cut hair in Washington, DC requires 1500 hours of training costing tens of thousands of dollars. That’s in addition to all the regular startup costs, such as rent, utilities, and equipment. This is a pretty considerable hurdle for a talented and self-trained barber to overcome to enter the business.

Some real life examples illustrate how license requirements hurt real people, customers and businessmen alike. In New York, there has been a continuing effort to shut down African hair braiders for operating without a license. Hair braiding is not dangerous to consumers, and most of practitioners are female African immigrants who lack other skills or even a strong command of the English language. For them, jumping through the hoops of obtaining a license is simply not an option, especially since most cosmetology schools don’t even teach the kind of hair braiding they do. But instead of encouraging their talent, the legal prohibition preventing them from earning a living drives them onto public assistance. Licensed hairdressers simply don’t want to put up with the competition.

In 2011, a man diagnosed with diabetes started a free blog to share what he had learned about his condition with others and offer dietary advice. The State Board shut him down because he was not a licensed dietitian, even though he was not charging for his services. The local nutritionist lobby didn’t want to compete with free tips. In this case, it was the consumers who lost out, being denied free advice that they would now be forced to pay a premium for.

Part of the problem is that state-level legislators who enact these requirements know virtually nothing about the affected industries. When they are confronted with a group of lobbyists from, say, the auctioneers’ union, they have to listen to a lot of long-winded speeches about how licenses are necessary to protect the public. Being at a knowledge disadvantage, few politicians have the instincts to second guess these sophisticated and well-crafted arguments. The unemployed, would-be entrepreneurs have no such powerful lobbying shop to stand up for their interests.

Occupational licenses began as a well-intentioned consumer protection measure, but in recent years they have transformed into a tool for incumbents to hinder their competition, imposing costly regulations they can afford, but their competition cannot. If states are serious about helping small business, they should start from scratch and reevaluate all occupational licenses to determine which are truly necessary, and which are merely tools of protectionism.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on A WESTERN HEART.

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