Thursday, July 21, 2005

Something I posted elsewhere

I posted the following as a comment to Stephen Littau's post on a very specific Constitutional amendment, whose purpose is to prevent abuse of eminent domain like in the odious Kelo case. I did correct a typo ("Unites") that was in the original.

Actually, Madison and Jefferson were fearful of huge banks indirectly controlling an entire nation's destiny (which was the case with Great Britain). I think it was Jefferson who said he feared banks more than standing armies. Andrew Jackson shared the sentiment and outlined it in his 1832 letter to Congress as to why he vetoed renewing the Bank of the United States' charter. This not unlike the fear of large corporations, which I generally consider unwarranted.

What our Founding Fathers conceived was an ideal of liberty that enumerated very specific ideals of a limited federal government, to which was added a Bill of Rights to assure Patrick Henry and other opponents of the Constitution. Key to limiting the federal government's power was this simple phrase that is, well, simply ignored:

"The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

I'm one of those who says we don't need more laws, just good public officials who know what the Constitution says. Chuck Schumer obviously doesn't, because as I pointed out about his remarks against John Roberts' nomination, he said, "Now that he is nominated for a position where he can overturn precedent and make law, it is even more important that he fully answers a broad range of questions." (emphasis added)

As I pointed out before, even the most specific of restrictions can be perverted. Moreover, being a firm believer in the subjective theory of value, I fully oppose any law, especially a Constitutional amendment, that establishes a minimum price for government to meet. What we consider a high price may not be enough for certain people, who value their homes for very sentimental reasons. A family may not want to sell their home any price, because no amount of "just compensation" will compensate them. Whether it's the time they've owned the property, the labor put in to making it theirs, or the difficulty they had in securing the house, the rest of us have no right to impose an ultimate sale price on them. Should they be allowed to inhibit progress? I say, absolutely! We're a nation (supposedly) dedicated to the rights of the individual, not what's best for the majority. Besides, why is any particular location so critical that a government must have it, without exploring other options?

I shop regularly at Wal-Mart, Target and sometimes Home Depot. I choose their lower prices instead of sustaining local businesses that charge higher prices. Still, I disagree with the "subsidies" (which are actually tax breaks) that they -- or any business -- receive. If they are truly competitive, then they ought to be able to conduct business without tax breaks targetted specifically at them, special zoning, etc.

Apply the rule of law, and people will prosper in liberty and commerce. This includes eliminating all state "help" to businesses so they can all compete fairly. And if smaller stores lose to Wal-Mart, so be it. That's the free market, weeding out inefficient participants and encouraging the remaining ones to stay on their toes. It maximizes society's economic production.

Most of the "government helping" problem could be eliminated by eliminating all taxes on businesses. That would leave government with only one method of "assisting" their preferred businesses: direct subsidies, which voters tend to frown, as opposed to "tax breaks" that they might misconstrue as a good thing. For the sake of space, I won't delve into illegal actions like corruption, or large corporations seeking heavy regulations that only mildly hinder them but destroy new market entrants.

Many leftists today believe that businesses don't pay their fair share of taxes. It's actually a ludicrous notion that businesses pay taxes at all: they simply pass them on to their customers. The problem with taxing businesses is that it's not very transparent at all. The cost of paying taxes to a business is much higher than government calculating a slightly higher sales tax. Both will generate the same tax revenue, but businesses all over won't have to hire CPAs, so overall consumers will pay slightly less. For the same reason, a flat income tax (even with a sizable deduction per individual) is far preferable to our current system that costs Americans 6 billion hours each year.

2 Comments:

Blogger Stephen Littau said...

Perry:

You made some very good points, and I agree with you for the most part. There are a few things you wrote which stood out that I would like to discuss further.

“I'm one of those who says we don't need more laws, just good public officials who know what the Constitution says.”

I definitely understand where you are coming from on that point. I would agree that most laws are unnecessary and erode away our liberties. I do not agree that we should cease making laws, however. There are a number of laws I would like to see passed such as the Fair Tax and the repeal of the Sixteenth Amendment. Not all laws are equal; the way I see it there are pro-liberty laws and anti-liberty laws. The Open Source Amendment which re-affirms property rights for individuals is such a law.

You also say that the president should nominate better judges. If we have to depend on the president (regardless how good he or she is) to appoint better men and women to the courts (which would help), we are no longer a nation of laws but of men. Better, clearer pro-liberty laws is the better way.

We also have to consider that judges rely heavily (entirely too much) on precedent. For the sake of argument, let’s say our Open Source Amendment passed. Shortly after the OSA passes, a local government such as New London decides to invoke eminent domain. Because there has been a Constitutional change, the judges can no longer rely on precedent because there isn’t any. The judges are forced to base their decision on the facts of the case in light of the OSA. The decision the court makes will create new precedent for other courts to follow…case law.

This leads me to another point. I know what you mean about judges ‘making law.’ For all practical purposes, they do…based on the facts of a particular case and how the law applies (in theory at least). Again, courts are guided by the precedents of existing case law.

As to my comments about Wal-Mart and Home Depot: I am in no way trying to disparage either of these businesses. I patronize both of them often. I only used them as an example because the big-box stores are some of the biggest offenders of eminent domain abuse. For the most part, I do not have a problem with how Wal-Mart does business. I like the low prices and other companies should try to emulate them rather than bring them down. The only problem I have with Wal-Mart is when they use the force of government to get what they want. I am very much a capitalist but I think we are being very naïve if we believe that large corporations do not have more influence than the average individual. I fear BIG government a lot more than I do BIG business. When the two forces combine, that’s one of the scariest things of all.

As to Stephen Macklin’s comments, I absolutely agree. If a minimum price is not set for the government to pay, the government will pay the lowest figure it can come up with. I am not opposed to eminent domain when the government uses it responsibly. The founders understood the need for government to use it in certain circumstances. They must be spinning in their graves with how the Fifth Amendment has been perverted. This is precisely why it must be clarified.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005 4:01:00 PM  
Blogger Perry Eidelbus said...

"I do not agree that we should cease making laws, however. There are a number of laws I would like to see passed such as the Fair Tax and the repeal of the Sixteenth Amendment. Not all laws are equal; the way I see it there are pro-liberty laws and anti-liberty laws. The Open Source Amendment which re-affirms property rights for individuals is such a law."

I've never said that we shouldn't pass laws, but a law must be in line with the Constitution. The Constitution (including its amendments) is the Supreme Law of the Land and cannot be superceded by any other laws.

The Fair Tax proposal would create too much of a bureaucratic mess in these monthly "rebates." Going by a national average or even a state average is completely absurd because of wide variation in prices. Someone in Buffalo won't pay as much for groceries as I would in Westchester, or if I buy groceries in the city. And what about the hundreds of thousands of Westchester residents like me who commute to the city? Spending two hours a day on commuter trains, it's worth the money to buy lunch at delis, instead of fixing it ourselves. Yet that would not be reflected on our monthly checks. So no, this idea of sending pepole rebate checks based on "average" spending will not work. You'd have to go down to the town level for determining "average" retail prices, then factor in profession and spending patterns. This is a bureaucratic mess.

Jon Henke has pointed out that a national sales tax of 30% would promote so much tax avoidance, even though the resulting retail price would be lower than before.

"You also say that the president should nominate better judges. If we have to depend on the president (regardless how good he or she is) to appoint better men and women to the courts (which would help), we are no longer a nation of laws but of men. Better, clearer pro-liberty laws is the better way."

Who makes our laws, but men? If you hold them to the Constitution, then there's no need to worry. Like Jefferson said, "In questions of power, then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution."

I have a big problem with precedent, myself. It's a form of legal positivism, which leads to judges making de facto law.

"I am very much a capitalist but I think we are being very naïve if we believe that large corporations do not have more influence than the average individual. I fear BIG government a lot more than I do BIG business. When the two forces combine, that’s one of the scariest things of all."

There would be no need to worry about big business' influence if all levels of government were strictly held to the Constitution. Big business could bribe every public official, but when bound by the chains of the Constitution, they still couldn't do anything.

Take two of the first major special interests, canals and railroads. Congress gave money right and left, though it didn't and still has never had the authority. Had Congress been held to its Constitutional limits, all the bribery and lobbying wouldn't have benefited big business at all.

Hence what I've said: "The fundamental problem isn't with the lobbyists, but that our federal government has assumed so much unconstitutional power that it sustains the special interest groups."

"As to Stephen Macklin’s comments, I absolutely agree. If a minimum price is not set for the government to pay, the government will pay the lowest figure it can come up with. I am not opposed to eminent domain when the government uses it responsibly. The founders understood the need for government to use it in certain circumstances. They must be spinning in their graves with how the Fifth Amendment has been perverted. This is precisely why it must be clarified."

There would be no need to worry if the property owner had the absolute right to refuse, and the owner should indeed have that right. It IS your right to stand in the way of progress, if it interferes with your rights.

THAT is why I refer to a property owner holding out for such a high price that the government will consider other alternatives, or whether it should pursue this project in the first place.

Answer this: why should a private individual have to offer what you want, yet government can simply offer a price determined by a formula?

Sunday, July 31, 2005 8:57:00 PM  

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