What positive steps can we take? The energy that is now expended by well intentioned, freedom-seeking individuals on the destructive course of politics can be turned into powerful steps that will have a positive effect on the future. All are moral, right and just. None require aggressing. Consider the following...
The Affordable Care Act creates a new health insurance marketplace (the exchange). But because of the great uncertainty about what buyers will enter the market and who will buy what product, the law creates three vehicles to reduce insurance company risk.
Politicians and bureaucrats are notorious for manufacturing euphemisms -- clever but deceptive substitutes for what they really mean but don’t want to admit. That’s how the phrase “revenue enhancement” entered the vocabulary. Some of our courageous friends in government couldn’t bring themselves to say “tax hike.”
“It is difficult to make predictions, especially about the future,” says a proverb often attributed to Yogi Berra. Imagine the world of freedom, or lack of it. Who could foresee the technologies that make our lives so rewarding and convenient? The same technologies have us all under the government’s giant microscope. Thankfully, the brave have turned the microscope around.
In the months since Edward Snowden revealed the nature and extent of the spying that the National Security Agency (NSA) has been perpetrating upon Americans and foreigners, some of the NSA's most troublesome behavior has not been a part of the public debate.
National Treasury Union President Colleen M. Kelly recently described the 2014 IRS budget allocation as “woefully inadequate.” But the agency has not proven itself to be an efficient steward of taxpayer dollars. Here are ten ways the IRS lost the trust of the American people.
It’s easy to be negative about the U.S. economy these days. Find a glint of silver, and folks come running to point out all of the dark clouds looming about. This, of course, is what we got last week when the monthly jobs report was released from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). Folks pooh-poohed the number of jobs and whining that they’re not enough or that it’s less than a bunch of economists thought that it might be. But you know what? Stuff ’em.
Given how poorly states like California and Illinois have funded the pension funds for their own employees, one would think that this would stop dead in its tracks any plan to have the government assist in managing private sector funds too. The spate of recent activity, however, suggests otherwise.
Facts are easy. You can check facts. What supporters of the Affordable Care Act are doing, on the other hand, transcends factual bungling. It’s far more advanced: a warping of reality so debauched it looks like something out of a tale by H.P. Lovecraft.
The problem for NSA apologist is that when guys like Snowden disclose that the government conducts comprehensive surveillance in ways that would have made 1984’s O’Brien drool, it puts the entire progressive agenda in jeopardy.
The east coast and parts of the southern U.S. were to varying degrees paralyzed by blizzards a few weeks ago. The snow as expected rendered the roads treacherous, and in anticipation of slick streets, shoppers flocked to the grocery stores in advance.The rush into grocery stores, and its aftermath, offers worthwhile lessons in economics.First up, […]
The financial world is plodding along like a drunken sailor avoiding debt collectors by keeping no cash in his wallet. It’s not the kind of calm that’s going to last or end well. But the storm will have to wait until after the Olympics.What a game! We’ve never watched ice hockey closely before. But watching […]
“When they come for my gun, they will have to pry it out of my cold, dead hands,” is a common refrain I often hear from the Neo-Cons when there is a threat, credible or otherwise, that the U.S. government is going to take their firearms.And, when I hear this crazy talk, I agree with […]
The highest form of charity, argued the 12th-century Jewish philosopher Maimonides, is when the help given enables the receiver to become self-sufficient.But our systems of state charity — aka welfare — have too frequently had the opposite effect: They have actually created dependency. It is time to rethink the way we help people.I’m going to […]
In times of war and national emergency, it’s sometimes necessary to sacrifice civil liberties to secure vital gains in public safety. In those cases, we may have to accept a loss of privacy or freedom rather than invite mass slaughter of Americans.The National Security Agency’s domestic phone records collection is not one of those.Never have […]
President Obama crowed in his State of the Union speech about the economy, even mentioning “a rebounding housing market.” Maybe he was referring to friends in high places, like the seller of Penthouse One in New York, which just closed for $50.9 million, all cash. Millions of mere-mortal homeowners likely wanted to throw something at […]
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office is acting in a bipartisan way to cover up the biggest single threat to the bipartisan political alliance that is stripping America of its wealth: the United States Congress.There is no question that the following policy is bipartisan. Democrats and Republicans in Congress are completely agreed that the following information […]
Recent difficulties with implementing the Affordable Care Act have increased opposition to the program. A majority of Americans now oppose it. Problems with the HealthCare.gov website are in all likelihood temporary. However, there are serious long-term problems, particularly considering long-term finance and labor supply issues. Given the mounting difficulties with and growing concerns about the […]
Amidst all the revelations about how the American people, many of whom are absolutely convinced they live in a free society, have their telephone calls, emails, website visits, and who knows what else under surveillance by their own government, let’s not forget the massive infringements on financial privacy that have gone on for decades.Consider, for […]
Image: ShutterstockBitInstant CEO Charlie Shrem, along with alleged co-conspirator Robert Faiella, was arrested by federal authorities last week for allegedly laundering more than $1 million worth of Bitcoins. This is a tiny amount compared to the largest drug-and-terrorism money laundering case ever. Yet when British bank HSBC was found guilty in 2012 of laundering billions, […]
Do you trust your doctor? Most patients assume their doctor is working in their best medical interests whenever he or she orders a diagnostic test or recommends a particular treatment. Customers might wonder whether an unscrupulous auto mechanic is being truthful when he recommends a brake job or a new transmission. But most patients trust […]
The exercise had an awesome name, inspired by the movies: “Quantum Dawn 2.”On July 18, scads of U.S. banks, stock exchanges and government agencies took part in a digital fire drill — a practice run in the event all of Wall Street came under massive cyberattack.This isn’t the first time banks have come under an […]
The faces of the Detroit bankruptcy are the thousands of pensioners whose promised benefits are suddenly part of the restructure negotiation. When Motown filed for Chapter 9 last July, the city had $11.5 billion in unsecured liabilities. The vast majority of this was pension and health care benefits owed to retired city employees.The images of […]
So you’ve maneuvered the Obamacare website, plugged in your top-secret information and found out how much you are forced to pay to avoid a fine.And for some of you, it turns out you qualify for a government subsidy — making the premium sound like a bargain. But signing on that line to accept the government’s […]
“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”As the inequality gap grows, there is an ideological battle unfolding in the West.On the one hand, there are those who think government can fix things. It must do more, tax more, […]
On Feb. 7 the United States will once again reach its statutory debt limit, meaning it cannot legally borrow any more money. Since the obvious option of cutting spending to match the amount of revenue that the government collects is off the table for some inexplicable reason, Congress will have to pass a new, higher […]
The New York Times published an interminable article on health care recently. Plenty of facts — how scrupulous are these journalists! — but the article displayed absolutely no comprehension of the basics of cause and effect. I was left wondering about the whole point.The article details how the health care system rewards specialists to an […]
As the old saying goes, no good deed goes unpunished. The chronicling of my courtroom rant against drug laws has prompted a few readers to question my libertarian bona fides and label me as statist, self-righteous grandstander.
My piece has given these readers a reason to take their eye off the state for the moment and focus their energy on the real enemy: me. For example, one reader calls for me to repent and search my soul. He has even produced graphics to spread all over the Web the describe me as an evil menace to society, the very cause of the tyranny of our times.
By way of background, as explained in my piece last week, I was called to jury “duty” for a marijuana case. I told the judge outright that to my mind, no crime occurred, that I would not convict and, further, that I would attempt to nullify that laws that would otherwise convict the defendant. The incident created a notable courtroom stir. I was not chosen for that jury.
One reader writes in:
“Your piece in Laissez Faire show how you knowingly and willfully abandoned your fellow man to the thugs and their gulag. Why should anyone be on a jury to rescue you when you come into their cross hairs for one of the ‘three felonies a day’ that you commit? You self-righteously abandoned that kid and allowed aggressors to ruin his life forever… How will we ever have juries nullify anything if we are unwilling to suffer the crap necessary to rescue our fellow man? I hope you get charged with some federal crime and some ‘libertarian’ juror openly abandons you. Closing your heart toward this innocent man is despicable. You need to repent and write him a public letter of apology and circulate it to everyone that read your article in Laissez Faire.”
In the view of my interlocutor, my mission was to lie under oath, like those in the French underground. He is sure that I would be selected for the jury, despite there being less than a 25% chance. Then, once on the jury, I would need to lie under oath again. Next, my job would be to steer 11 other Southerners who oppose the legalization of marijuana into believing that it should be legalized. I would then talk them into defying the judge’s order and risk a contempt of court charge. Presto, after all of those stars have lined up, the marijuana trafficker is found not guilty, the drug war is over, and we all live happily ever after.
That’s his scenario. I suspect that this writer and those who sympathize with him have never stepped foot in a courtroom. But I may be wrong and I invite them to write in and tell us their jury nullification stories. How is it done in the real world? What did you say to the 11 other jurors to make them see it your way and risk a contempt of court charge?
Sure, if you don’t nullify, at least you can hang the jury and make the state try the case again. Again, you risk a contempt charge, all for delaying the inevitable. If you think that’s a good use of your time, great, go for it when you have a chance. But why take me to task for telling the truth? There are occasions when a nullification scenario can work, and I defended nullification to the judge. But it really is a matter of judgment and it varies case by case.
Regardless, I didn’t write the piece to pat myself on the back. More than a few people liked the story. Maybe they too have the fantasy of telling a judge, “The law is an ass.” It sounds easy on paper. Put yourself in a position to do it sometime. See if you pull the trigger. Those settings can be extremely intimidating.
Some question why I showed up in the first place, implying that its risk-free to just throw the summons away. But it’s not. Again, you risk a contempt of court charge. And besides, if libertarians think they can do good in the world, maybe it’s by providing a reasoned voice to a jury.
In the second week of jury duty, despite my admissions and outburst, I was still picked for a jury. It was a rape case. Go ahead and stop reading if you think that 1) I should be ashamed of providing slave labor to the state or 2) I should have worked to nullify rape laws.
The prosecutor told us repeatedly the case was simple. It was anything but. The state made it hard. The evidence offered prompted as many questions as it answered. Key witnesses provided testimony that was impossible to follow. We all wanted to raise our hands and ask questions during the proceedings, but that is not allowed. The state didn’t provide certain key witnesses or even inspect the crime scene.
So 12 strangers were left to sort this out. A man’s future was at stake. The state was at best lazy or at worst incompetent in its investigation and prosecution of the case. However, this didn’t matter. After two hours of spirited discussion, the group couldn’t have been further apart. I wondered how we could ever arrive at a verdict. When we left for the evening, the group was almost equally split. The state’s shoddy work was enough to convince more than half the jury.
The next morning, we began deliberations again. The same points were made all over (and over) again. After a sleepless night, three jurors had a change of heart. Another vote was taken, introducing a third verdict option. The group was still very far apart. We had deliberated for four hours. More discussion ensued, positions softened.
Ultimately, after five hours, a dozen strangers came to a verdict all could live with. We will likely never see each other again. But over two days, 12 reasonable people, although untrained, listened, considered, and came together to do a job.
The 12 people on that jury had nothing in common. Yet under the most difficult circumstances, they worked together as reasonable people to complete a task. They did this despite, not because of, the state-sponsored venue — a wonderful microcosm of the possibilities of leaving matters of justice and adjudication to society, rather than nationalizing the process to the state. The same decorum and reason should be common to those who purport to love liberty.