Category Archives: The Fascist 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.

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.


Risky Business

When Nancy Pelosi said “we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what’s in it” she wasn’t kidding! Four years later the adventure into this 906-page behemoth continues. Apparently taxpayer funded bailouts of insurer losses is one little tidbit they tried to sweep under the rug. This provision is part of the innocuous sounding “Section 1342. Risk Adjustment.” This section of the bill is intended to insure the insurers against their own bad decisions. This is achieved by compelling all insurers to participate in the “risk corridor” program. This program requires them to fork over progressively larger portions of what the government deems to be “excess profits” to offset any “excess losses” by their competitors. The idea is that robbing Peter to pay Paul will keep the program revenue neutral. This neutrality rests on the dubious assumption that the distribution of excess funds from company A will always offset the deficit from company B. Even if that assumption were true, the goal here is flawed. This program will engender a government run cartel of insurance carriers with zero incentive to reduce costs. Too efficient? Make too much? Sorry, we’re gonna’ give it to your competitor. The insurance industry essentially becomes a single federalized fascist monopoly; administered by the federal government but held by private entities. The veneer of private ownership in name only is maintained only to fool the “useful idiots” into believing we still have a “free” market.

Even if one is a proponent of Obamacare, it should be recognized that this provision will do more harm than good in terms of reducing cost. In fact it will have the opposite effect: it will drive the best insurers out of business while subsidizing the worst, thus ensuring ever-increasing costs. Only free competition can have the correct effect: drive the worst out while rewarding the best. Any well-run business maintains capital reserves from flush years to offset potential future losses in lean years. In other words a well-run business will take care of itself. Forcing such a business to hand over its reserves to its more profligate competitors and expecting those prodigal siblings to change their ways is naïve at best, willfully ignorant at worst. But wait, there’s more!

As is typical for such bills there is an underlying assumption that nothing could ever go wrong, therefore it lacks any provision to cap how much the feds may have to dole out under this program. In other words the American taxpayer will be obligated to write an unlimited blank check to cover health insurance industry losses (the program is slated to only run from 2014-2016, but you can be certain industry lobbyists will ensure it is renewed in perpetuity). The moral hazard arising from this program will incentivize insurers to steal business away from their competitors by undercutting them on premium. The better-run insurers won’t cut as far and will lose customers; the more poorly run insurers will cut deeper (counting on a bailout if they go too far) and gain customers. Eventually, once the more prudent insurers are all out of business, all that will remain will be the insurers counting on their annual bailout. There is no free lunch. Premiums may decrease on the front end, but when April 15 rolls around or your inflation riddled dollar buys you less, you’ll be paying it on the back end (I leave it to the reader to decide if that metaphor is figurative or literal).