Liberating the Citizenry

“Every tax rise provides new sinews to subjugate citizens. Citizens who wish to be free must pay strict attention to all exactions politicians impose. Ending politicians’ unlimited taxing power is the first step towards liberating the citizenry. The current tax code is a monument to the bad faith presidents and congresses have long shown towards the American people. A good tax system will provide sufficient revenue and nothing else – no inside lane on everyone’s personal lives, no pretext to penalize scores of millions of people for inadvertent errors, and no hash of regulations to empower every would-be bureaucratic tyrant. There is no way for any tax system that raises as much revenue as does that of the federal government to be “fair,” because government can in no way render equivalent benefits to the average taxpayer.”

– From James Bovard’s Freedom in Chains

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Quote-worthy Material

From Peggy Noonan:

  • “The U.S. surveillance state as outlined and explained by Edward Snowden is not worth the price. Its size, scope and intrusiveness, its ability to target and monitor American citizens, its essential unaccountability—all these things are extreme.”
  • “It is a great irony, and history will marvel at it, that the president most committed to expanding the centrality, power, prerogatives and controls of the federal government is also the president who, through lack of care, arrogance, and an absence of any sense of prudential political boundaries, has done the most in our time to damage trust in government.”

From Niall Ferguson:

  • Toward the end of “Democracy in America” he warned against the government becoming “an immense tutelary power . . . absolute, detailed, regular . . . cover[ing] [society’s] surface with a network of small, complicated, painstaking, uniform rules through which the most original minds and the most vigorous souls cannot clear a way.”
  • “Tocqueville also foresaw exactly how this regulatory state would suffocate the spirit of free enterprise: ‘It rarely forces one to act, but it constantly opposes itself to one’s acting; it does not destroy, it prevents things from being born; it does not tyrannize, it hinders, compromises, enervates, extinguishes, dazes, and finally reduces [the] nation to being nothing more than a herd of timid and industrious animals of which the government is the shepherd.'”
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“Ban the Bag” – Is Government the Answer?

Right at a year ago, I wrote a post on a “bag ban” proposal passed by the city of Austin, TX. That proposal has now gone into effect, and has created a hubbub once again among clear-thinking, sensible conservatives across the state. In memory of free markets and liberty, I re-post my original article:

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Thanks to our local Daily Sentinel’s Facebook page, I was recently made aware of a ban passed by the Austin City Council regarding the use of plastic bags at retail and grocery store checkouts.  I did a little reading on the details of this “ban,” and am frankly appalled that such a proposal ever came to a vote.  In Texas, no less!

In the city known for keeping it weird, however, Austinites managed to propose and pass yet another regulation that infringes upon the rights of private businesses and the citizens who own and manage them.  Of course, the proponents of this ban are ecstatic over their success.  From an article written back in August of last year:

“Council members say plastic bags are an environmental scourge – polluting waterways, clogging drainage systems and taking up landfill space, where they don’t biodegrade.

Austinites use 263 million plastic bags a year, and they cost the city and taxpayers about $850,000 a year to clean up as litter and put in landfills, according to city estimates.

A voluntary effort by large Austin retailers, including Walmart and Target, to cut plastic bag use was not effective enough, city officials have said.

On Thursday , the nonprofit Texas Campaign for the Environment called on the city to ban both plastic and paper bags, saying that would achieve the larger goal of helping consumers get in the habit of using reusable bags instead of single-use bags.”

Yes – the answer to this incredible waste is more government regulation.  After all, if our city councils aren’t forcing us to be more environment-friendly in our businesses and private lives, then we will ultimately destroy the earth.  Therefore businesses are evil and we should do everything in our power as citizens to SAVE THE EARTH and keep people from littering.  Because people who litter stop their littering ways when retail and grocery stores provide only reusable bags.

Right.

Unfortunately, at some point way back in the day, people thought the only way to solve their problems was to ask the government to fix their problems for them (read: regulate).  Ever since then, governments – local, state and federal – have always been happy to take on more power and more responsibility, thus taking power from the citizens and consequently issuing ridiculous regulations and laws such as this “bag ban” in Austin.

We seem to have forgotten that government should be in the hands of the people, and the people alone.  Our government’s job is to keep us safe, make sure that we’re all being legitimate and fair in our business (just and equal measures), and deal with those who violate the rights of others.  Regulating how we run our businesses is not part of the government’s job.

So what should we do if we feel like our local businesses and citizens are being wasteful with the products they use, or if we see that our community has a littering problem?  Educate our citizens!  Write an article in the paper.  Speak up in your community organizations.  Clean up your own act, or your own street, or your own neighborhood.  Govern yourselves.   The answer is never more government regulation, but rather self-government.  Team up with other individuals or organizations and make your community aware of what seems to be an issue.

But don’t go too far – we must always allow for differences, both in opinion and operation.  If someone doesn’t like what you’re proposing, as long as they’re not oppressing you by stating their opinion or by their actions, then don’t worry about it.  This is the beauty of a free economy, built on a free-market system.  If your way of doing things is better, then the businesses that agree with you will thrive – and they will do so on their own, through competition.  We shouldn’t be suggesting to our governments that we want all of our businesses to be the same.  Let them be different!  They satisfy unique groups of customers – those who care about what kind of bags are being offered, and those who don’t.  And if you’re having a problem with littering, then work on the customers; don’t punish the businesses.

As is often the case, there are a dozen different ways to handle situations like this, but the answer is very rarely civil government.  It’s simply not the government’s business what kind of bags businesses are using.  Let the market decide – let the customers decide.  But regulation is not the answer.  And because people so often believe government regulations are the answer, regulations have largely become the problem.  Freedom and prosperity are the consequences of an unencumbered society and market.  The cream will rise to the top in a competitive free-market economy, and will do so on its own.

This is yet another example of how we must begin to take an account of our government – federal, state and local – and recognize that we have a responsibility to govern ourselves, and if we do so, our need for government regulation will almost completely disappear.

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A Free-Market Defense of Hobby Lobby

Every business owner knows the motto of the free market: The customer is king.

Would that the Federal Government could manage to remember this motto even occasionally.  The Green family and their family-owned and operated company, Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., have found themselves in a bit of a tight spot over the last few months.  Their religious convictions prevent them from offering health insurance coverage for contraceptives, but the Federal Government is requiring it nonetheless, charging the company a $1.3 million/day fine for failure to comply.

Now, I should point out that I’m not against all government regulations, nor do I oppose governments stepping in to make sure that businesses treat their customers and employees fairly and with respect.  Companies that steal from their employees or their customers through deceptive measures deserve both reprimands and penalties.  Both from their own customers and third parties.

But from what I can tell, Hobby Lobby’s not getting a bad rap from its customers or its employees.  If there were need for some punishing regulations from the Feds, wouldn’t we have heard about it?  But let’s look at how Hobby Lobby treats their customers and employees.  CEO and Founder, David Green, notes:

“We close early so our employees can see their families at night. We keep our stores closed on Sundays, one of the week’s biggest shopping days, so that our workers and their families can enjoy a day of rest. We believe that it is by God’s grace that Hobby Lobby has endured, and he has blessed us and our employees. We’ve not only added jobs in a weak economy, we’ve raised wages for the past four years in a row. Our full-time employees start at 80% above minimum wage.”

It would appear, to the average American, that Hobby Lobby is one of those companies that many Americans would love to work for.  Their employees are treated well and respectfully, and the company seems to care about them and their families.  Add to that the health care that the company is happy to provide all qualifying employees, one has to wonder what exactly the issue might be.

And when we look closely, the issue is not a business one, nor is it about protecting the rights of people.  The issue is a religious one.

It is because of the Greens’ religious beliefs that they do not wish to provide coverage for contraceptives.

And it is on this issue that I believe our Federal Government should agree to be silent.  The right to freedom of religion doesn’t apply only to individuals, but to organizations and companies as well.  That’s partly what makes our free market so fantastic – consumers have the ability to choose!  As consumers and potential customers of the elaborate buffet that is the American marketplace, we can support the companies we want to support.  There is no question that regulations should exist to handle those who cheat the system and attempt to achieve an unfair advantage, but there is no need to dock a company that refuses to offer certain health care coverage because it violates their religious convictions.

And one can’t throw the “Christian” yellow card here, either, because I’m more than happy to allow that if for some reason, an otherwise fair and upstanding company didn’t want to offer the same coverage due to their atheistic, Islamic, Buddhist, or ________ religious views, the government shouldn’t force it on them either.  Coverage for contraceptives shouldn’t be a mandatory deal across the board.  If it’s the standard coverage, that’s one thing, but requiring all companies to abide by such a mandate is ludicrous, and will be the undoing of whatever remains of our free market system.

Every company has the freedom and right to impose certain standards on their employees.  They make these standards known prior to hiring.  The same should apply to any and all health insurance policies.  If Hobby Lobby doesn’t want to cover their employees’ purchasing of contraceptives, let a “regulator” make certain that they inform their employees of this.  The solution is simple – the employees who don’t care about it will stay, and those who do will leave.  It’s called a free market.  We have the freedom to work where we like and where we can thrive.  If this issue is important enough to the affected employees, they’ll leave.

And does it impact the Hobby Lobby customer base?  We’ll find out.  The lesson ought to be that the government should agree to stay out of the issue of religious freedom and that it gives the liberty of punishing a company for holding such religious beliefs to the customer and employee.  If an employee has a problem, they’ll quit.  If a potential customer believes such a position is ridiculous, they’ll spend their dollars elsewhere.  

After all, where else do you have such freedom and liberty in the marketplace?  Wouldn’t it be great if our government supported the economy that we proudly claim to have?

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On a side note, if you care to sign a petition requesting the Obama administration grant Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. exemption from the Affordable Care Act, you can do so here: White House Petition.

 

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