Study their behaviors. Observe their territorial boundaries. Leave their habitat as you found it. Report any signs of intelligence.

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Saturday, October 21, 2006

California's Minor Parties

Here is a guide to the LPC's competition among California's minor parties. Under California law a party is qualified to participate in primary (and thus also general) elections if 1) it achieves as many registrants as 1% of the voter turnout in the last regular gubernatorial election, or 2) had a statewide candidate win a 2% share in that election. Here are the registration numbers and statewide vote totals for the minor parties that have been ballot-qualified in the last four election cycles.

Registrants in 1000s
American Independent
309 (2%)
140 (.90%)
82 (.84%)
Peace and Freedom
Natural Law
Brackets indicate lack of ballot qualification that year.

Votes in %
2002 Gov
2002 SecState
2004 Sen
2004 Pres
American Independent

Peace and Freedom

Natural Law



American Independent was founded as a national party in 1968 to support the Presidential candidacy of segregationist Alabama governor George Wallace. In 1991 the California AIP became an affiliate of the right-wing Constitution Party, which was formerly the U.S. Taxpayers' Party. In the 2004 Presidential election, AIP's vote in California was just 8% of its registered base, compared to 56% for the LP, 25% for the Greens, and 40% for P&F. This confirms the judgment of analysts who say that AIP's registration numbers are wildly inflated by voters trying to register as Decline To State. The AIP favors a moratorium on all immigration, the deportation of all illegal immigrants, and the denial of citizenship to their children born here. The AIP favors bans on all obscenity, all drugs, any form of same-sex unions, and any form of abortion. The AIP defends religious displays on public property and voluntary prayer in public schools. The AIP's foreign policy is nearly identical to the LP's, except the AIP demands U.S. reclaim the Panama Canal. The AIP opposes all free-trade treaties and favors tariffs on each imported item equal to the difference in the cost of its production abroad compared to in America.

The Green Party was formed in 1996 as an association of state Green parties and quickly eclipsed the Green Party USA that had been established in 1991 (and still exists). The Greens out-elected the LP-US 25-7 in 1996, 47-34 in 2000, 81-43 in 2002, and 71 to (at most) 42 in 2004. The Greens also list 47 election wins in 2005, 65 in 2003, and 64 in 2001. Half of all registered Greens are in California. The Greens are radical leftists who favor "restructuring our patterns of income distribution", nationalized health insurance, municipal veto over "large economic projects", a 30-35 hour workweek, gun control, "more progressive taxation" including inheritance taxes, and "
increased funding for Social Security, public housing, higher education, public transportation". They say "the artificial dichotomy between 'employment' and 'unemployment' has become a tool of social leverage for corporate exploiters."

Peace and Freedom was founded in 1967, and anti-war Rothbardian left-libertarians competed with Marxists to control it. (Rothbardians took over the California PFP long enough to have Bill Evers co-write its 1974 platform, but Rothbard then joined the LP and Evers followed, where they proceeded to rewrite the LP platform in 1975.) P&F lost ballot status in 1998, but was able to to regain it in 2003 because low turnout in the 2002 gubernatorial election set the registration threshold at only 77K. Like the LP and Greens, the PFP needs to win 2% in some statewide race this year to retain ballot status. PFP calls for "social ownership and democratic control of industry, financial institutions, and natural resources", doubling the minimum wage, a 30-hour work week, and "free high-quality health care for everyone". If you're surprised that PFP "supports the right of working people to keep and bear arms", then remember that The Internationale is featured prominently on their web site.

The Natural Law Party was founded in the early 1990's by followers of Transcendental Meditation guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. He stopped funding the party after its failed hostile takeover of the Reform Party in 2000, and the California NLP will lose its ballot status this year because it is running no statewide candidates. The NLP platform called for a flat income tax, market-based healthcare reform, school vouchers, sustainable agriculture, and energy conservation. It straddled many issues, e.g. by supporting the status quo on abortion, immigration and gun control.

The Reform Party was founded in 1995 by Ross Perot and has been plagued by infighting since he abandoned it in 1997. The Reform Party agenda consists of protectionism, procedural political reforms, balanced budgets, and restricted immigration. RP lost its California ballot status in 2003 and will likely never regain it.

Thus the LPC's biggest competitor by far is the ten-year-old Green Party, which positions itself to capture the loyalty of anyone with libertarian impulses but who doesn't understand free market economics. The GP's growth seems to be leveling off, perhaps due to a ceiling effect imposed by the presence of an existing major party in their quadrant of political space. If the LP wants to regain its undisputed title as America's third party, it needs to take advantage of the the absence of competition in its own quadrant by branding itself as the market-smart choice for the plurality of Americans who favor social tolerance.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Statewide Libertarian Candidates in California

Governor - Art Olivier, former Mayor of Bellflower. Olivier was an engineer at Boeing for 20 years, and after serving as Mayor of Bellflower in 1998-1999 he was the Libertarian nominee for Vice-President in 2000. In his official candidate statement, he emphasizes 1) cutting state spending, 2) ending benefits for illegal immigrants, and 3) focusing gas taxes and license fees on road construction. In 2003 gubernatorial race the Greens won 5% and the LP 2%. Both marks will probably edge up in 2006, as the Greens are running their 2004 VP nominee Peter Camejo.

Lt. Governor - Lynnette Shaw, medical marijuana activist. Shaw successfully lobbied the Marin County Supervisors to formally de-prioritize enforcement efforts against medical marijuana. She calls for the release of over 1400 non-violent marijuana prisoners in California jails, and promotes hemp agriculture in America to help save family farms and in Mexico to ease immigration pressures. Her Republican opponent Sen. Tom McClintock was endorsed for governor in 2003 by the American Medical Marijuana Association, who also attracted some Libertarian supporters for his positions on spending, education, minimum wage, guns, and eminent domain. The Green Donna Warren wants a "living wage" law, universal health care, slavery reparations, and to "re-regulate energy" because "energy belongs to the people". At this writing McClintock and Democratic machine candidate John Garamendi are neck-and-neck.

Secretary of State - Gail Lightfoot, retired nurse. Lightfoot is a 1972 Charter member of the LP, an LPC activist since 1980, and was a prominent plaintiff in the 2000 Supreme Court decision overturning California's Prop 198 blanket primary. Her focus in this election for Secretary of State is on procedural issues like None Of The Above and Instant Runoff Voting.

Controller - Donna Tello, tax accountant. Tello sums up her position as: "Control spending, not people. Protect taxpayers, not special interests." She gently challenges voters using humor: "I'm conservative on economic issues and liberal on personal issues. (I'm not confused; are you?)"

Treasurer - Marian Smithson, West Covina City Treasurer. Smithson proposes to use her practical experience to put California on a pay-as-you-go financing policy.

Attorney General - Kenneth Weissman, Beverly Hills attorney. Weissman is a straight shooter when it comes to all the vital issues of personal freedom. He describes himself as a 2nd Amendment absolutist, and says “Gun control means hitting your target.”

Insurance Commissioner - Dale Ogden, actuary and insurance consultant. Ogden lays out detailed plans for reforms on his pages. He summarizes: "California used to have a reputation for competent insurance regulation, along with a few other heavily-populated states like New York and Illinois. Since we've had elected commissioners, we've become a national joke."

Board of Equalization - Kennita Watson, Willard Michlin, Monica Kadera. Watson won 275K votes (22%) in her 2-way District 1 race in 1998 (and 7% in a 3-way in 1994), but this year all four districts are contested by the two incumbent parties as well as by Peace & Freedom.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Guide to 2006 California Ballot Measures

Here are the LP-CA's recommendations for November's ballot measures. The most important ones are 89 (campaign finance) and 90 (eminent domain and takings). 86 (cigarette taxes) and 87 (oil taxes) will have a big impact if they pass. 85 (parental abortion notification) will be closely watched for symbolic reasons. My predictions: 84, 85 and 89 will fail. 88 will pass narrowly, while 86 and 87 will fail narrowly. The rest will pass.
[Update: I was very sad to be wrong on 90, which failed narrowly. I was also wrong about 84 and 88, but right about the rest.]

Yes on 1A - Transportation fund protection. Protects transportation-designated gas tax revenues from further raids by Sacramento.

No on 1B - Bonds for roads, highways, and transit. More than half the revenue would go to agency budgets and local projects rather than state-wide long-term transportation projects.

No on 1C - Bonds for housing. Subsidizes "infill" urban social engineering. Subsidizes moderate-income homebuyers. Ongoing shelter assistance for the indigent should not be funded as a capital expense.

No on 1D - Bonds for education facilities. The government provides food assistance without building supermarkets, and it can provide education assistance without building schools. Any government assistance for education should take the form of vouchers or tax credits, not capital expenditures.

No on 1E - Bonds for Central Valley flood control. Flood control is the responsibility of the districts containing the flood zone(s).

No on 83 - "Jessica's Law" against former sex offenders. 83 seems to impose an ex post facto new punishment of lifetime GPS tracking on people already convicted of a sex crime.

No on 84 - Bonds for water quality, environmental protection, and flood control. $11B in water and resource-related bonds have been approved since 1996. This measure is a Christmas tree of funding for local and regional projects that should be funded by the affected users or districts.

Silent on 85 - Parental notification for minor's abortion. Libertarians are conflicted on this measure. While parents normally must consent to any surgical procedure on their children, children should be protected from parents' efforts to bind them with a multi-decade child-rearing obligation. I wonder if parents would be willing to opt in to the notification rule on condition of an agreement to permanently adopt any resulting grandchild.

No on 86 - Cigarette tax for healthcare spending. Tripling the cigarette tax to $3.50 per pack would demonstrate how black markets put limits on consumption tax revenues. If a hospital accepts cigarette funds to defray state mandates for ER care regardless of ability to pay, 86 imposes price controls for services to patients with income up to 3.5 times the poverty line. 86 thus increases the cross-subsidizing and single-payer problems that make our healthcare system inferior to one in which healthcare consumers control their own healthcare dollars.

No on 87 - Oil extraction tax for alternative energy. 87 naively dictates that the tax "shall not be passed on to consumers through higher prices", and will have the government investigate all price increases. Thus one cannot trust 87's vague hand-waving that a new bureaucracy will apply 57% of the revenues to "market-based incentives" for alternative fuel production, distribution, and vehicles. 37% of revenues are for commercialization of renewable energy technologies, an activity at which government bureaucracy is even less competent. Even proponents of applying resource extraction taxes to incentives for reduced petroleum use find this measure unsupportable.

No on 88 - $50 parcel tax for public K-12 schools. 88 bypasses the Prop 13 2/3 threshold for local property tax increases by making this tax statewide and thus less locally accountable. K-12 education is too important to be a government monopoly. K-12 education just needs one reform: let tuition dollars be controlled by parents. Government support for nutrition doesn't require owning supermarkets, so any government support for education doesn't require it owning schools.

No on 89 - Public campaign financing and limits on campaign contributions/spending. If you restrict the use of monetary resources for political speech, you merely amplify the power of other resources, e.g. celebrity, incumbency, media access and control, membership power magnified by special legal privileges (e.g. unions, churches), etc. Indeed, Prop 89 was put on the ballot by the California Nurses Union, which is trying to use its political muscle to unfairly limit corporate contributions for ballot measures and to make corporations foot the bill for public campaign financing. This 56-page law treats as second-class any candidate from a party that didn't get 10% of the previous gubernatorial vote, so third parties essentially need to have a break-out year before they can have a break-out year. The government would manage the campaign finances of all participating candidates, and would subsidize dollar-for-dollar the major-party opponent of any candidate who dared reject public campaign financing and the strings attached to it. The law even restricts contributions to independent groups advocating for or against particular candidates.

Yes on 90 - Constitutional protection against eminent domain and regulatory takings. A wonderful constitutional amendment that not only would stop abuse of eminent domain, but would also require government compensation when new laws and regulations reduce the economic value of one's property.

Libertarian-oriented guides to the 2006 ballot measures are available at:

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Teaching Economics To "Spiritual Progressives"

To Jean Barker, for the Network of Spiritual Progressives:
You write:
> Please note that the Tikkun Community plans to publish the responses from you and your fellow candidates to the letter's questionnaire, in order to help Tikkun Magazine readers evaluate candidate stands on these issues <
I look forward to your readers being afforded this opportunity to hear candidates' unfiltered responses to your thoughtful questions. It's refreshing to see an organization that is open-minded and intellectually confident enough to challenge their readers with perspectives that aren't filtered to merely confirm their existing beliefs.
1. War in Iraq: Do you believe the U.S. should have a timetable for bringing the troops home from Iraq, and that full withdrawal/redeployment occur within calendar year 2007?
( ) Yes ( X ) No Why, or why not?
Withdrawal should be based less on arbitrary timetables than on these exit criteria: elimination of any WMD or international terrorist infrastructure; inauguration of a federal democratic constitutional framework that protects minorities and human rights; and successful transition of security responsibility to Iraq. Our leaders should not disclose our precise pain thresholds, but America will not tolerate a total cost over 3000 U.S. combat fatalities or $500B. Sunni and Shia infighting is now close to exhausting the reconstruction and stabilization efforts we owed the Iraqis for having liberated them.

2. New Bottom Line: The NSP is calling for a new bottom line in America, by which organizations, corporations, social and governmental practices, and legislation would be judged rational, efficient, and productive not only to the extent that they maximize money and power (the old bottom line), but also to the extent that they increase our capacities to be loving and caring, kind and generous, ethically and ecologically sensitive, able to see others as embodiments of the sacred and able to respond to the universe with gratitude, awe, and wonder. Would you work to implement this "New Bottom Line"?
( X ) Yes ( ) No How would you implement it?
The only legislation I would support along these lines would be to protect species from extinction, to protect animals from torture, and to legally recognize the economic value of the environment through market-smart environmentalism: tax products and transactions for pollution caused; allow trading and retiring of emissions licenses; and auction access to natural resources. Government is the only institution with police and prisons, and I would oppose all use of such power to enforce some social vision at gunpoint. The problems with the current "bottom line" are caused more by too much government than by too little.

3. Strong Families: Do you agree that strong families will be supported if we reward institutions and social practices that promote love and caring in our work places, economic policies, government and corporate practices, and our educational system?
( ) Yes ( X ) No How would you promote such institutions and practices?
Markets are already able to reward such institutions and practices to the extent that they produce value for consumers, workers, and other market participants. Except for correcting textbook market failures, use of government power to "promote love and caring" is guaranteed to do more harm than good. If you love families, then free them from government interference.

4. Health Care: Do you support the call for a federal government-sponsored single-payer national health care program?
( ) Yes ( X ) No Why, or why not?
Healthcare policy should limit government's role to the things that government can do better than market participants can do on their own:
  1. Provide a safety net of basic health care for people in immediate need.
  2. Provide vouchers to people who cannot otherwise afford catastrophic health insurance.
  3. Require non-poor people to buy catastrophic insurance (so that they don't use the safety net as their insurance).
  4. Incentivize people to buy preventive care by means of tax-deductible medical savings accounts
5. Education: Would you support legislation aimed at restructuring educational priorities, so that in addition to teaching basic academic skills, schools gave high attention to teaching students to be socially, ethically, and ecologically responsible, caring toward others, kind, generous, loving, non-violent in their behavior and their speech, and responsive to and grateful for and in awe of the grandeur of the universe?
( X ) Yes ( ) No Why, or why not?
I support privatizing education and providing tuition vouchers from states and localities to those too poor to educate their children. Giving parents control of tuition dollars will enable a free market in education to satisfy the consumer demands of all the parents who share your educational priorities, while protecting the rights of parents who disagree with your priorities. I oppose your use of government power to force your educational priorities on others, just as I oppose such use of government power by the Religious Right.

6. Global Poverty: Would you support a plan to allocate 5% of our gross domestic product (GDP) each year for the next twenty years to ending global as well as domestic poverty and inadequate health care and education?
( ) Yes ( X ) No Why, or why not?
The two greatest forces for material well-being in human history have been freedom and knowledge, while the two greatest forces for misery have been tyranny and ignorance. Your organization is "The Network of Spiritual Progressives". Spirituality promotes ignorance about the nature of reality, and "progressivism" opposes economic freedom. Thus while your good intentions are demonstrated by your opposition to religious fundamentalism and support for civil liberties, a strong argument can be made that your efforts against "poverty" actually retard its amelioration. Are you open-minded and self-critical enough to examine that argument? Are you even aware of it?

7. Social Responsibility Amendment: Do you support legislation that would require every large corporation (income over $50 million/year) to get a new charter every ten years, with the charter being granted only to those corporations that could prove a satisfactory history of social responsibility to a jury of ordinary citizens?
( ) Yes ( X ) No Why, or why not? To what practices would you want such a jury to give particular attention?
No. History has already pronounced its verdict against this naive notion that the voluntary interactions of peaceful honest competent adults should be controlled or policed by some central authority, regardless of whether you call it (as Stalin and Mao did) a "Five-Year Plan" or (as Goering did) a "Four-Year Plan" or (as Nixon did) a "Price Commission and Pay Board" or (as you do) "a jury of ordinary citizens". However, I support reforming limited corporate liability so that at least one shareholder must have unlimited liability.

8. Social Responsibility Impact Legislation: Would you support the SRI‹legislation that would require than any corporation applying for public funds in excess of $100,000 to file a Social Responsibility Impact report describing the steps they've taken to increase social responsibility in the way that they treat their employees, the choice of products they produce or services they provide, and their impact on the ethical and ecological climate of the communities where their products are advertised or bought. In awarding the contract, the government office would take into account their history of social responsibility as presented by them and also as described in SRI reports filed by their employees and by community organizations in the communities affected by their activities.
( ) Yes ( X ) No Why, or why not?
See answer 7. Under my policies, there would be much less "applying for public funds" and other corporate welfare. Consumers would thus have more influence over corporations than now, and would be more able to encourage "social responsibility" through voluntary means such as boycotts.

9. Modeling Personal Responsibility: Do you support the NSP's call for elected officials and their staffs to give a few hours during each work week to hands-on service to the needy, for example in a soup kitchen or homeless shelter?
( X ) Yes ( ) No Why, or why not?
I support almost any policy that limits that time available to legislators and bureaucrats to create new rules for men with guns to enforce against the voluntary interactions of peaceful honest competent adults. However, a better reform would be to have legislators be required to repeal as many rules as they enact. The best reform would be to have a legislative house (and/or an co-President) whose only powers are to repeal or veto legislation.

10. Hunger for Meaning: The Network of Spiritual Progressives holds that people have meaning needs that are as important to them, if not more so, than their economic needs. In what ways would you give priority to the need for meaning and what role might government play in this process? What higher meaning and purpose would be given higher priority if you had power to influence the shape of our economic life beyond the goals of accumulation of wealth and material goods?
By definition, the only way for an alleged need to be immune from economic analysis is for it to 1) have absolutely no constraints on its fulfillment, or 2) have absolutely no observable influence on the needer's behavior. Neither is true of the need for meaning, and there is already a rich economic literature studying this very important need. As an institution, government is characterized by its unique authority to initiate coercive force, and coercive force has zero role to play in our quest for meaning. All institutional roles in that quest can and should be performed by non-coercive institutions such as your own.

11. Global Warming: What specific policies do you support to save our planet from ecological degradation and to dramatically reduce and reverse global warming?
A modest carbon tax and intensive research are prudent due to the possible effects of anthropogenic global warming on species in marginal ecosystems. Extinctions of species and forgetting of languages are our century's only crimes that history will not forgive. Warming's biggest threat -- up to 5m higher seas due to complete collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet -- is very unlikely, and the projected moderate warming (up to 2C) would have a net positive impact on the developed (i.e. temperate) world. See Skeptical Environmentalist p. 301, and the authoritative 2001 UN IPCC report.

12. Values in the Public Sphere: What values do you think should be encouraged by our government, schools, and social policy? How would you exemplify those values as an elected official? Or do you believe that the introduction of any values are a slippery slope toward undermining the first amendment separation clause? Explain your views on the separation of church
and state and the role of values in the public sphere.
Government is distinguished from other public institutions only by its dangerous authority to use non-defensive force, and should do only what no non-coercive institution can do: 1) Provide police and courts. 2) Regulate unowned natural resources. 3) Regulate natural monopolies -- i.e. road/pipe/wire networks. 4) Provide services for which free-ridership prevents market provision: national defense, anti-poverty safety net, prevention of contagion/conflagration/flood, and fundamental scientific research. That's it. Every other societal function is best fulfilled by non-coercive institutions.
Brian Holtz
Libertarian candidate for Congress, CA14 (Silicon Valley)

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Does Optimal Virulance Imply Super-Germs Are Possible?

I suspect that the greatest anthropogenic extinction threat in this century is the possibility of a natural pathogen engineered (perhaps somewhat accidentally) to spread easily from person to person, persist in the environment, resist antibiotics and immune responses, and cause 100% mortality without evolving toward less virulence. I would like to hear expert opinion on whether evolutionary pressure toward optimal virulence has kept pathogens from exploring the most dangerous parts of the virulence landscape. I'm hoping that pathogens spread by intermediaries (e.g., vectors and wastes) have had little incentive to avoid those parts of the landscape, and that mad scientists will thus not find any magic bullets there. But just as certain well-known technologies (e.g. the wheel, internal combustion) seem to be unreachable in evolution's search space, I worry that there are techniques for increased virulence that a mad scientist could find much more easily than evolution ever could.

I also worry that I'm simply ignorant of the heights of virulence that evolution has already been able to reach. Is there a survey of the worst known and suspected cases of pathogenic (near-)extinction in humans, mammals, and animals in general? For example,
  • Variola major and a couple other pathogens were together able to kill somewhere between 25% and 95% of native Americans as a result of the Columbian Exchange -- including 100% of the population of Hispaniola.
  • The enterobacterium Yersinia pestis in the 14th century killed up to 1/3 of Eurasia's population.
  • The Spanish Flu of 1918 killed up to 5% of the world's population.
As horrific as these and other pandemics have been, they are obviously not as bad as extinction. My casual searching on the web found no discussion of continent- or planet-wide animal extinctions caused by pathogens, but I'm skeptical that there haven't been any.