Jane Haddam’s WordPress weblog

Happy Birthday, Matt!

with 7 comments

Yes, it’s my older son’s birthday, and he is getting what he expressly requested–a day in which he does not have to leave the house, no party or singing, a chocolate cake, and control of the one television in this house so that he can watch his Burns and Allen Vol 1 and 2 collection all day.  The Burns and Allen thing was his main Christmas present.

I like Burns and Allen, too, of course, and the episodes on these two discs are fascinating.  A number of them aired before I was born, and if you think commercials intrude into your television watching these days, you really need to see some of this.  Carnation Evaporated Milk sponsored the Burns and Allen Show, and Carnation Evaporated Milk took up a good broad whack of every single plot they aired.  That’s the plot, not the commercial time.

Oh, and at one point, you get to see the CBS logo as it was before the eye.  They made a really good decision with the eye.

But that said–back to the issue at hand.  I apologize for even more typographical errors than usual, but I can only partially see the screen.  My office is in a sunroom and the sun is creating so much glare on the screen, it might as well be blank.

But, to get back to the business at hand.

Cathy says that personal liberty may be what I’m concerned with, but the libertarians she knows talk more about getting all regulation off business and (possibly) what a utopia we’d have if we could just leave everything to the market.

Every libertarian I know talks almost nonstop about personal regulation (seat belt laws, motorcycle and bicycle helmet laws), and is a libertarian largely because they DON’T think utopias are possible–or anything else but cover stories for attempts at total power.

The fact that this is not what CNN–never mind MSNBC and Fox–say libertarians care about doesn’t change the fact that it is what they care about. 

The best libertarian magazine out there–Reason–spends at least half of every issue on personal liberty issues, has an entire department devoted to highlighting the latest outrages of the regulatory state (no, NOT business regulation,  Things like being told you can’t receive disability payments for a loved one you take care of at home unless you join a government employee’s union.)

Granted, the Libertarian Party isn’t, and that’s a hash–but no, they don’t get to claim the name libertarian any more than the Natural Law Party gets to change the meaning of the term “natural law.”

Second, I’ve read Mike’s new article, and I have a couple of notes.

1) Mike may or may not remember, but I was saying many of the same things about maximizing shareholder value back on the OLD Sechum-L, and I do mean the old one, when it was still owned by the Council for Secular Humanism.

2) We’ve done it again. 

I posted a very direct, completely unambiguous challenge–let’s talk about PERSONAL liberty, it’s why I’m not a registered Democrat any more (okay, I’m also not a registered Republican)–

And I might as well have been talking to air.  There’s no response of any kind. 

So I’ll repeat–articles of this kind are completely irrelevant to the main question, the main criteria by which I and lots and lots and lots of my fellow libertarians decide to vote for a candidate, or not vote at all.

So, let me ask the question one more time:

If you want me to vote for candidates who will support expanded government regulatory powers over ANYthing:

1) what are you willing to do to insure that such expanded powers will not ALSO expand the powers of the state to insist that I wear a seatbelt whether I want to or not, that OSHA can come into my home and inspect my office and then demand that it conform not to my comfort but to their notions of what’s “safe’ for me or not,  that my children be put on a course of Ritalin even though I think the fact that we don’t know what it will mean down the road to keep a kid on drugs from the time he’s 6 to the time he’s 60?  A constitutional amendment expressly forbidding these kinds of regulations–including the ones “for the children” or “for the elderly”?  The immediate dismantling of the government departments that now make and administer these regulations?  What?

2) What are you willing to do to put an end to the practice–endemic since the New Deal–of government departments and agencies being able to issue regulations which have the force of law, and return the lawmaking power entirely to elected representatives who can be held accountable for their decisions at the next election?

3) What are you willing to do to require anybody who issues any laws or regulations to do so based on clear and objective criteria and not on subjective feelings, intutions, or judgments?  In other words, requiring standards such as “putting your hand on your subordinate’s breasts without her consent is sexual harrassment” rather than “any words or actions that create a hostile enivornment are sexual harrassment.”

4) If you’re NOT willing to do any of the above–or you try to fob me off with ‘that’s not important, we’ll get to that later”–why SHOULDN’T I assume that your major purpose is to increase the regulation of my private life, since, without such precautions as above, that will be the INEVITABLE result of the regulatory state you install?

I don’t vote Republican, for a number of reasons I’ve mentioned before on this blog.

But I do know a number of people who hold their noses and vote Republican on the simple–and completely logical–assumption that if the Republicans “starve the beast,” the kinds of agencies who make the kind of regulations they don’t like will have a much harder time functioning.

Cathy wants to know how to institute a safety net for people who can’t take care of themselves while getting rid of the free riders–it can’t be done, but we CAN get rid of the learned helplessness, by not treating such people as helpless.

I’ll go back to the thing about limiting such programs to things like a negative income tax–you eliminate the social workers and a lot of the need to prevaricate at the same time.

As for what checks and balances are necessary to protect against crony capitalism–the end of subjective regulations whose meaning is whatever a bureaucrat or regulatory board says they are would go a long way to achieving that.

That way, the regulation won’t mean one thing for the friends of the government and another for the outsiders–it will mean the same for everybody.

I’d also end the “public private partnerships” thing. 

The government should not be bailing out businesses, giving start up money (re Solyndra) to its favorite projects, or any of the rest of that.  Nothing is too big to fail.  Insure the deposits, pay off the depositers up to (but not beyond–see S&L mess) the statutory amount, and let them fall into the see.

Then–make it an ironclad rule that if a law is passed, everybody has to follow it.  EVERYBODY.  No exemptions for Congress (see OSHA regulations and insider trading laws, Social Security and Obama’s new health insurance regs), no “waivers” for anybody.

If there’s a program the country is supposed to participate in, then it had better be the WHOLE country.  The waivers and exemption thing is crony government, and it’s as bad as–or worse–than crony capitalism.

This, by the way, is what “all men are created equal means.”  Not that we all have some ‘right” to a vague “standard of living” that somehow just like everybody elses, or at least close enough to–but that we are (should be) all equal before the law. 

I really do not care, at all, about “income inequality.”

I do care about this stuff.


I ought to at least consider the possibility that the kind–okay, he’s 25–may want something more for dinner than that cake.

Written by janeh

January 2nd, 2012 at 4:54 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

7 Responses to 'Happy Birthday, Matt!'

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  1. Happy birthday, Matt.


    2 Jan 12 at 6:12 pm

  2. You’re not a genuine civil libertarian unless you support the rights of others, even those you don’t use or value. The right to bear arms, for instance.


    2 Jan 12 at 7:48 pm

  3. Ditto. (I had to say it, just this once.) Anyway, if you want me to comment to any effect, you’ll have to say something I disagree with. The goals and policies outlined seem straightforward and necessary. The quibbles I’ve done before.

    I think you tend to underestimate the importance of the economic end of things. I said before you don’t need censorship boards if you have paper rationing–and if the state chooses wages and working conditions, or is the sole employer, slavery would be redundant.

    As for our present political parties, I think Codevilla summed it up nicely. We have one party inextricably tied to the regulatory state, and another political party only about half-way so. If not all the Republican politicians are on my side, none of the Democrats are.

    Note both quibbles concern tactics rather than objectives. I can’t make a long post out of agreeing with someone.

    And I too never heard a libertarian expect a utopia. Certainly no Christian would. But what makes politics the really dull depressing game it is is the firm belief that THIS time great concentration of power won’t work out the way it has all the other times.


    2 Jan 12 at 7:53 pm

  4. Robert, check Amazon for a book called “This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly”. I have the Kindle edition, its rather dry but interesting.

    I tend to agree with what Jane said but I also see difficulties. A law requiring employers to provide “safe working conditions” is short and simple but would lead to a lot of law suits while the courts try to spell out what “safe” means. And if we want to avoid arbitrary decisions, there would need to be regulations rather than leaving it to the decision of individual safty inspectors.


    2 Jan 12 at 8:47 pm

  5. Yeah, jd, but exempting self-employed people, and having a review process/way to challenge regulations would be nice steps.


    2 Jan 12 at 10:37 pm

  6. jd, I’ve read that one–but it was the political side I was thinking of.
    As for the safety inspectors, perhaps a situation which requires thousands of pages of regulations–or, worse, the sort of local discretion which breeds corruption–might mean that OSHA wasn’t our cleverest innovation? Nor do all those thousands of pages avoid precisely that problem with different inspectors making different demands–and the EPA, EEOC and ADA people have even worse reputations than OSHA.
    You could, of course, have said that OSHA only applies to workforces above a certain size and make it a more even fight. Only those firms big enough to have lawyers on staff ought to need to worry with OSHA.
    I’ve done inspections in my day, for that matter. You could come up with a fairly straightforward checklist and an appeals process and still have a set of regulations small enough to read and be familiar with. When regulations come in multiple volumes, they aren’t there to be obeyed, but so you can be caught violating them–and be made to pay, one way or another.


    2 Jan 12 at 10:58 pm

  7. We have a similar system of regulation by responsible Ministers of the State/Federal governments. I don’t much like the system either, but recognise that things happen (and needs arise) far too quickly these days for the sort of sclerotic legislative process inherent in our systems of government to meet contingencies.

    HOWEVER, we have at least two checks and balances which, in theory at least, controls the bureaucracy. First, all regulations must go before a Senate Committee called, IIRC, the Legislative Review Committee for review before they can be signed into effect by the relevant authority, be it the Minister responsible or the Governor-General, as appropriate. That ensures that, at least in theory, there is democratic overview.

    Second, and much more effectively, there are a variety of Review Tribunals, the most important of which is the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) which, at Federal level, has the power to review decisions made by administrative authorities under any form of legislation. It operates under the Administrative Appeals (Judicial Review) Act, 1977. Anyone interested can find it here: http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/cth/consol_act/adra1977396/

    As a beneficiary of that legislation (they overturned decisions to deny me Veterans’ benefits for my deafness), I can assure you that it is a very effective Act and they are very effective tribunals. With those sorts of checks and balances, I can live with the current regulatory system.


    2 Jan 12 at 11:00 pm

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