Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Campaigning Soviet Style

I happened to tune in to the Dennis Miller Show recently and while I find Miller mildly entertaining, it was a commercial break that caught my attention. All five commercials were produced in conjunction the Ad Council and four were funded by departments of the federal government. My first thought was that this must be what radio sounded like in the old Soviet Union. But upon reflection I was struck by the fact that all were ads for free giveaways and new entitlements. Not a bad way to roll out the presidential campaign.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Random thoughts

I took the bus this summer. I won't do that again, voluntarily. Other than horse-drawn carriage, I cannot imagine a more time consuming, uncomfortable, inefficient manner of travel. It quadrupled my commute time, increased my anxiety and reduced time with my family. On top of that, it didn't save me any gas money and cost taxpayers an additional 5X what I paid for the fare. Simply shocking that the nation is $15,000,000,000,000 in debt (not counting state & local debt).

Mark Perry continues to impress me and this piece about trade with China (and the supposed evils of their currency manipulation) is insightful and well worth your time... if you're willing to think a bit.

Milton Friedman was a national treasure. Thanks to Youtube and the interwebs, he remains so.

I thought about responding to the Forum's swipe at me but decided it wasn't worth it. If they want to be known for slandering minority opinions, they can continue to sink their paper along with that tactic. I will continue to fight for the liberty of Moorhead residents and I won't apologize for it.

Ron Paul is coming to Fargo/Moorhead. You may not agree with him (yet), but I believe he is the most important political thinker of my lifetime.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Moorhead Monday: A Troubled Bridge Over Water

As a free market proponent, I certainly have no objections to toll bridges in theory - I think it is a preferable model. However, I think the law should apply as equally as possible, even if it isn't a perfect one. This is the main reason I support converting the north Moorhead (15th Ave)/Fargo (12th Ave) to a cities-owned and maintained toll-free bridge as soon as the current contract expires - which is 1/1/2013. The alternative is to make all the bridges in Fargo-Moorhead toll bridges... and if that ever gets legs I'll go along with that.

The toll bridge owners have requested an extension but the Moorhead city council has not, to this point, agreed. I think the toll-payers, who have not been exempted from paying for the other bridges, have "paid their dues" for the last 25 years. Unfortunately, the owners of the bridge have decided to leave the bridge closed to protest our decision to stick with the existing agreement. If they stick to their guns, our choices are: 1) agree to 5 more years of tolls or, 2) live without the bridge for another 19 months and then take ownership. For now, I'll stick with what the parties have already agreed to.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Bullying and Slavery

Sen. Rand Paul's analogy of free health care being akin to slavery gets to the core of the "government is the solution" vs "government is the problem" argument. While Paul's example doesn't completely connect the dots, Tom Mullen's blot post brings the argument full circle. When the use of aggressive force (whether for laudable ends or not) violates another person's natural right to liberty or voluntarily acquired property, it is bullying. It is also, to a varying degree, a form of slavery.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Moorhead Monday: I Could Be Wrong

Yes, I know it's Tuesday. To be honest, I hesitate to write this piece because I'm not 100% convinced of my position. That's where you come in. Provide your feedback if you think I'm all wet.

We extended a 4 year property tax abatement to a new day care business last night. As you might imagine, I'm all for lower taxes - no taxes, eventually. I am also pleased that the entire council recognizes that lower taxes are important for economic growth. So where's the rub? Here are the arguments I've presented regarding "targeted tax cuts".

1) We establish a tilted playing field in favor of a single business (and potentially for that industry). My preference is for no property taxes, but if we tax, it should be the same among similar properties.

2) As the city grows, so does demand for services. I'd be happy if we could reduce those services to public safety and infrastructure, but even then additional developed properties consume additional services. If a property is exempted from paying for them, what is the result? Either the remaining payers get less service for the same tax, or they pay more tax for the same service.

My solution to half the problem was to offer an amendment to reduce city spending by the amount of the tax abatement. That motion died for lack of a second, so I didn't bother offering the second amendment: to extend the abatement to all day care businesses.

Some advocates of liberty say "support all tax cuts, no matter what". And I'm inclined to agree, but my desire for equal application of the law gets in the way. Alas, no abatement would be necessary if there were no property tax to begin with! More on that to come this summer...

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Moorhead Monday: Unintended Consequences

At Monday's committee of the whole meeting, we discussed three well-intentioned (I think) city programs: rental registration, vacant building designation and code enforcement. All three clearly violate private property rights and I attempted to demonstrate that these "solutions" create larger problems.

Rental registration injects politics into otherwise voluntary transactions between landlords and tenants. As with many such regulations, the arrogant nanny state believes consumers aren't smart enough to find an appropriate place to live and that landlords are out to scam renters. The burden of such actions falls disproportionately on the poor who are willing to live with chipped paint, since landlords must adhere to the regulation and increased property costs or face fines and loss of rental "privileges".

Vacant building designation attempts to force people into actively using their improved property or put it up for sale. While few people think "progress" when they see a vacant building, the city should not be in a position to demand I do anything with my property unless I'm causing physical harm to my neighbor or his property.

Code enforcement has become a method by which the majority attempts to coerce a minority into "looking like" everyone else. Your grass must be this long, your fence must be this high, your walk must be shoveled, gardening equipment may not be in the front yard, etc. I don't have a problem with individual neighborhood associations enacting goofy restrictions with unanimous consent... but it is a poor policy for an entire city to pursue: we're essentially telling people we don't want them because of how they look.

It's easy to fall into the trap of believing that I should control the actions of other peaceful adults. I've seen paint colors that make me wrinkle up my nose, apartment carpet that I wouldn't walk on, and empty buildings that seem to be decaying. But when I attempt to use government bullies to enforce MY will on another - I've violated the human rights of those owners. And I won't have any part of it.

Monday, April 18, 2011

It's a Start explores outsourcing local services. But, while Sandy Springs, GA has an improved model, it doesn't quite get to my property tax-free model (stay tuned for details).