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

Loading Table of Contents...

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Vote Smart Cheat Sheet

Here are the answers I'm submitting today to the Project Vote Smart "Political Courage" test.

Taxpayers should not be forced to pay for other people's abortions, nor should any government or individual force a woman to have an abortion. Most Americans
believe that a fetus starts deserving legal protection sometime after the first trimester but before birth. I support the right to terminate one's pregnancy during the first trimester. I do not oppose requirements that ending a pregnancy in the third trimester must leave a healthy fetus alive if that is feasible.

Budget Priorities
The Tenth Amendment restricts Congress to its Article I Section 8 powers: providing national defense and regulating federal land, immigration, citizenship, bankruptcy, currency, weights and measures, patents, copyrights, and commerce that crosses state or national borders. Such "commerce" includes only responsibilities -- pollution, transportation, flood control, infectious diseases -- whose indivisible scope clearly goes beyond the borders of a single state. Because centralization exaggerates influence by special interests, community services should be provided at the most local and voluntary way possible, so that citizens can have maximum influence on, and maximum choice among, the bundles of services that communities provide.

Defense Spending
The U.S. military budget represents half of the world's military spending -- far more than needed for ensuring our national defense. Major savings can be had by ending our efforts at nation-building in places like Iraq, ending U.S. forward ground defense of allies in Europe and Korea, reducing the size of our strategic nuclear arsenal and blue-water navy, scaling back our weapons modernization programs, and slashing missile defense efforts down to only basic research.

Income Taxes
All persons are entitled to keep the fruits of their labor, and so the Libertarian Party calls for the repeal of the income tax. The federal tax code in 2004 was 3,457 pages (plus 13,458 pages of IRS regulations), compared to 94 pages in 1928. The income tax (and 16th Amendment) should be repealed, and federal financing should come from just 1) taxes on pollution (or pollution-based commerce) that crosses state borders, 2) charges for use of interstate transportation infrastructure, and 3) per-capita taxes levied against state governments.

Other Taxes
There should be no taxation of income (wages, interest, dividends, profits, gifts, and inheritance), production (including value added), transactions (e.g. the sale, import, or export of goods and services), or wealth (e.g. real estate improvements, capital, or other assets). I favor a "green tax shift" to instead tax 1) pollution, 2) consumption of natural resources, 3) congestion of community resources (streets, pipes, wires), and 4) that component of land value deriving from any government services not yet privatized. Economists agree that such taxes impose the least drag (the technical term is "deadweight loss") on the economy.

Tax Preferences
Any tax or tax preference should only be for correcting what economics textbooks call "market failures". The "free rider" problem justifies government financing of national defense and a universal justice system. The "tragedy of the commons" justifies government taxes on pollution or consumption of natural resources. The problem of "natural monopoly" (high fixed costs and vanishing marginal costs) justifies community provision of networks of streets, pipes, and wires. The "holdout" problem justifies eminent domain only if such a network requires a right-of-way. "Adverse selection" justifies incentives for health insurance consumers to join broad risk pools.

Other Principles of Government Finance
Government should tax only land value (reflecting the expense of government services provided in the community) and the pollution, consumption, or congestion of community resources. Revenue to finance services enjoyed in a community should flow up from the landholders and sub-communities benefiting from the service, not down from a central bureaucracy with the dangerous power to tax everyone and then shift revenues and tax preferences among communities or constituencies.

Political Reform
Political parties should be allowed to establish their own rules for nomination procedures, primaries and conventions. Libertarians call for an end to any tax-financed subsidies to candidates or parties and the repeal of all laws which restrict political speech or the voluntary financing of election campaigns. We oppose laws that effectively exclude alternative candidates and parties, deny ballot access, gerrymander districts, or deny the voters their right to consider all legitimate alternatives. The only campaign finance law should be to outlaw fraudulent reporting of campaign financing, thus allowing voters to vote against candidates with corrupt or anonymous financing.

Peaceful honest adults have the right and responsibility to control their own bodies, actions, property, and use of the commons, so long as they use neither force nor fraud to interfere with the same rights of others. Criminal laws should be limited to violation of the rights of others through force or fraud, or deliberate actions that place others involuntarily at significant risk of harm. Individuals retain the right to voluntarily assume risk of harm to themselves. Libertarians support restitution of the victim to the fullest degree possible at the expense of the criminal or the negligent wrongdoer.

Government owning schools to improve our children's education is like government owning supermarkets to improve our children's nutrition. Education is best provided by the free market, achieving greater quality and efficiency with more diversity of choice. Schools should be managed locally to achieve greater accountability and parental involvement. Recognizing that the education of children is inextricably linked to moral values, Libertarians would return authority to parents to determine the education of their children, without interference from government. In particular, parents should have control of and responsibility for all funds expended for their children's education.

Libertarians support repeal of all laws which impede the ability of any person to find employment. We oppose government-fostered forced retirement. We support the right of free persons to associate or not associate in labor unions, and an employer should have the right to recognize or refuse to recognize a union. We oppose government interference in bargaining, such as compulsory arbitration or imposing an obligation to bargain. Government should not deny or abridge any individual's rights based on sex, wealth, race, color, creed, age, national origin, personal habits, political preference or sexual orientation.

Damage to the environment only happens where there is no definition and enforcement of individual rights in resources like land, water, air, wildlife, carbon sinks, and electromagnetic spectrum. Markets are the best mechanism for protecting the environment, because they can factor the consequences of pollution into the cost calculations of each potential polluter, and encourage the owners of a resource to preserve it. Markets also allow consumers to reward and punish producers for their impact on the environment. Green pricing (i.e. pollution taxes) would stimulate the technological innovations and behavioral changes required to protect our environment and ecosystems.

If guns cause murder, do pencils cause misspellings? Every person has the right to defend himself against aggression, and to aid others or seek their aid for such defense, so long as they use no greater force than necessary to prevent or minimize the harm caused by the aggression. Libertarians affirm the right to keep and bear arms, and oppose the prosecution of individuals for exercising their rights of self-defense. Individuals have the right to keep and bear any weapon except those so clearly suited for indiscriminate killing that their mere possession puts the surrounding community at risk.

America has too much health insurance. Huge tax subsidies for corporate health insurance hide costs from the insured, discriminate against those not working for large employers, and make insurance portability a regulatory nightmare. Bloated defined-benefit insurance programs (Medicare and Medicaid) offer an antiquated mix of procedures and the wrong balance between routine care and catastrophic coverage. The government over-regulates private health insurance, stopping insurers and beneficiaries from agreeing on lower-cost (e.g. out-of-state) alternatives. The only role of government in healthcare should be to provide tax incentives for insurance consumers to join broad risk pools independent of their employment.

Migration across borders should be without constraints, provided that migrants do not trespass and are sponsored by someone (perhaps themselves) who can afford to assume the same responsibility for their resource impact and congestion impact and subsistence needs as parents do for native children. Libertarians support control over the entry into our country of foreign nationals who pose a threat to security, health or property.

International Aid
America's unilateral "security" aid has tended to side with foreign governments against their own people and to hurt our national security over the long run. Any international aid should be for people, not governments. Aid from the American government should be mostly confined to disasters and short-term humanitarian crises to which private and international relief are not responding quickly enough.

We long ago achieved our two most important war aims: 1) elimination of any WMD capability or international terrorist infrastructure, and 2) deposing Saddam's regime in favor of a federal democratic constitutional framework designed to protect minorities and fundamental human rights. We would have liked to also successfully transition security responsibility to the new Iraqi government, but Iraq's thirst for sectarian conflict has effectively exhausted the reconstruction and stabilization efforts we owed the Iraqis for having liberated them. We should accept our partial victory and let the Iraqi people take responsibility for their own future.

International Policy
American foreign policy should seek an America at peace with the world and its defense against attack from abroad. Libertarians would end the current U.S. government policy of foreign intervention, including military and economic aid to foreign governments. We recognize the right of all people to resist tyranny and defend themselves and their rights, including their right of secession. We condemn the use of force, and especially the use of terrorism, against the innocent, regardless of whether such acts are committed by governments or by political or revolutionary groups.

International Trade
America should not try to "protect" Americans from foreign competition, or to protect foreign workers from their voluntary choices. Commerce across borders should be without constraints, except for "green pricing" of the measurable costs demonstrably and physically (not psychologically or sociologically) imposed across those borders (e.g. verifiable anthropogenic global warming) by the traded products. Trade is beneficial even for a nation that is not a productivity leader in _any_ industry. Comparative advantage derives from being better at something than you are at other things, not from being better at something than everyone else is.

National Security
The defense of the country requires that we have adequate intelligence to detect and to counter threats to our territory. This requirement must not take priority over maintaining the civil liberties of our citizens. I support pre-emptive military action against governments that pose demonstrable imminent threats to United States territory or to U.S. citizens prudently traveling abroad.

Social Issues
Government should not deny or abridge any individual's rights based on sex, wealth, race, color, creed, age, national origin, personal habits, political preference or sexual orientation. Sexual orientation, preference, gender, or gender identity should have no discriminatory impact on the rights of individuals by government, such as in current marriage, child custody, adoption, immigration, or military service laws. Consenting adults should be free to choose their own sexual practices and personal relationships. Adults have the right to expose themselves (but not others) to any risk to their own health, finances, safety, or life.

Social Security
Any effort to socialize the retirement savings industry is clearly unconstitutional. Social Security is an insidious pyramid scheme causing monumental intergenerational theft. The first SS recipient, Ida May Fuller, paid in a total of $44 and received lifetime benefits of $20,934. There were 6 workers for every retiree in 1955, but now there are only 3 and soon only 2. Everyone should be cashed out of SS by giving them bonds equalling their total lifetime contributions (and employer match) plus interest and inflation less benefits already received. Indigent overdrawn retirees should be treated similarly to disabled welfare recipients.

Welfare and Poverty
Poverty in America is exacerbated by government: socialized schools deliver inadequate education, minimum wage laws remove the bottom rungs of the employment ladder, and welfare rules encourage dependency. The Constitution gives the federal government no authority to provide benefits to people merely because they are poor. There is no state in the union that cannot afford to create a income safety net if its voters want one. Competition among state welfare programs would ensure that none of them become too extravagant.

My top priority would be divesting the federal government of all programs and functions not authorized by the Article I Section 8 powers of Congress. My second priority would be a Green Tax Shift that ended all taxes on income/production/sales/gifts and taxed only A) land value and B) the pollution, consumption, or congestion of the community resources.