Thursday, March 27, 2008

I am a Liberal

What is a liberal? If you read various dictionaries it implies being open to new ideas. Politically, it is a derogatory term. We think of it as meaning someone who believes in socialist policies and tries to undermine Judeo-Christian values. Many economists like to call themselves “Classical Liberals”, because liberal used to mean someone who embraced the free market. The word was later stolen by socialists and the meaning changed.

Ironically, in France, left wing parties deride President Sarkozy as a “liberal”. Sarkozy has been pushing for free market reforms, cracking down on crime, and limits to immigration. This is not exactly the American idea of a liberal, but it does imply someone who is pushing new ideas.

I recently saw an interview with Hillary Clinton saying that she likes to call herself a Progressive, discarding Liberal because it has taken on such an ugly connotation. Well, Sen. Clinton, one woman’s trash is another man’s treasure. I consider myself a “Classical Liberal”, so maybe it’s time to drop the “Classical” part of my label and take the true meaning of the word back.

My friends, I am a Liberal.

If a conservative is someone who wants things to stay the same how can I honestly call myself a conservative when I have proposed so many radical changes in this newsletter? Let’s compare what I support against our so-called “Liberal” political party.

Democrats want to take us to universal health care. A new idea? Universal Health started in Germany in the late 1800’s. Health Savings Accounts were invented by John Goodman in the late 1900’s. They want us to keep doing health care the way it has always been done. I want to rip it out by the roots and start over with Health Savings Accounts. They are the conservatives, I am the liberal.

Democrats want to maintain the same failed education system that has been sliding downhill for 50 years. I want charter schools, vouchers, and home schooling. I want to free the underprivileged and undereducated from the shackles of a system that continues to fail them and keeps them in poverty. They want us to do education the way it has always been done. I am the liberal.

Democrats don’t want to touch social security. I want Swedish-style private accounts, and I want my future benefits to be cut to avoid the fiscal disaster coming down the road. They have buried their heads in the sand and they want us to do things the way they have always been done. I am the liberal.

Democrats scream bloody murder at any proposal to change any of our failed poverty programs. I have proposed Milton Friedman’s reverse income tax to help wean the poor off of government handouts. They want to do things the way they have always been done. I am the liberal.

Democrats promised to clean up earmarks, but got virtually nothing accomplished. I want to ban earmarks. They are doing things the way they have always been done. I am the liberal.

Democrats want us to plan nearly every inch of every building in our cities. This isn’t new, rulers have been indiscriminately bulldozing and rebuilding parts of cities for centuries. I want people, in a free market, to decide what to do with their property to keep home prices down so that every person can hope to achieve the American dream. They want to boss you around the way it has always been done. I am the liberal.

Democrats’ only idea for our tax system in the last 75 years has been to raise them every chance possible. I support a flat tax that eliminates the millions of tax breaks given out to special interest groups. I have supported moving the corporate tax burden onto high income earners so that our businesses don’t waste billions dodging taxes and they can crush their foreign competitors with the tax advantage. They, on the other hand, want to do things the way they have always been done. I am the liberal.

Democrats fight free trade with same arguments the Mercantilists used in 16th century. I support free trade anywhere, anytime, and any place. It increases wealth in the United States and it will bring income to the most desperately poor countries on earth. There is a veritable consensus amongst economists that both countries always win with free trade. Democrats are chained to their union donors and want to do things the way they used to be done hundreds of years ago. I am the liberal.

The word of the year seems to be “Change”. Boldly leading us towards the status quo is not change. Fixing your gaze on the ideas of the past is not change. I want to do what has not been done. I want to do things that have not been tried. I am the liberal, not them.

We have been unjustifiably labeled “conservatives” as if we were the ones holding back progress. We have worn the scarlet C for too long. How long do the policies of the “liberal” party have to fail before we call them old ideas. The intellectual Amish of the Democratic party are not liberal at all. To paraphrase a quote from economist Robert Murphy,

“If [they] ignored advances in other scientific fields as much as they do in economics, we'd see weathermen advising readers to offer sacrifices to the rain gods.”

In the great time span of human history, freedom of the individual and small government are still radically new ideas. They are liberal ideas. I believe in these liberal ideas because I AM A LIBERAL.

Are you a liberal?

As always, tell me what you think.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Updates on Housing Bubble and Health Care


From time to time I feel the need to prove that I am not the only one who believes what I write and that other smart people feel the same way.

Housing Bubble

Kevin Hassett, director of economic-policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, is a Bloomberg News columnist.

His recent article (March 17th) at echoes many of my sentiments that I referenced on my blog a few weeks ago (Feb. 27th) concerning the fact that land regulations are the root of the U.S. housing mess. Excerpts from his article include:

“…a recent study by Cato Institute scholar Randal O'Toole that draws on broad economic literature documents that the price swings are, in fact, not so difficult to understand. Out-of- control government regulation started the mess.”

“When land use is constrained, supply can't respond to higher prices, forcing prices to climb even higher. This is exactly the impetus that can start a catastrophe like the current episode. ``It's a regular cycle,'' O'Toole told me last week. ``States adopted land-use regulations, and then their real estate prices skyrocketed and then crashed. Early movers like California have seen the cycle a number of times.''

“The evidence is clear. Regulations that inhibit the supply response to higher prices are the primary culprit in this mess. “

“For the long term, draconian land-use regulations must be reconsidered by local and state governments. If not, it will only be a matter of time before we experience this all over again.“

I wrote:

“Smart Growth urban planning restricted the supply of houses and drove up prices. A number of economists believe along with a gentleman named Wendall Cox who I was privy to hear speak on Feb. 26, believe that smart growth planning has been the largest contributing factor to the home price spike in many cities around the U.S. Smart Growth limits the supply of new houses and condos, and in a popular city that will lead prices to soar.”

“My concern for the next few years is that the housing bubble will be solely blamed on reckless mortgage companies, and not on smart growth urban planning. If smart growth does not get the blame, this cycle will repeat in just a few years. Excessive urban planning is the main reason why prices have soared and plunged.”

Clearly, I should be charging more for this newsletter :)

Health Care

Shawn Tully, editor-at-large for Fortune magazine wrote a column called “Why McCain has the best health-care plan”

He wrote:

“McCain's main pillar is the elimination of a tax break that employees receive if their employer provides their health care.”

“So what types of policies would they buy? Employees (and their families) with corporate plans - about 150 million Americans - would probably rush toward high-deductible, low-premium insurance, and use what's left over to pay cash for routine procedures. They would couple those high-deductible policies with Health Savings Accounts,”

I wrote several months ago:

“I support ending the tax deduction for companies offering health care plans like HMO and PPO plans and instead create a tax deduction for money placed in an HSA with a high deductible insurance plan.”

Also in the article, he explains that McCain’s plan includes ideas that we should be able to purchase insurance across state lines. On first glance, I agree with this, and I may write something in the future about it.

As always, tell me what you think.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Apparently, We're All Stupid

Talking about Home Schooling must have hit some nerves because I had the most e-mail feedback I’ve gotten since writing these letters.

Last week I linked to a newspaper article concerning home-schooling and added a quote from the decision that I thought was a little scary. Over the weekend, I was able to read an article in Time Magazine and listen to a radio broadcast from Focus on the Family that discussed the California Appellate ruling. It definitely got me a little furious.

The two most common stereotypes that I hear about home-schooling are that the children are getting an inferior education and that the parents have suffocating religious beliefs. Do children who are home-schooled perform worse than their public school peers? Show me that data! Conjecture is insufficient. I found some data that overwhelmingly shows home-schooling offers superior performance, but I have yet to verify the numbers so I will bring it up at another time. Should we as a society determine which faiths and belief systems to suppress because they aren’t mainstream? If so, please explain to me why freedom of religion has been a failure.

This state appellate court effectively banned home-schooling in California and declared that there exists no constitutional right to home-schooling, which reversed the lower court’s decision upholding that right. The full decision can be found here.

Interestingly enough, the Supreme Court of Michigan in 1993 found in regards to another case also involving a claim that a parent’s religious beliefs allowed them to home school:

the teacher certification requirement is an unconstitutional violation of the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment…”

“When rights under the Free Exercise Clause are combined with the constitutionally protected right of parents to direct the education of their children,…”

It seems that the Supreme Court of Michigan had a radically different viewpoint than California’s appellate court.

Traditionally, when a court is considering a case where constitutional rights are in the balance they allow other interested parties to submit arguments (called an Amicus curiae) on behalf of one side or the other so that the case does not rest solely on the limited abilities of the lawyers involved. However, this case involved child welfare, so no one was allowed to know that the case was going to be heard. So, in a secret hearing the court decided to strip Californians of what was previously described as a constitutional right. To me, this is rather egregious.

I have told people before that I have no intention of owning a gun until it becomes illegal. By the same logic, my belief in the virtue of home schooling has increased dramatically after this court’s attempt to take away the right to do so given their pernicious reasoning.

Quotes from the ruling:

“A primary purpose of the educational system is to train school children in good citizenship, patriotism and loyalty to the state and the nation as a means of protecting the public welfare.” P.5.

Is home schooling a threat to citizenship? Are these subversive radicals?

“…teachers shall be of good moral character and patriotic disposition, that certain studies plainly essential to good citizenship must be taught, and that nothing be taught which is manifestly inimical to the public welfare.’" P. 5

In this age of moral relativism who decides “good moral character”? Is that traditional morals or PC morals?

“[h]ome education, regardless of its worth, is not the legal equivalent of attendance in school in the absence of instruction by qualified private tutors.” P. 9

Regardless of its worth? If this court does not believe that the law needs to be enforced for the sake of quality education, what else could be their motivation? This court believes that consolidating the power to educate into the singular hand of the state is unto itself a desirable end. They do not care whether parents can teach their children adequately. Their sole concern is to ensure that the orthodoxy of the state does not face competition.

It is clear that they are afraid. They are afraid of you and me. They are afraid that if individuals are allowed to teach their own children that this will lessen our good citizenship, lessen our patriotism, and lessen our loyalty to the state. This sort of thinking should be a relic of the past.

For Texas, I am proposing a state constitutional amendment that guarantees the right of parents to determine the education of their child. My first draft of the amendment is this:

All legal guardians of minor children in the State of Texas have the right to determine the venue of education for their child, including their own home or property. Furthermore, the state may not limit the person or persons that provide education to the children of legal guardians, unless this educator has been convicted of significant criminal offense.

Note that the Texas constitution already has over 400 amendments, so this isn’t as dramatic as amending the US constitution.

As always, let me know what you think.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Elections and Decisions

As most of you know Texas had it’s primary election on Tuesday that 4th. I voted and went back to see what the delegate selection process looked like. Apparently, statewide interest in being a delegate was down this election cycle, which meant that the precinct’s typical 16 slots weren’t even filled. I will be a delegate to the Senatorial District Republican Convention. It will likely be tougher to become a state delegate, but I’ll let you know how it goes.

Only one person who gets this newsletter lives in a state that hasn’t held it’s primary yet (Pennsylvania), but I would recommend being a delegate just for the experience. Also, just as I plan to build a little resume in my head for why I should be selected as a state delegate, I would recommend the same thing for you at your local precinct.

A Note on Homeschooling

My wife knows a woman from her prior working experience who dropped out of high school when she was young and got her GED. Her husband has little to no college either and works at a refinery. This woman decided to home school her three boys. All three have done very well while attending a well-respected private university in Texas with large academic scholarships. What she was able to accomplish for her sons has always impressed me.

In California, as in several states, there are significant barriers to home schooling. In particular California has had a law to require home school teachers be credentialed. According to a recent article in the San Francisco Chronicle it seems that around 166,000 children in California were not being taught by “credentialed” parents according to the state. In a court case filed by the government, a family was home schooling their children under distance learning in conjunction with a private school. The private school would check on the children and learning environment four times a year.

The appeals court of California found that they had no constitutional right to home-schooling and that they were in violation of state truancy laws. What really struck me was not the interpretation of the existing law, but the comments made by the lead judge in the ruling.

Justice H. Walter Croskey wrote "A primary purpose of the educational system is to train school children in good citizenship, patriotism and loyalty to the state and the nation as a means of protecting the public welfare," (emphasis added).

The family is appealing to the California State Supreme Court. Hopefully, the high court will avoid fascist rhetoric in their decision.

What do you think about home schooling? Tell me what you think.