Monthly Archives: March 2012
What are Undead political issues that should go away once and for all?
Once again birth control and insurance mandates were in the news this week. The GOP-controlled Missouri senate just passed a bill allowing an exemption from the requirement to offer contraception in employer-provided insurance plans. This was apparently in response to the federal “guidelines” issued a few weeks ago requiring that employers provide contraception.
RadioActive hosts Scott Parks and Dana Wright were debating the issue in predictable fashion; the former arguing employers ought to be free to choose, while the latter suggested that such a choice was an abridgment of women’s rights. Neither one ever considered the one solution to the whole mess that both ensures women freedom to access contraception and allows employers who are morally opposed a way out: getting the government out entirely.
If individuals were free to purchase health insurance policies and deduct premiums the same as businesses do now, then the whole matter would be solved. It’s only because the government intervened to begin with that such a dilemma exists.
My opinion of insurance is that it ought to be used to cover things that are actually insurable (crazy, I know), such as car accidents, cancer, etc. It shouldn’t cover routine or predictable items such as wellness visits or birth control. Regardless of what is and is not covered, it’s an issue solely for the insured and the insurance company to determine, not an employer, and certainly not the government.
And now that’s finally behind us, let’s move on to a subject that actually matters, say the endless wars, the growing police state, the continued devaluation of our currency….
With the recent debate over red-light cameras, following the revelation that they do more harm than good, I was thinking of my own experience driving on roads without traffic lights at all. My first deployment was to Baghdad in 2005 and I spent a good amount of time driving through the city. It was certainly an eye-opening experience, and one that left me a little confused
Now, advocates of the state often suggest that without government we wouldn’t have roads, or at least in its absence,chaos and destruction would ensue. The notion of abolishing state-run traffic lights and rejecting a centrally planned transportation system is also thought to be outlandish. Dr. Walter Block wonderfully debunks the former myth here; the latter misconception is disproven as well, as the residents of Iraq have shown.
Baghdad is a city of roughly 7 million people. Naturally, traffic congestion is an issue just as with any large metropolitan area. But unlike any other I’ve experienced, traffic laws were virtually nonexistent. This commuter anarchism however did not mean that chaos plagued the city’s roadways; quite the opposite, in fact. A brilliant video from the U.K., produced by FiT, (see below) demonstrates precisely how such order was established without the need for volumes of traffic ordinances and armed police to enforce them.
There were occasional fender-benders, as could be expected. But in the year I was there patrolling the city, serious accidents were minimal compared with the daily reports one gets from the news here at home. Traffic flowed through intersections smoothly, despite relatively few traffic circles and no working stoplights.
The most congested and accident prone intersection that I recall was the one with dedicated traffic enforcement. A team of police officers had been tasked with directing motorists, and like all centrally-planned endeavors, was doomed from the beginning. Juxtapose that with other equally busy intersections, where the absence of government allowed a spontaneous order to develop and regulate the behavior of individual drivers. No coercion was necessary.
The “913” section of the Kansas City Star featured a pieceon Johnson County’s library system, written by Steve Rose. He describes the dire state of the library’s budget, how already they’ve culled their collections and reduced personnel. The county commissioners have now warned that future cuts may be coming, resulting in reduced funding by as much as 1.6 million in the best case scenario.
After rattling off some of the library’s impressive statistics from last year, Rose writes that “The library is clearly a magnet for a great many of our citizens.” He continues: “[The library is] a community asset that is the cornerstone of our quality of life.”
Given its popularity, it should be no surprise that the library will be one of the first programs cut by a government short of cash. The same method is used at the federal level when budgeting becomes tricky or politically difficult. Raising taxes is rarely a popular venture to undertake unless the government can “convince” the citizens how bad things would be without a tax increase.
Consider this report on the numerous ways in which people were affected by the government shutdown in 1995. The parks and passport services were two of the biggest items on the list, as far as inconveniencing people goes. People who otherwise couldn’t be bothered to get involved were no doubt livid enough to demand a compromise on the debt ceiling after being kicked out of their rooms at the Volcanoes National Park Hotel on the island of Honolulu, HI.
Rose’s solution, which he calls option D, is to not cut funding for the library at all. Instead, he would “tap a tiny bit of [the county’s] $65 million in reserves… Or, other agencies should be cut more to make up the difference.” Here’s another idea, call it choice E: eliminate all government funding of the library system and turn it over to private owners.
Instead of forcibly collecting money from residents who don’t use the library, shift the cost onto those who do. This will have the dual benefit of relieving victim taxpayers from having to fund the entertainment of others by force, while determining what the actual demand for the service is.
That no one should be made to pay for the entertainment of others ought to be obvious. The other issue – demand for library services – is less apparent, but no less important. As of now, we see that individuals use the library, which is “free.” Were a price placed on membership, or number of books borrowed, etc., we could learn what the actual demand was, and thus know whether it makes sense to even operate libraries in the first place.
In a free society it’s entirely likely that plenty of libraries would be open for business. What we can’t know a priori is under what terms. It may be profitable for a business to operate a library on a subscription or fee-based model, similar to that of Netflix or RedBox. Given the decreasing cost and increasing availability of digital media, it’s probably only a matter of time before this becomes standard anyway.
Another possibility is that libraries are provided by non-profits as a philanthropic venture. Indeed, the first library in the United States was opened with charitable funds from Benjamin Franklin. Certainly those who value reading would no doubt fund libraries voluntarily, and have more money to do so with, having less money extracted from them in taxes.
The idea that we should be free to choose for ourselves where and when and how we spend our money is of course radical, I know. But it shouldn’t be. What should be thought of as radical is the idea that individuals exist, in one degree or another, to provide things for “free” to others, and they have no say in the matter.
As if we need any more reason, here is yet another consequence of government monopoly in airline security. Robert Wenzel linked to a CBS News report that found in excess of 200 thefts per day occur in JFK’s airport baggage handling areas.
From the report:
…thefts at the airport have increased at a staggering and alarming rate. There are now more [than] 200 a day — and that’s every day. Baggage handlers, jetway workers and even security people are all in on the ongoing scam to steal you blind.
‘The belly of the airplane has become like a flea market for airport employees. They go in there and go through all the luggage unencumbered, unchecked,’ JFK security lawyer Kenneth Mollins said.
If airlines themselves were responsible for security it’s unlikely such a problem would exist, or at least be so rampant. Most luggage comes with a built-in locking mechanism, or is designed to be secured with a padlock, combination lock, etc. Unfortunately, travelers in the U.S. don’t have the freedom to use such devices because of the TSA’s fiat that flyers must be “totally naked before them, in every sense of the word,” as Lew Rockwell has said.