Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Democrats deserve to lose.

I made the mistake of watching TV this weekend, and was treated to the massive flood of campaign advertisements (mostly negative). One in particular stood out as especially disgusting. It comes from the DSCC, is completely xenophobic, and is embedded below.

This add attacks Pat Toomey for his stance on trade with China. It starts off by focusing on Toomey's opposition to trade barriers with China, blaming them for "costing Pennsylvania nearly 100,000 jobs". This is bad enough. Apparently Democrats have no idea of how to stabilize the American economy, so all they can do is target China as a scapegoat*. However, it gets worse.

The advertisement finished by criticizing Toomey for welcoming China's economic growth, as though it's a problem that hundreds of millions of Chinese have risen above poverty in the past three decades. One advertisement (which I cannot find) even suggests that Toomey is betraying America because he considers the welfare of Chinese to have some value (and therefore he should seek a position in the Chinese government). To top it off, the advertisement end with a message in a fortune cookie.

All in all, this advertisement campaign reflects very poorly on the Democrats. First, it validates the impression that their economic strategy is identical to Hugo Chavez's: isolate and centralize. Second, it indicates that their foreign policy views economic growth outside of the USA as a threat. Finally, it demonstrates that their political strategy is to find scapegoats* for our economic problems. If I weren't so cynical about politic advertisements, I'd say that the Democrats were fascists.

*The Chinese have sold us cheap goods and given us cheap loans. Our misuse of those resources is not their fault. We could have used them to increase our own productivity, but instead we went on a wasteful consumption binge. Likewise, the fact that some people cannot find work is not due to the fact that foreigners sell us cheap goods; it is due to how we organize our own economic resources.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Let's get rid of the lawyers

A lawyer friend of mine once asked "why are you a libertarian?" I didn't have a good answer on hand so I said "Because we have too many lawyers". It didn't take me long to regret having missed the opportunity to explain my views in a serious manner, but having had a decade or so to mull it over, I realize that there is an element of truth in it.

I believe that the increasing "legalization" of society is both bad and unnecessary. By "legalization", I mean the fact that we need to consult lawyers -- either while making a decision of after we make a decision that exposes us to legal risk. The problem is that lawyers aren't cheap (of course, if they were, it would imply that their job were simple and each of us could be our own lawyer). The large fees paid to lawyers don't only represent a great drain on the productivity of society, these large fees mean that lawyers are inaccessible to many people in our society and consequently these people are vulnerable to threats of lawsuits against which they cannot defend themselves (for, here, and here).

To be clear, I don't mean to imply that lawyers are intrinsically engaged in immoral or parasitic conduct; given how our legal system is structured, their work in necessary and it is part of how our society organizes itself. Lawyers (as a profession) even go out of their way to provide counsel to those people who cannot afford to hire lawyers at market rates; however, such charity does not undo the fundamental injustice of the situation, in either its magnitude or intrinsic nature*.

With that being said, let's get to the point: how can we change our laws to reduce the need for lawyers (and truly place them on the list of "Unneccesary People")? I propose that we abolish any legal actions arising from the following:
  1. Misuse of speech (e.g. libel, slander, inflicting emotional distress): The remedy for bad speech is good speech.
  2. Misuse of confidence(e.g Breach of contract, release of secrets, fraud): Be careful who you trust. Liberty is inalienable, and all relationships are "at will".
  3. Social Management (e.g Intellectual property, victimless crimes): Social structures and norms should arise from the bottom-up, in a non-violent manner.
Notice that the one part of the legal system that I did not propose gutting is the tort system. I don't see any way around needing a very serious legal system when one person forces himself on another. All proposals that I've seen to reform the tort system are nothing more than attempts to make it easier for the uber-parasites (with their corporate protections and armies of lawyers) to bully and steal from everyone else.

Likewise, there will be some situations in which there is no straightforward principle by which to decide ownership (for instance, with joint possessions, such as when a marriage or business partnership is being dissolved). These will require legal intervention.

As for the offences that I propose to remove from legal jurisdiction, this does not mean that those behaviors (e.g. slander) are acceptable; it only means that they should be dealt with in a non-violent manner.

The first two categories that I mentioned can be addressed within a reputation-based system. If a person is telling lies, then it should be made clear that he is a liar. If a person reneges on contracts, then it should be made clear that he cannot be trusted with responsibilities. These issues can be handled in an unstructured manner (as they often are), but they could also benefit from a formal process analogous to a lawsuit. However, the difference would be that there would be no forced confiscation of property or imprisonment; the lawsuit would conclude by publicly noting that a person has been found to be in the wrong (or not) with respect to a particular dispute, and he may be given instructions on what to do to resolve the dispute.

The laws designed for social management (whether funding public goods, or enforcing some view of morality or professional standards) should be enforced by non-violent social pressure. I doubt that any centralized formal system would be needed for their enforcement. Tax law could be included in this list, but this gets into a much more radical proposal than what I want to discuss now.

*The law profession in many ways looks like a state-enforced cartel.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Can I ever vote Republican?

I just added "Divided We Stand" to the blogroll on the right. I first encountered the author, "MW", at the Freedom Democrats blog, back when the Republicans controlled the entire Federal Government. He made the case that single-party government is generally a bad thing. Single-party rule leads to extreme, unstable policies, and also facilitates corruption. Speaking to libertarian concerns, single-party rule results in greater government spending.

I generally buy his argument. What's more, I dislike fanatical partisanship, and the core of the "Divided Government" strategy is the realization that voters should treat parties as part of the system of government, rather than identifying with one or the other. However, the limitation of the strategy is that voters need to vote for parties rather than individual candidates, and we can't have a strong preference for the policies of one party over the others.

So the question that faces me in November is whether I can vote against the Democrats. This shouldn't be too hard for me -- I've voted Democrat occasionally, but have never beet terribly happy with the party or the candidates. For instance, I don't have any particular fondness for Bob Casey, but I despised Rick Santorum, so I voted for Casey in 2006 (and the Republicans had the Presidency regardless).

Anyway, for the upcoming election, I looked at my choices to find a Republican Congressional candidate that I could vote for. No luck.

First, there's Pat Toomey for Senate. I don't remember what I dislike about him, but he left a bad impression six years ago when he challenged Specter for the Republican nomination. I also don't care for the Democrat, Joe Sestak.

There's also the House race, so I went to Project Vote Smart to get some info on who is challenging Mike Doyle (with whom I disagree a lot); and it is Melissa A. Haluszczak. She's an unknown (no ratings from interest groups), so I check out her website. Let's see if she takes any positions that are intolerable...

Under "Issues", there is Immigration. It's the only one I look at. Straight off, she calls for a range of punitive measures against illegal immigrants. She tops it off with a call to make English the national language. As an afterthought, she notes that immigrants (legal ones) are decent people. Okay, that about does it. There is no way I could support this woman.

So I'm not going to vote for either of the Republicans, but I'm also not going to vote for either Democrat--neither of them are good enough to justify the power that the Democratic party has. I guess that I am essentially going to sit out this election, and cast a protest vote (Haluszczak doesn't have a chance anyway). The Greens have candidates for both positions, and their issue positions range from exciting to tolerable -- except for their apparent desire to eliminate private-sector employment (e.g. 32 hour work week). The Libertarians have put up a candidate for Senate, but he doesn't have any web presence yet (nor does their candidate for Governor!), which is a bad sign for their campaigns this late in the process.