Category Archives: Georgia politics

The Silent Majority

If one is a believer in the democracy and voting, then this demands at a minimum a respect for the concept of a quorum, that is, a minimum level of participation of those members (citizens) eligible to vote. Although the US constitution does not provide any specific requirements for a quorum with regards to voting by citizens, it does provide some insight into the minds of the founding fathers with respect to the importance of voter participation. Specifically, the 12th Amendment states that a quorum of at least two-thirds of the members of the House of Representatives should be present if they are called upon to decide a presidential election (when the electoral college produces a tie). Given that voter turnout has never exceeded 67% in a presidential election it could be argued that none of our elected representatives are “legitimate”. Voter turnout in presidential election years hovers around 60% and 40% in off years. Therefore, 40-60% of the population found all options so distasteful they chose to abstain from casting a ballot. In other words, at last at the national or state level, no elected official has ever received majority support of those citizens eligible to vote. This inconvenient truth is ignored for the simple fact that were it respected it would be impossible for those “in power” to govern at any level greater than city council (and even that is in question). To truly respect the wishes of those not voting requires either providing a NOTA option on all ballots or to assume a tally of a vote for NOTA for each person not voting (NOTA= None Of The Above).

To the apathetic voter then I say take heed of the power you hold. If those of you who do not vote do so because you believe it won’t make a difference, then the fact that your constituency is 60% of the population should tell you otherwise. If you are tired of the status quo of the left and right wings of the officially sanctioned State Party – the party that stays in power no matter who “wins”, then seize this opportunity and vote Libertarian this election. Now I could write a book about why Libertarians are the better choice, but honestly, how could it be any worse? The two party duopoly has given us nothing but a soul crushing welfare-warfare state liberally sprinkled with either economic or civil rights violations. At least the libertarians are ideologically in alignment with the majority of Americans. That is to say, when people are polled on issues rather than candidates, they overwhelming choose libertarian positions (“I can’t believe this is instant coffee!”) Yes libertarians are the Folgers of politics. Try them, you’ll be surprised how much you like them.

In Georgia we have several libertarians running at the state level: Andrew Hunt for Governor, Amanda Swafford for Senate, Ted Metz for Insurance Commissioner. Some have tried to pin the “spoiler” label on them claiming that since no libertarian has ever won a high level office they have no chance and thus should not even bother. That’s a great message – if it’s never been done before then that means it can’t be done. Of course an actual election “spoiler” is someone who draws votes away from one or more candidates and thus alters the outcome of the election. But, since Georgia employs a run-off system it is mathematically impossible for additional candidates to play the role of spoiler; the top two vote getters (assuming no one got more than 50%) compete head to head in a run off. Some have said that third party candidates just waste public money by forcing expensive run-off elections. Well whose fault is that? Citizens exercising their constitutional right to run for elected office or lazy legislatures that refuse to implement Instant Runoff Voting. IRV not only eliminates additional costs with run off elections but it also negates the distasteful practice of “strategic” voting found in plurality voting. Such strategic voting only serves to further marginalize third party candidates so it’s hardly surprising why Republicans or Democrats would never promote such a system.

So to all of those in Georgia that have sat on the sidelines, now is your opportunity to send a message to our oligopolic status quo rulers: vote Libertarian and show the country that the “impossible” is possible. Vote Folgers.

Oconee Liquor Referendum: A Vote Less Traveled

“Shall the governing authority of Oconee County be authorized to issue licenses to sell distilled spirits for beverage purposes by the drink, such sales to be for consumption only on the premises?”

 

This is a difficult question for the principled libertarian. It’s a bit like asking the antebellum electorate whether a law requiring slave-owners to not separate families should be passed. Obviously that would be an improvement but the very asking implies consent with the legitimacy of the immoral institution of slavery. Likewise allowing business owners slightly more flexibility in what they are permitted to offer to their voluntary, paying customers is a step in the right direction. But, one must also recognize that such approval implies acquiescence to the right of existence of a “governing authority” that can by decree or popular vote dictate what some people may or may not do with their own justly acquired private property within the invisible lines that define this particular segment of planet Earth as Oconee county. Ethically no such “governing authority” should exist.

To understand why this is so consider the following: People of different religious beliefs can all live side by side in the same community without any (well almost) desire to force their neighbor to conform to their particular set of beliefs. But when those beliefs are secular in nature suddenly it makes perfect sense that the beliefs of the majority are the ones that should govern not merely that majority, but all who live amongst that majority and within an arbitrary boundary. There is no logical basis as to why one type of belief should be respected and another type ignored when it comes to majoritarian impositions on one’s neighbors.

If you don’t want to imbibe a real tequila based margarita, then don’t, but you have no more of a right to tell someone else that they cannot than does an old school Catholic have the right to tell you that you can’t eat meat on Fridays or the Jew to tell you that you must power down all electrical devices for the Sabbath. Indeed it is curious that one extreme segment of the Christian community is so vociferous in their opposition to this referendum. Setting aside the ecclesiastical distortions that lead some to the opinion that alcohol is evil; there is no evidence Jesus ever said his teachings were best enforced by state decree. Following His word willingly is the only gift we can give Him. But a gift given under duress is no gift at all. Such laws rob others of the opportunity to make that willing gift. But, I digress.

Although on the one hand most Americans will espouse support for the ideas of liberty, respecting the rights of the individual and generally minding our own business, when they go into the voting booth those same Americans will engage in a process that is the antithesis of those concepts. Consequentialism, utilitarianism, call it what you will, but that is the thought process that drives many. Rights are important, but if people exercise the right to do X then that might result in Y, therefore WE can’t allow this. The ends justify the means and our rights are trimmed on the altar of Might Be. Recognizing possible deleterious scenarios and working to minimize them is fine – as long as the methods employed do not resort to aggression, that is, the initiation of violence against another. That is what law, ordinances and licenses are – implied aggression. Implied aggression becomes actual aggression if the ordinance or license is ignored.

“But without ordinances and licenses there would be chaos” is the usual rejoinder. No, there would not be chaos. There would simply be a different outcome. Different does not equal chaos. Chaos is simply code for “not the outcome I personally want to see.” But the individual is not powerless to prevent that which they fear in a world of voluntary societies free of coercive “governing authorities”. If you don’t want to see certain kinds of businesses or land use patterns within a certain distance from your residence then you can join like-minded people and put your money where your mouth is. Buy up all the land around you, and then you are free to decide how it is used. If that is too expensive then this is society’ way of telling you that it values other uses for that land more highly than you value it for the purpose you desire. Who are you to argue with society? After all, the people have spoken.

The Voting Games

We are now less than two months from Election Day and the usual furor over voting has moved from low simmer to boil. Wisconsin’s voter ID law was reinstated last week setting off the usual liberal chorus about limiting votes. And in our own back yard, Georgia Republicans are chiming in to their own refrain about too much voting. It seems Dekalb County will now have Sunday voting. The Republicans have taken a perplexingly tone-deaf stance on this issue. Their oppositional argument amounts to: Sunday voting enables more minorities to vote, minorities don’t vote Republican, so this is bad. If the Republicans had any kind of political savvy they would come out in full support of Sunday voting and in fact should one-up the Democrats by supporting Saturday voting as well. It may come as a shock to some, but most people work on Tuesday (the traditional voting day). Perhaps, just perhaps, voting should occur on the day (or days) that maximizes the availability of the majority of the population. If Republicans truly are the friend of business they purport to be, then they would support weekend voting since weekday voting is invariably disruptive to business operations.

On one thing though the Republicans have a point (although not the one they intended nor the one they are being skewered for). Georgia Senator Fran Millar stated “I would prefer more educated voters than a greater increase in the number of voters.” He is of course using the term “educated” in the sense of specific knowledge about the candidates or issues even though his opponents would like to frame his comment to imply minorities voters are simply “uneducated” in a broader sense.

I agree with Senator Millar – the voters should know whom they are voting for and why – and toward that end I propose that in order to be compliant with state law regarding campaigning near a polling place, that all notations of party affiliation be stricken from the ballot during a general election. That means no more “D” or “R” or even “I” (incumbent) next to names. These notations are a form of campaigning insofar as it achieves the same effect that campaigning would: the transmission of information to the voter about a candidate, even if in broad terms. If a voter cannot be bothered to know the name of their candidate, then they truly have no business voting. Such voters are muddling the process with noise and diminishing the voice of those that did take the time to become educated. Imagine the outcome of a vote on the best baseball player if 70% of the people voting know absolutely nothing about baseball? How valid do you imagine those results would be?

With respect to Voter ID laws I have never understood the controversy. In every other organization that uses voting as a means of decision making (clubs, unions, corporations, etc) no one would ever think of allowing someone to vote without first validating that they are indeed a member of said group. Why does this generally accepted principal vanish when it comes to voting in elections of the state? If you are a “member” (i.e. citizen) of the state, then show your membership card (this by the way is the only legitimate place a state can ask its citizens for ID). Why are some so concerned with the rights of others that those others apparently hold in low regard (seeing as how they can’t be bothered to exert even the minimal effort needed to obtain a voter ID card)?

Some argue that little evidence exists of voter fraud involving non-citizens or double voting so why bother checking ID. That argument is specious; it’s parallel would be the operation of a business with unlocked doors and no cashiers because that business determined its shoplifting problem exists only to the extent they occasionally happen to witness someone shoplifting. As the Russians say, “trust, but verify.”

So maybe we can reach consensus here, if we can agree that only citizens should vote, then it follows that once proving one’s citizenship, the form, manner, timing or location of said vote casting is immaterial.

Where’s the harm?

If you’re anything like me you’ve likely always had a strange sense when buying a car that something wasn’t quite right, a sort of tingly spidey-sense that that you were the punch line to an inside joke. New car dealerships are a fraternity unto themselves. But unlike college fraternities, they work hard to keep newcomers from joining their ranks. The Internet has done much to reveal what the exclusive walls of membership formerly protected. It is not just information that has been freed, but also new modes of doing business. But last week we learned the lengths that these old school fraternities will go to in order to fight change and retain the power structure of their very unique cartel (cartel – get it?). The Georgia Auto Dealers Association filed a complaint last week  with the Georgia Department of Revenue claiming that Tesla Motors (a manufacturer of high performance, all electric cars) should be barred from selling any of their vehicles in Georgia because Tesla apparently violated some byzantine state statute that limited manufacturer owned auto outlets from selling more than 150 cars in a year. Tesla sold 173. Yes, I know, what monsters. Off with their heads.

Whether or not Tesla actually sold more than 150 is immaterial. The fact that such a law exists brings into shocking relief the ends to which automobile dealers in the state of Georgia (and indeed many other states, Georgia is sadly not alone) will go to in order to protect their own financial self-interests. Of course protectionist fervor is not how the dealers spin this. They claim they are only trying to protect the public (what selfless servants they are). Without independent dealers, manufacturers would be able to set strict non-negotiable prices, ignore warranties, and otherwise cause the marketplace to collapse into a top-down manufacturer driven oligopoly (according to a bit of NADA propaganda). So clearly in order to protect competition we must limit competition.

What these manufacturers fail to realize is that were these fascist, depression-era laws repealed it would not result in the overnight demise of the independent dealers. Rather it would mean dealers would have to compete with manufacturer outlets on price, service, or quality. Likewise the manufacturers would have to compete in precisely the same manner. At the end of the day the manufacturers don’t really care how their cars are sold, they just want them sold. If independent dealers can offer a manufacturer the ability to sell its cars more efficiently than that manufacturer can sell them (dealerships are a large capital investment after all), then they’re going to choose the cheaper, and thus more profitable route.

In short, the dealers are afraid of competition. And I don’t necessarily blame them. Who wouldn’t love to have one’s ability to earn a living protected by state sanctioned violence? Who wouldn’t love a system that created an artificially high barrier to market entry in order to keep out newcomers with new ideas that might otherwise eat into your 1940’s business model. But cartels, syndicates and state protected oligopolies are not consistent with the principals of liberty; namely that unless I’m using violence or the threat of violence to influence your actions, then you have no right to interfere in my actions irrespective of whether or not you believe it may “harm” you in the future. All competition “harms” another (whether it be economic, social or sport). But the “harm” of competition has a beneficial silver lining. It compels one to work harder, to do better and thus benefit the consumer and themselves in the long run. But if possible “harm” to someone becomes the litmus test for state intervention then I dare say we all belong in jail.

Health of the State

The War on Drugs is perhaps the most unjust “war” ever waged. It is not, as in conventional warfare, a conflict between states, but rather a conflict of a parasite (the state) against its host (the people). Just as cancer grows by attacking its host, so too does state power expand as it attacks its citizens in the name of saving them. The tumor that is the drug war is but one variant of the cancer that is state power.

It has been said that war is the health of the state (Randolph Bourne). If that is so, then traditional wars (against people) are far too fleeting as a means to bolster state power. The end comes relatively soon as both sides are worn down through attrition. In order to have unending war the state must fight an enemy without form, substance, or soul. This is achieved by waging war against thoughts, emotions, and things; for these things can never be conquered, and thus is ensured the eternal health of the state.

The colorful imagery of a “War on Drugs” suggests perhaps we are battling against anthropomorphized weed and poppies as they brutally attempt to intoxicate us by crashing through our doors and up our noses. Yes, I’m being facetious – now I shall be sarcastic: the real criminals in this war are those who possess these vilified substances.

The police will almost never stop a murder, rape or robbery in progress, but gosh darn it they sure as heck can find a crime in progress if the crime is mere possession. What is the easiest way to capture a criminal? Declare random object X illegal and then find people who happen to possess X. Such prohibitionary lawmaking has led to a perversion of policing incentives. The police now have two choices: Demonstrate effectiveness in catching real criminals through laborious detective work that rarely pays off, or, invent new and interesting pretexts to see if dear citizen is in possession of a verboten substances. Which one is more likely to yield results? Exactly. And so focus shifts to the quick and easy result at the expense of the more difficult task of meting out authentic justice.

This truth has engendered the most sinister aspect of the drug war: the no-knock raid. If the police knock then the suspect might stealthily comply with the law and cause himself to no longer possess the banned material. So on the premise that it is better that a thousand men die than one guilty drug user go free, we have seen the birth of the no-knock raid. Yes, sometimes they’ll get the wrong house, sometimes they’ll accidentally shoot totally innocent people (or almost routinely shoot innocent dogs), but it’s all worth it if it prevents a drug possessor from sometimes getting away. No-knock raids are a breeding ground for all manner of confusion and mistakes. To wit, just last week in Cornelia, Georgia a no-knock raid resulted in a 2 year old suffering massive burns over his face and body when a “distraction device” (aka flash grenade) was tossed into his crib, inches from this face, by the invading SWAT team. Naturally this was a mistake; they never intended that to happen. Procedurally they did nothing wrong – everything was by the book. That fact alone should scare the hell out anyone. Who will be next? Maybe someone that matters to you.

Even if we were granted a wish that all recreational drugs were forever vanquished from this planet and the only price would be the life of one innocent, that price would be far too high. The irony is that those in charge of this wretched war are killing people who would never have used drugs in order to possibly save those who actively seek to use them. But what would you expect from the state? States have always sought to butcher civilians in order to persuade others to change their behavior. Sound familiar? But the ends justify the means, so that makes everything ok.

The Pedagogical-Socialists Fear Competition

It can be particularly challenging to carve out a pseudo-market based approach to K12 education when the framework must rest squarely upon an overtly socialist system. In Georgia we are bearing witness to such an attempt with the passage of the “Georgia Private School Tax Credit” (HB 1133) in 2008. This bill set up a system whereby private individuals and corporations can make limited charitable donations to a “Student Scholarship Organization” (a type of charitable entity authorized through the bill). These organizations in turn grant scholarships to K12 students (typically needs based) so that they can attend a private school of their choice. Private entities donating money to help needy children get a quality education, what could be wrong with that? Well a whole lot according to groups like the Southern Education Foundation. This group and others feel that this program is diverting funds from public schools to private schools. The SEF is currently assisting in a lawsuit aimed at having the entire law declared unconstitutional.

Their assertion is true, untrue, and entirely irrelevant. To explain requires a bit of background. I will attempt to not bore you to tears so I will move quickly and gloss over some details. Essentially a taxpayer with a $1000 tax bill to Georgia can choose to send that $1,000 to an SSO of their choice instead of to the state of Georgia as long as they have permission from the state. Each year the state allows people to do this until an aggregate cap ($58 million for 2014) is reached. The benefit to the taxpayer is that while it does not change their Georgia tax liability it may lower their Federal liability in some situations. Although the state does indeed receive $58 million less than they otherwise would have absent this program, there is nothing in the law that says the education budget must be debited an equal amount. The legislature is the ultimate arbiter of funding. So decreased tax revenue could put pressure on them to decrease funding, in which case their charge is true. Or, to avoid such political backlash, they may not cut funding at all, in which case the charge is untrue. The only thing one can say for certain is that decreased tax revenue means that programs on the margin will receive less funding or that taxes will be raised to make up the shortfall.

Of course to suggest that reduced funding is a bad thing is completely wrongheaded. This is precisely what it SHOULD be doing. In essence this program is a backdoor to incremental privatization of the socialistic state run school system. To the extent that this program incentivizes parents to pull their children from public schools and move them into private schools it then follows that those public schools should require proportionally less funding. If the public school has 100 students and costs $100 to run, then if 50 students leave it follows that that public school does not still need $100 to run. Even if we assumed all $58 million got carved from the 2014 education budget that would be only a 0.5% reduction.

The goal is that the SSO’s act as a private version of a state education budgeting agency. In other words, given that many different SSO’s have sprung into existence all competing with each other for donations, it follows that those that are the most efficient at maximizing the student to dollar ratio (more students educated for fewer dollars) will excel. Why? Do you prefer to give to an efficient or inefficient charity? So the public school proponents should welcome this change. It will mean that if 50 students leave they will take with them only $25 leaving $75 for the remaining 50 public school students. How can they get by with only $25? Because they’ll get $50 worth of value due to competition driven market efficiency.

Of course in a truly market based system it would not be necessary to have all sorts of complicated tax credits and state chartered charities. Until the pedagogical-socialists let go of their superstitious fear of freedom that compels them to believe the only possible way to educate children is through gun-enforced collectivist redistribution, we will be stuck with the timid attempts of the state to emulate market based solutions to problems created by the state.

Farming Fascism

The inherently self-contradictory justification for the state is that it reserves to itself the right to engage in those actions that its very existence is predicated on proscribing. The state is a paradoxical philosopher’s stone; believed by the masses to create only good, it in fact transmutes all that it touches into its polar opposite. Evil, when implemented by the state, is declared as good (war, taxation, kidnapping, torture) while virtue, when implemented by the state, becomes harmful (charity, regulation, education). These virtuous activities become but mere shadows of what they could be absent monopolistic state intervention.

In Georgia we have our own special brand of state distorted virtue: the Vidalia® onion cartel. The state government has decided that these beautiful, delicious, sweet onions grown in and around Vidalia, Georgia are too valuable to the economic health of the People’s Republic of Georgia to allow the people who actually grow them to control how they are marketed and sold. And so came forth the Vidalia Onion Act of 1986. Yes, our legislators pass laws about onions. It was only a few weeks ago that the state of Georgia fined a farmer who had the impudence to ship his crop of Vidalia® onions to market prior to the April 21 date set forth by the state agriculture commissioner.  Unseasonably warm weather has moved up and extended the growing season (thank you global warming!) Apparently Mother Nature forgot to read O.C.G.A 40-7-8.17 and thus produced ripe onion in open defiance of the law. Sadly, the state of Georgia is not alone in these sort of legal strictures on farming. Florida has its oranges, Idaho its potatoes and California its wines, raisins and avocados. Wait, avocados? Yes, California stipulates all avocados grown in the state must contain at least 8% fat. Or else.

Now there is certainly nothing wrong with farmers coming together and mutually agreeing on a set of standards for their produce if they feel that setting such quality standards will bring about mutual benefits. However, just because some farmers wish to do so does not mean that all farmers should be forced to do so. But when the state steps in, that is exactly what happens. Only the state has the monopoly power of the guns to force compliance. Once again, if your business model is predicated on the use of guns in order to achieve success then there is something wrong with your business model. Regrettably, the appeal of ready access to the legal deployment of weapons to further ones ends is the siren song of protectionism. That sweet sound calls to us until we collide against the rock-hewn walls of the cage we willingly built. Too much metaphor? Ok, people champion competition when they are buying but oppose competition when selling. So while that tidbit of self-defeating equilibrium sinks in, consider this: the most common method of limiting competition is turning to the state and requesting aid beneath its great wing of protectionist measures. Once state protections are in place then new entrants to the market are excluded. This reduces supply and so raises prices; great for the sellers, not so great for the buyers. The appeal of bully-based price protection for sellers is why nearly every law on the books has some sort of protectionist origin (licensing, certification, regulation, registration, etc). The fear of failure and the desire to put your competitors out of business is too much for most to resist. It is not until you yourself become the competitor do you see the error of your ways (or if you’re a hypocrite you refuse to see the error and simply demand even more special exceptions, i.e. protection from your own protectionism).

If we hand over all of our rights to someone with a gun (the state) we should not be surprised when they refuse to hand them back – even when we ask nicely. When the putatively legal owners are no longer calling the shots and must bend to the will of the de facto owner (the state) or suffer the consequences then there is only one word that by definition describes this situation: fascism.

Who is the customer?

Outsourcing, public-private partnership – this is the Trojan horse of the political entrepreneur that will fool the political class every time into believing salvation from inefficient government lies within. For those familiar with how markets are actually supposed to function, the irony is clear: only harm shall spring forth.

One of the more insidious “partnerships” is that of the outsourced private prison and probation services. The Georgia legislature has recently passed HB 837 which has expanded the authority of private probation companies while simultaneously decreasing public oversight of their operations. In Georgia, if one is convicted of a misdemeanor  (anything from shoplifting to traffic citations) and cannot pay the assessed fine in full, then one is turned over to a private probation company (basically a glorified collection agency) which then collects the fine, along with their monthly fee of course. Under the new law, if fines are unpaid then those convicted may be thrown in jail or electronically monitored all the while accruing greater fines. The original probation period may be “tolled” or extended indefinitely until the fine is paid in full. Inability to pay will land one in prison. Essentially Georgia has reestablished debtor prisons. Herein lies a perverse incentive; inability to pay translates into larger fines. The public courts and the private companies then share in this growing revenue stream. Ironically they make more money off of those with the least ability to pay.

“But criminals must make restitution, surely you’re not suggesting that just because someone is “poor” they should not be compelled to answer for their crime?” No, I’m not suggesting that at all (although I do seriously question whether traffic violations rise to the level of “crime”). To understand why outsourcing leads to distorted incentives, ask yourself, who is the customer? Is it the state, or is it the lawbreaker? In fact, it is the lawbreaker. The state intercedes and poses as the customer, which diverts the stream of responsibility. The probation company is not answerable to the real customer, so they have no incentive to serve them.

Now you may be scratching your head trying to figure out why the lawbreaker should be the customer. Allow me to explain. Assuming that an actual rights violation has occurred (e.g. petty theft), then there is a victim and a perpetrator. The conflict is between those two parties and no one else. It can then be resolved by use of an arbitration (court) proceeding to uncover fault. Assuming the thief is at fault, he has an obligation to make all parties whole (the entity that apprehended him, the court that adjudicated the facts, and of course the victim). To simplify things we’ll assume the insurance carrier of the victim has made all parties whole. Now the insurance carrier has a rightful claim against the thief. It seeks to be made whole. Stated differently, the thief has a debt obligation to that insurance carrier. If the thief cannot pay immediately, then those two parties can come to a mutual agreement as to how that debt will be discharged. They are not constrained by any “laws” – they may agree to whatever they wish. There are many options, but one option could be a voluntary arrangement with a private “prison” (if you can call it that) that would discharge the debt to the insurance carrier in exchange for a certain amount of labor. The thief would have many of these private prisons to choose from and he is under no obligation to choose this path at all – therefore such private prisons would compete for such a labor source, enticing their customers with favorable terms. Indeed, conditions would most assuredly be far more favorable than in any public or private prison system today. After all, if they don’t please their customers (the voluntary “prisoners”) then they won’t be in business for long.

Public-private partnerships will always be corrupted by perverse incentives if the company providing the service is not directly accountable to the customer.

Bad Bill Strikeout

Georgia now has its own variant of the Arizona “religious freedom” bill (recently vetoed by that state’s governor) known as HB 1023  (“Preservation of Religious Freedom Act”). At first blush the Georgia bill appears to uphold the libertarian principal of the right of association (i.e. the right to decide who we do or do not associate with). However, upon further analysis I have come to the conclusion that this is a bad bill and should be opposed. For those that don’t already know, the bill essentially says that if a person acts with a religious motivation then they are immune from any and all laws, ordinances, rules or regulations that might otherwise restrict the actions they undertook as a result of their religious convictions. Taken literally one could claim immunity from murder and theft if one stated it was motivated by religious belief. So on its face it is hyperbolically broad. Strike 1.

Proponents of this bill are engaged in a bit of prophylactic legal wrangling. It is currently completely legal to discriminate against homosexuals. But despite this apparent lack of protection there has been virtually no private sector discrimination of homosexuals. In fact the biggest discriminator against homosexuals has been the public sector aka government (non-recognition of marriage, non-equality in the tax code, etc.). Recently though two isolated cases of a wedding cake maker and photographer refusing to sell their services to gay couples under a highly specific scenario (wedding) has risen to the national news level. Following this outrage theater set on the national stage, the extreme Christian right felt the writing was on the wall and it would only be a matter of time until their views on homosexuals would be not just socially but legally verboten. Their only course of action? Legalize (or rather outlaw the illegality of) their peculiar brand of bigotry. Through this bit of legislative memorialization they attempt to normalize their position in society. Because, you see, if something is a “law” then that means it is “ok”, and conversely, if something is illegal then that means it is “bad.” Without laws to tell us right from wrong we would be rudderless in an ocean of moral ambiguity. Yes, sarcasm.

Racism, bigotry, sexism, ageism, insert-your-own-ism-here-ism are stupid, ignorant, sad, hateful, preposterous and irrational. But what they are not is criminal. In other words, it should always be legal to be a first class jerk. While we don’t need laws against boorish behavior in order to know it is unacceptable, we also don’t need laws that place the seal of state approval on such behavior either. Strike 2.

This bill does get it half-right on one front though. Everybody should have the right to act on their beliefs. But, this freedom should not be restricted solely to those possessing the religious get out of jail free card. Religious freedom is merely one flavor of natural rights based freedoms. Respecting everyone’s freedom means recognizing the fact that we each have the right to live our lives as we see fit, as long as we do not employ violence or the threat thereof to prevent others from doing the same. So, rather than exempting a subset of people from all laws, this bill should instead exempt a subset of laws from all people. In other words, it wimps out where it really counts: freedom. Strike 3.

To think that the fabric of society would fall to tatters without flecks of ink scattered upon slices of dead trees is to ignore the true source of order in society: the people. The vast majority of people behave in a civilized manner because the vast majority of people are not evil. Ask yourself, if all laws were repealed tomorrow do you truly fear that your friends, neighbors, and co-workers, would all try to rob and kill each other? Would you behave any differently than you do today?

Ends and Means

Suppose the following: In order to prevent crimes against children there exist laws that require all residences and offices to be wired with cameras that record all activity. Furthermore, this practice has existed for decades and is simply accepted by the populace as a necessary intrusion of privacy. Most feel they have nothing to hide and so quietly accept the intrusion. Occasionally though this tool is used to harass and intimidate those who are out of favor with those running the State. Unfortunately though, in spite of these abuses, the acceptance of a “greater good” arising from this system weakens any widespread dissent. Now suppose an elected official finally objects to this system. Suppose they propose a repeal of the law enforcing this system.  Does this mean they are “for” crimes against children? Or does it simply mean they are against State sponsored violations of basic human rights? To take an even more extreme example: if it were shown that killing all males over the age of 30 entirely eliminates all crimes against children, should we thus enact such a law? If we did so, would the proposed repeal of such a law imply we are “for” those that would commit crimes against children?

It is entirely possible to be unified in the ends we seek while disagreeing over the most appropriate means to achieve those ends. Just because some particular set of means might achieve an end does not imply or prove it is the ONLY or BEST way to achieve that end. Objecting to an odious set of means does not imply an objection to its ends. Those that make such assertions are intellectual midgets, political opportunists all too eager to play upon the fears of the crowd as they employ cowardly straw man attacks.

So what is the point of my little tale above? To wit, Georgia Representative Sam Moore has introduced a bill (HB 1033) that would repeal all state laws related to loitering (defined as being on public property, ejection from private property is always permitted). Such laws empower local authorities to harass and intimidate (also known as profiling) those that they feel “look wrong” or “may be up to no good.” Current anti-loitering laws (GA §16-11-36) impose upon the citizens of this state a duty to produce proof of identity when such an inquiry is made under color of law enforcement. Current law states the officer may graciously allow one to prove their innocence “by requesting the person to identify himself and explain his presence and conduct.” To be clear this does not relate to probable cause (i.e. unambiguous evidence of potential or actual malfeasance), it solely relates to pure gut instinct, and nothing more. That these laws have stood for so many years is a ludicrous offense to a country supposedly founded on individual liberty. Sam Moore should be praised for his courage in opposing the status quo, not vilified with a false narrative.

But that’s not really the part of the bill that has gotten so many fired up. Legislation, like making sausage, is messy. Frequently new legislation that overrides parts of other unrelated legislation is added years later. Although the statutes related to loitering have nothing to do with restrictions on registered sex offenders, those statutes make reference to the loitering statutes so as to supersede any restrictions against them. Thus this bill (HB 1033) repeals those other statutes as well to ensure the complete and absolute abolishment of all anti-loitering laws. What ?!? Police can’t indiscriminately ask anyone for proof of identity just because they happen to be near a school or church? Clearly Sam Moore must hate children. It’s simply not possible that he is just as much against those that would harm children as his critics but simply feels there is a more effective route to achieving this end than maintaining Nazi-esque unconstitutional “prove-your-innocence” laws. These laws are in fact racist holdovers from the Jim Crow era recycled with a new purpose; to fool the credulous into believing the lie that such laws will protect our children. They do no such thing. They simply create a false sense of security that lulls us into complacency, making it more, not less, likely that such a predator will succeed.