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  • Publication Date: 09-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: Gary Johnson currently campaigns as a candidate for U.S. president with the same outspoken fidelity to free markets, limited government, and fiscal responsibility that guided his two terms as governor of New Mexico. Aside from making headlines earlier this year with his strong opposition to an antihomosexual Republican-circulated marriage pledge, which he called “offensive” and “un-American,” he has been neglected by the mainstream press and has been excluded from several televised debates. He presses on in a struggle from which higher-polling candidates have already dropped out. Johnson started a one-man handyman company in 1976 and over the next two decades developed it to employing one thousand people. Against the odds, he launched his campaign for governor in 1994 and carried his win to a second term, a governorship marked by his stand for “freedom across the board.” During his eight years in office, his main focus was responsible management of the government pocketbook, and he earned the nickname “Governor Veto” by vetoing more bills than the other forty-nine governors combined. He cut twelve hundred state job positions, cut taxes, reformed Medicaid, promoted school vouchers, privatized prisons, and helped eliminate the state's budget deficit. An unconventional Republican, he supports the right to abortion, the legalization of marijuana, and legal equality for homosexuals. Today he retains popularity among New Mexico's voters. Goal-driven, independent, and with a zest for life, he has competed in multiple Ironman Triathlons, summited Mt. Everest, and personally built his current home in Taos, New Mexico. He's a divorced father of two and lives with his fiancée. I spoke with him just before his strong campaign push in New Hampshire at the end of August. —David Baucom David Baucom: Thank you for speaking with me, Governor Johnson. Gary Johnson: Absolutely. DB: With the decline of the U.S. economy and the emergence of the Tea Party movement, people in America are finally asking questions to the effect of, What is the proper role of government? As a candidate for president of the United States, what do you regard as the proper purpose of government? GJ: The proper purpose of government would be to protect you and me against individuals, groups, corporations that would do us harm, whether that's from a property perspective or physical harm. And that would also apply to other countries. DB: Relating to that, how would you define “rights,” and where would you draw the line for what individuals can properly claim as a right? GJ: You know, my definition of it, I guess, is the whole notion that we have too many laws. And that when it comes to rights, that they really have a basis in common sense, that they really have a basis in natural law, if you will. Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. That government gets way, way, way too involved in trying to define that, as opposed to you and me working that out. DB: President Obama calls for “sacrifice” from everyone, but especially from “rich” individuals and corporations, whose taxes he wants to raise. You've said you don't think raising taxes on the rich is the way to deal with the financial crisis. As president, what would be your solution to the crisis? GJ: Well, I'm advocating the FairTax. I think we should scrap the entire tax system that we have and replace it with the FairTax. I'm talking about FairTax.org, for those who aren't aware of this proposal that I think has been around now for about ten years. By all free market economists' reckoning, it is what it is: it's fair, and it simplifies the existing tax system. So, by “simplify [the] existing tax system,” it abolishes the IRS and does away with all existing federal taxes: income tax, Social Security withholding, Medicare withholding, unemployment insurance, business-to-business tax, corporate tax. Replacing the current system would be a one-time federal consumption tax of 23 percent, which is meant to be revenue neutral, so we would still need to cut our spending by 43 percent, believing that part of revitalizing this country is balancing the federal budget and replacing it with the FairTax. . . .
  • Topic: Development
  • Political Geography: United States, America
  • Author: Monica Hughes
  • Publication Date: 06-2009
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: The most important and most overlooked energy issue today is the growing crisis of global energy supply. Cheap, industrial-scale energy is essential to building, transporting, and operating everything we use, from refrigerators to Internet server farms to hospitals. It is desperately needed in the undeveloped world, where 1.6 billion people lack electricity, which contributes to untold suffering and death. And it is needed in ever-greater, more-affordable quantities in the industrialized world: Energy usage and standard of living are directly correlated. Every dollar added to the cost of energy is a dollar added to the cost of life. And if something does not change soon in the energy markets, the cost of life will become a lot higher. As demand increases in the newly industrializing world, led by China and India, supply stagnates -meaning rising prices as far as the eye can see. What is the solution? We just need the right government "energy plan," leading politicians, intellectuals, and businessmen tell us. Of course "planners" such as Barack Obama, John McCain, Al Gore, Thomas L. Friedman, T. Boone Pickens, and countless others favor different plans with different permutations and combinations of their favorite energy sources (solar, wind, biomass, ethanol, geothermal, occasionally nuclear and natural gas) and distribution networks (from decentralized home solar generators to a national centralized so-called smart grid). But each agrees that there must be a plan-that the government must lead the energy industry using its power to subsidize, mandate, inhibit, and prohibit. And each claims that his plan will lead to technological breakthroughs, more plentiful energy, and therefore a higher standard of living. Consider Nobel Peace Prize winner Al Gore, who claims that if only we follow his "repower American plan"-which calls for the government to ban and replace all carbon-emitting energy (currently 80 percent of overall energy and almost 100 percent of fuel energy) in ten years-we would be using fuels that are not expensive, don't cause pollution and are abundantly available right here at home. . . . We have such fuels. Scientists have confirmed that enough solar energy falls on the surface of the earth every 40 minutes to meet 100 percent of the entire world's energy needs for a full year. Tapping just a small portion of this solar energy could provide all of the electricity America uses. And enough wind power blows through the Midwest corridor every day to also meet 100 percent of US electricity demand. Geothermal energy, similarly, is capable of providing enormous supplies of electricity for America. . . . [W]e can start right now using solar power, wind power and geothermal power to make electricity for our homes and businesses. And Gore claims that, under his plan, our vehicles will run on "renewable sources that can give us the equivalent of $1 per gallon gasoline." Another revered thinker, Thomas L. Friedman, also speaks of the transformative power of government planning, in the form of a government-engineered "green economy." In a recent book, he enthusiastically quotes an investor who claims: "The green economy is poised to be the mother of all markets, the economic investment opportunity of a lifetime." Friedman calls for "a system that will stimulate massive amounts of innovation and deployment of abundant, clean, reliable, and cheap electrons." How? Friedman tells us that there are two ways to stimulate innovation-one is short-term and the other is long-term-and we need to be doing much more of both. . . . First, there is innovation that happens naturally by the massive deployment of technologies we already have [he stresses solar and wind]. . . . The way you stimulate this kind of innovation-which comes from learning more about what you already know and doing it better and cheaper-is by generous tax incentives, regulatory incentives, renewable energy mandates, and other market-shaping mechanisms that create durable demand for these existing clean power technologies. . . . And second, there is innovation that happens by way of eureka breakthroughs from someone's lab due to research and experimentation. The way you stimulate that is by increasing government-funded research. . . . The problem with such plans and claims: Politicians and their intellectual allies have been making and trying to implement them for decades-with nothing positive (and much negative) to show for it. For example, in the late 1970s, Jimmy Carter heralded his "comprehensive energy policy," claiming it would "develop permanent and reliable new energy sources." In particular, he (like many today) favored "solar energy, for which most of the technology is already available." All the technology needed, he said, "is some initiative to initiate the growth of a large new market in our country." Since then, the government has heavily subsidized solar, wind, and other favored "alternatives," and embarked on grand research initiatives to change our energy sources-claiming that new fossil fuel and nuclear development is unnecessary and undesirable. The result? Not one single, practical, scalable source of energy. Americans get a piddling 1.1 percent of their power from solar and wind sources, and only that much because of national and state laws subsidizing and mandating them. There have been no "eureka breakthroughs," despite many Friedmanesque schemes to induce them, including conveniently forgotten debacles such as government fusion projects, the Liquid Fast Metal Breeder Reactor Program, and the Synfuels Corporation. Many good books and articles have been written-though not enough, and not widely enough read-chronicling the failures of various government-sponsored energy plans, particularly those that sought to develop "alternative energies," over the past several decades. Unfortunately, the lesson that many take from this is that we must relinquish hope for dramatic breakthroughs, lower our sights, and learn to make do with the increasing scarcity of energy. But the past failures do not warrant cynicism about the future of energy; they warrant cynicism only about the future of energy under government planning. Indeed, history provides us ample grounds for optimism about the potential for a dynamic energy market with life-changing breakthroughs-because America once had exactly such a market. For most of the 1800s, an energy market existed unlike any we have seen in our lifetimes, a market devoid of government meddling. With every passing decade, consumers could buy cheaper, safer, and more convenient energy, thanks to continual breakthroughs in technology and efficiency-topped off by the discovery and mass availability of an alternative source of energy that, through its incredible cheapness and abundance, literally lengthened and improved the lives of nearly everyone in America and millions more around the world. That alternative energy was called petroleum. By studying the rise of oil, and the market in which it rose, we will see what a dynamic energy market looks like and what makes it possible. Many claim to want the "next oil"; to that end, what could be more important than understanding the conditions that gave rise to the first oil? Today, we know oil primarily as a source of energy for transportation. But oil first rose to prominence as a form of energy for a different purpose: illumination. For millennia, men had limited success overcoming the darkness of the night with man-made light. As a result, the day span for most was limited to the number of hours during which the sun shone-often fewer than ten in the winter. Even as late as the early 1800s, the quality and availability of artificial light was little better than it had been in Greek and Roman times-which is to say that men could choose between various grades of expensive lamp oils or candles made from animal fats. But all of this began to change in the 1820s. Americans found that lighting their homes was becoming increasingly affordable-so much so that by the mid-1860s, even poor, rural Americans could afford to brighten their homes, and therefore their lives, at night, adding hours of life to their every day. What made the difference? Individual freedom, which liberated individual ingenuity. The Enlightenment and its apex, the founding of the United States of America, marked the establishment of an unprecedented form of government, one established explicitly on the principle of individual rights. According to this principle, each individual has a right to live his own life solely according to the guidance of his own mind-including the crucial right to earn, acquire, use, and dispose of the physical property, the wealth, on which his survival depends. Enlightenment America, and to a large extent Enlightenment Europe, gave men unprecedented freedom in the intellectual and economic realms. Intellectually, individuals were free to experiment and theorize without restrictions by the state. This made possible an unprecedented expansion in scientific inquiry-including the development by Joseph Priestly and Antoine Lavoisier of modern chemistry, critical to future improvements in illumination.18 Economically, this freedom enabled individuals to put scientific discoveries and methods into wealth-creating practice, harnessing the world around them in new, profitable ways-from textile manufacturing to steelmaking to coal-fired steam engines to illuminants. . . .
  • Topic: Development
  • Political Geography: United States, America
  • Author: Eric Daniels
  • Publication Date: 09-2008
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: On June 23, 2005, the United States Supreme Court's acquiescence in a municipal government's use of eminent domain to advance "economic development" goals sent shockwaves across the country. When the Court announced its decision in Kelo v. City of New London, average homeowners realized that their houses could be condemned, seized, and handed over to other private parties. They wanted to know what had gone wrong, why the Constitution and Fifth Amendment had failed to protect their property rights. The crux of the decision, and the source of so much indignation, was the majority opinion of Justice John Paul Stevens, which contended that "economic development" was such a "traditional and long accepted function of government" that it fell under the rubric of "public use." If a municipality or state determined, through a "carefully considered" planning process, that taking land from one owner and giving it to another would lead to increased tax revenue, job growth, and the revitalization of depressed urban areas, the Court would allow it. If the government had to condemn private homes to meet "the diverse and always evolving needs of society," Stevens wrote, so be it. The reaction to the Kelo decision was swift and widespread. Surveys showed that 80 to 90 percent of Americans opposed the decision. Politicians from both parties spoke out against it. Such strange bedfellows as Rush Limbaugh and Ralph Nader were united in their opposition to the Court's ruling. Legislatures in more than forty states proposed and most then passed eminent domain "reforms." In the 2006 elections, nearly one dozen states considered anti-Kelo ballot initiatives, and ten such measures passed. On the one-year anniversary of the decision, President Bush issued an executive order that barred federal agencies from using eminent domain to take property for economic development purposes (even though the primary use of eminent domain is by state and local agencies). The "backlash" against the Court's Kelo decision continues today by way of reform efforts in California and other states. Public outcry notwithstanding, the Kelo decision did not represent a substantial worsening of the state of property rights in America. Rather, the Kelo decision reaffirmed decades of precedent-precedent unfortunately rooted in the origins of the American system. Nor is eminent domain the only threat to property rights in America. Even if the federal and state governments abolished eminent domain tomorrow, property rights would still be insecure, because the cause of the problem is more fundamental than law or politics. In order to identify the fundamental cause of the property rights crisis, we must observe how the American legal and political system has treated property rights over the course of the past two centuries and take note of the ideas offered in support of their rulings and regulations. In so doing, we will see that the assault on property rights in America is the result of a long chain of historical precedent moored in widespread acceptance of a particular moral philosophy.Property, Principle, and Precedent In the Revolutionary era, America's Founding Fathers argued that respect for property rights formed the very foundation of good government. For instance, Arthur Lee, a Virginia delegate to the Continental Congress, wrote that "the right of property is the guardian of every other right, and to deprive a people of this, is in fact to deprive them of their liberty." In a 1792 essay on property published in the National Gazette, James Madison expressed the importance of property to the founding generation. "Government is instituted to protect property of every sort," he explained, "this being the end of government, that alone is a just government, which impartially secures to every man, whatever is his own." Despite this prevalent attitude-along with the strong protections for property contained in the United States Constitution's contracts clause, ex post facto clause, and the prohibition of state interference with currency-the founders accepted the idea that the power of eminent domain, the power to forcibly wrest property from private individuals, was a legitimate power of sovereignty resting in all governments. Although the founders held that the "despotic power" of eminent domain should be limited to taking property for "public use," and that the victims of such takings were due "just compensation," their acceptance of its legitimacy was the tip of a wedge. The principle that property rights are inalienable had been violated. If the government can properly take property for "public use," then property rights are not absolute, and the extent to which they can be violated depends on the meaning ascribed to "public use." From the earliest adjudication of eminent domain cases, it became clear that the term "public use" would cause problems. Although the founders intended eminent domain to be used only for public projects such as roads, 19th-century legislatures began using it to transfer property to private parties, such as mill and dam owners or canal and railroad companies, on the grounds that they were open to public use and provided wide public benefits. Add to this the fact that, during the New Deal, the Supreme Court explicitly endorsed the idea that property issues were to be determined not by reference to the principle of individual rights but by legislative majorities, and you have the foundation for all that followed. . . .
  • Topic: Development, Economics
  • Political Geography: United States, America, London