Archive for November, 2010

Another good internship program for libertarian-minded law students

Posted by on Nov 15 2010 | Uncategorized

(David Kopel)

The Independence Institute’s Future Leaders Program. As a law student, you would work directly for me or for Rob Natelson (retired U. Montana constitutional law professor, and perhaps the most knowledgeable person in the world about American legal thought and practice in the Founding Era).

The Independence Institute is a think tank, not a public interest law firm. However, we do sometimes get involved in important constitutional cases, and my recent interns have worked on cases such as McDonald v. Chicago. We are involved in the constitutional challenges to ObamaCare, and plan to stay involved all the way to the Supreme Court. That said, your work at Independence Institute would probably involve more time helping with Issue Papers, op-eds, law review articles, and other publications than it would with brief-writing.

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The Misrule Of The Elites

Posted by on Nov 14 2010 | Economics, Politics, PPC

Over at the Atlantic, business and economics writer Megan McArdle takes a swing at how it is that elites in contemporary public life are so often so out of step with “ordinary citizens.” McArdle doesn’t use the term “elite” pejoritively, and includes not only herself, but also “thousands of other people who make their living thinking about how we ought to run the country.”

Writes Megan:

Elites are often missing crucial knowledge, and unaware of it. In some ways, that effect is more pronounced than it used to be, with more and more of the elites drawn from a narrow class of extremely well-educated people from a handful of metropolitan areas, few of whom have ever, say, been responsible for a profit and loss statement, or tried to bring a gas station into compliance with local and federal EPA regulations. In a world where your primary output is words, it is easy to imagine a smoothly operating process based on really smart rule-making. And there’s a certain impatience with the grimy, self interested folks who complain about the regulations imposed for the good of society–a certain forgetting that in aggregate, those whiners are society. In essence, elites are always missing one vital piece of information: what it is like to be someone who is not in the elite.

The whole thing is well worth a read, especially if, like McArdle admits, you “do not really emotionally comprehend what it is like to be trying to support a family of four on $38,000 a year in rural West Virginia.”

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What’s in Store for Criminal Justice Reforms in 2011?

Posted by on Nov 13 2010 | Idiot Box (TV Show), PPC

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Mainstream Parrots with Trumpets

Posted by on Nov 12 2010 | Health Care, obama, PPC, Regulation

Both sides of the aisle talk about the “echo chamber” and how important it is to have one that can out-trumpet the other. An echo chamber, for those wondering what I’m talking about, is an effect achieved through coordinating the efforts of various communication outlets working together to spread a message. For example, a blogger uncovers this amazing story that reveals X, then a bigger blogger picks up on it and writes about X, which in turn catches the eye of the two guys running Complete Colorado therefore tipping off more bloggers, and then news sources are forced to acknowledge X and cover it. If you’re lucky enough, Drudge eventually picks up on X and alerts the whole nation to it. When small time and big time news outlets successfully come together to advance a certain narrative, the echo chamber effect can be massive and influential – in other words – massively influential.

Typically the left has had the bigger and better echo chamber. Although those on the center-right have come together in the last couple of years to create a rather effective machine of their own. (Take a look at Peoples Press Collective and Complete Colorado for example). Also typical of an echo chamber is its do-it-yourself mentality and grassroots beginnings.

Knowing all of this, you might be as surprised as I am to find out that the left’s echo chamber has extended far beyond any DIY or grassroots effort. Like waking up one morning to find you’ve got a winning lottery ticket on your nightstand, the left has hit the echo chamber’s version of Powerball. In addition to their successful Colorado Democracy Alliance (CODA) organization, they’ve also got the biggest, baddest slugger in the big leagues batting clean-up for them – the establishment media.

Imagine the clout an echo chamber could have if any message they wanted out there and popularized would be parroted by the establishment media. Let’s just say for the sake of argument, that someone, somewhere wanted to trumpet to the world that skyrocketing health care costs had nothing to do with ObamaCare. Maybe the story would originate from a press release sent from an official department of the state of Colorado. Perhaps a local and usually fair and balanced business news outlet would report on it. Then maybe a local, leftist news website would trumpet the press release as God’s spoken words, along with their lefty affiliates here and here. Suddenly, the establishment newspaper of record cannot abstain from parroting the narrative themselves in their own piece. Even silly news outlets join the party with their own facsimiles.

If, and this is one mighty large if, that ever happened here in Colorado, we at the Independence Institute would not take it lying down. We would probably ask our Health Care Policy Center gurus Linda Gorman and Brian Schwartz to respond to the insane propaganda being trumpeted from sea to shining sea. Brian Schwartz might respond by pointing to something like this from the Cato Institute. Health Care Policy Center director Linda Gorman might respond, being the brilliant genius she is, with something along the lines of this:

  • John Deere, Verizon, Caterpillar, McDonald’s, Boeing, and AARP, among others, both operate insurance plans and have publicly stated that ObamaCare is going to raise their costs by hundreds of millions of dollars. They have acted on their claims. Show me the numbers.
  • Commissioner Morrison says that the Division of Insurance is “in the process of reviewing rates.”  Still, she knows that federal health reforms have “contributed from zero to a maximum of 5 percent of those increases. It’s not the primary cause for increasing rates.”
  • Perhaps an explanation of how Commissioner Morrison arrived at her conclusion will have to wait until the Division spends the $1 million it got from the Obama Administration to, in the words of Governor Ritter, “educate consumers about health insurance.”
  • Milliman estimates that HMO increases will be 9.0% for January 2011 renewal and 11.0% for PPO renewal. So, if the ObamaCare increase is “just” 5% of those increases it is responsible for half or more of the 2011 premium increases. Perhaps she means that it is just 5% of 9%, or (.05)*(.09) which equals .0045% and, given my premiums, is equal to $3.00 a month for three people. Her analysis can see such a small amount? It is truly powerful and we must bow before it.
  • AARP, Caterpillar, Boeing, Aetna, John Deere, Verizon and McDonalds are raising deductibles and co-pays or dropping their health insurance plans. While these changes may not be reflected in premiums, they are reflected in higher co-pays and deductibles. They are also reflected by the fact that the availability of child only health insurance policies and mini-med policies has been severely compromised by the advent of ObamaCare. This is a cost, but it conveniently isn’t included in “premiums.”
  • The Division claims that most of these are due to medical cost increases—does she think that ObamaCare has no effect on medical costs? Remember the device taxes? The health information technology requirements? The slacker mandate? Guaranteed issue requirements? The required increases in vision and dental coverage for the kiddies? They don’t take effect until later? Yep, we all know that businesses don’t anticipate cost increases.

But really… who knows? I can’t predict what would happen if the left really did have the mainstream media parroting their talking points. It’s a good thing we don’t have to worry about anything like that right?

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You Down With the CCJJ? Yeah You Know Me!

Posted by on Nov 11 2010 | Drug Policy, Idiot Box (TV Show), PPC

Ever heard of the Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice (or CCJJ)?  On this week’s Devil’s Advocate, I am joined by Colorado State Public Defender Doug Wilson and Adams County District Attorney Don Quick, both members of the commission, to check on what issues the commission has taken up this year, and what kind of legislative recommendations might come out of the CCJJ in the next General Assembly.  That’s tomorrow, November 12 at 8:30 PM on Colorado Public Television 12.  Re-broadcast the following Monday at 1:30PM.

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Extraordinary Claims Demand Extraordinary Evidence

Posted by on Nov 10 2010 | Commerce Clause, Constitutional History, Constitutional Law,, PPC, U.S. Constitution

You can usually identify a weak argument by seeing how many orders of magnitude someone must leave “normal” to make their case. For example, if I were to miss work and justify my absence with “my car would not start,” people would most likely give me the benefit of the doubt. The “car wouldn’t start” story is a pretty common occurrence and isn’t very difficult to believe. Now suppose I were to miss work and say, “I didn’t come in yesterday because I was abducted by aliens and they ran tests on me until 8pm last night.” That excuse is many orders of magnitude adrift from normal and much more difficult to believe. In order to convince people that my aliens story was actually true, I’d have to present some incredibly convincing evidence – and tons of it. (The marks on my body from the tests would be a good place to start).

Why am I telling you this? Well, I’m attempting to make the point that extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence. Yale professor Jack Balkin, in his attempt at justifying ObamaCare’s constitutionality, argues that the word “commerce” means much more than simply trade between people. In fact, in Professor Balkin’s world, there is no end to what the word commerce can mean, and therefore, “commerce” can mean “not commerce.” When commerce means not commerce, Americans can be punished for not engaging in commerce according to the powers granted in the Commerce Clause. Now if it were me, I’d demand to see some extraordinary evidence that a word can mean both its thesis and antithesis simultaneously.

Luckily for us at the Independence Institute, we don’t have a Professor Jack Balkin, we have a Professor Rob Natelson. In this podcast, Rob Natelson discusses the historical use of the word “commerce” and what it meant to the founders during the time of ratification. Did they too believe engaging in commerce meant NOT engaging in commerce?

After you listen to Rob explain the meaning of the word commerce, take a look at Rob and Dave Kopel’s response paper to Professor Balkin’s ridiculous assertion that the word commerce means virtually anything and everything.

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“Nazism, Firearm Registration, and the Night of the Broken Glass”

Posted by on Nov 09 2010 | guns, Registration

(David Kopel)

Reichskristallnacht was 72 years ago. Stephen Halbrook’s 2009 article in the St. Thomas Law Review details the close connection between the disarmament of the German Jews and what came next. From the conclusion:

Over a period of several weeks in October and November 1938, the Nazi government disarmed the German Jewish population. The process was carried out both by following a combination of legal forms enacted by the Weimar Republic and by sheer lawless violence. The Nazi hierarchy could now more comfortably deal with the Jewish question without fear of armed resistance by the victims.

It may be tempting to argue that the possession of firearms by the German Jews would have made no difference, either in the 1938 pogrom or later in the Holocaust, when the majority were deported and then eradicated in death camps. Yet this fatalistic view ignores that the Nazis themselves viewed armed Jews as sufficiently dangerous to their policies to place great emphasis on the need to disarm all Jews. In 1938, it was by no means certain that Jewish armed resistance movements could not develop, and even less certain that individual Jews would not use arms to resist arrest, deportation, or attacks by the Nazis.

Consistent adherents of a “Never Again!” policy – which assumes that what has happened in history, could again happen – would seek policies to help ensure that it does not indeed occur again.

That brings us back to Alfred Flatow. [The article provides a case study of Flatow, a Jewish veteran of the German army, who competed for Germany in the 1896 Olympics.] What if he – and an unknown number of other Germans, Jews and non-Jews alike – had not registered his firearms in 1932? Or if the Weimar Republic had not decreed firearm registration at all? What if the Nazis, when they took power in 1933 and disarmed social democrats and other political enemies, or when they decided to repress the entire Jewish population in 1938, did not have police records of registered firearm owners? Can it be said with certainty that no one, either individually or in groups small or large, would have resisted Nazi depredations?

One wonders what thoughts may have occurred to Alfred Flatow in 1942 when he was dying of starvation at the Theresienstadt concentration camp. Perhaps memories of the 1896 Olympics and of a better Germany flashed before his eyes. Did he have second thoughts, maybe repeated many times before, on whether he should have registered his revolver and two pocket pistols in 1932 as decreed by the Weimar Republic? Or whether he should have obediently surrendered them at a Berlin police station in 1938 as ordered by Nazi decree, only to be taken into Gestapo custody? We will never know, but it is difficult to imagine that he had no regrets.

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“New Stimulus Plan Without Congressional Approval”

Posted by on Nov 05 2010 | Economy

(David Kopel)

Jack Balkin provides the details in an excellent post on the Federal Reserve’s announcement that it will buy $600 billion in Treasury bonds. As Balkin puts it, “Last Tuesday, the people made clear: no more big bailouts to banks, no second stimulus, no runaway federal spending.” Yet the Federal Reserve is doing all three.

Balkin characterizes the Federal Reserve as an example what Sandy Levinson and he “call distributed dictatorship. Bernanke and the Fed do not control every part of American policy. They cannot order troops to go to war, for example. But in their specific area of expertise and authority–the use of the Fed’s resources for economic policy–he and the Fed are effectively accountable to no one. And that is why Bernanke did what Obama and Congress could not do–ordered a second 600 billion dollar stimulus package for banks and other bondholders….”

One more reason why Rep. Ron Paul’s bill to audit the Federal Reserve is a good idea. And a good starting place for progressives, libertarians, and conservatives to work together to start shutting down the bipartisan system of crony capitalism and corporate welfare that helped cause the current economic problems.

Copyright © 2010
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The use of this feed on other websites breaches copyright. If this content is not in your news reader, it makes the page you are viewing an infringement of the copyright. )

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2010 Post Election Wrap-Up Show

Posted by on Nov 05 2010 | Idiot Box (TV Show), PPC

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Governor Ritter’s ‘Phantom Carbon Tax’

Posted by on Nov 04 2010 | Economy, energy, PPC

So how do you implement a “phantom” tax on Colorado’s energy rate payers? As the Independence Institute’s Amy Oliver Cooke and the Competetive Enterprise Institute’s William Yeatman describe it:

In order to make Ritter’s New Energy Economy appear affordable, the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) allows Xcel Energy to incorporate at least a $20-per-ton carbon tax into the economic models the utility uses to make resource acquisition decisions. The tax is used in the models, and the models dictate spending.

Ritter’s carbon tax is the worst kind of virtual reality because it leaps from the computers to your wallet. Ratepayers cannot see the tax because it is cloaked in the impossibly arcane processes of the PUC.

Read their great new op-ed on the hidden costs of Colorado’s ‘New Energy Economy’ here.

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