Friday, February 22, 2013

HB 1387 and "Local Control of Alcohol"

UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE

See these astounding photos of former ABC Chair Ron Fuller to get an idea of the contempt to which representatives from local communities have been subjected to when they attempt to make their case as to why some out of town corporation should not be allowed to set up a club which sells alcohol in their community even though they have elected to be a "dry" county as regards to sales of alcohol (though possession and use are of course legal).  These pictures are worth more than a thousand words in making the case that local communities should not have to bend the knee to men like these in order to have the kind of community that they want.
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Arkansas still has a number of "dry" counties.   They are only "dry" in the sense that alcohol can't be sold in them.   It is still legal to import, store, and consume alcohol purchased elsewhere, so I would not consider it a "liberty" issue.  I lived in a county like that for years, until the recent election overturned the "dry" status.   As a Localist, I approve of the idea of the people of each county or city being able to decide where these sorts of lines should be drawn, in preference to those lines being drawn at the state capitol, or heaven for-fend, the national capitol.  I wonder if a similar arrangement might be employed to resolve other contentious issues, for example, consumption of marijuana?

People are going to have different ideas about where social lines ought to be drawn.  Instead of obstinately insisting that everyone else adopt the answers one prefers, why not de-centralize the power to answer those questions?  Maybe not for issues where victims are involved, such as murder, but at least for issues involving economic or personal freedom.   And I say that as someone who is not a libertarian.  But I do believe in freedom.

I think a community of libertarians would set the rules for behavior too loose for my liking, but as long as I don't live there, what is that to me?   I think a community of social conservatives would set the rules too restrictive to please a libertarian, but so long as they don't live there, what's that to them?   The important thing is that people can live wherever they like, and that the rules are set to please the people who live there, not people who live elsewhere, whether they be control-freaks in the capitol or opinionated theorists.

In time "the market" would sort it all out as communities which set the bar either too loose or too tight lost out to communities which did not.   Does the idea of having a "market" at work forcing government to comply to the wishes of those who live under it seem appealing to you?  That is the localist lynch pin.   Freedom doesn't need restrictions on movement, it is tyranny which must have a captive audience.

But some of you, mis-informed by the state's loathsome establishment media, might not even understand why anyone would want a "dry" county, considering all of the benefits you have heard about going "wet."   Yes, well, you have heard only one side of the story.  Bob Hester of Jonesboro went to the trouble of compiling crime statistics between wet counties and dry counties and some of the results are staggering.  Wet counties seem to have a lot more of certain types of crime, despite spending 60% more per person on law enforcement.   None of that is taken into account when pro-alcohol people do these studies showing how "good for the economy" liquor sales are.

There are other explanations for these statistics of course, and the point of this article is not to sort all of that out.   The point is that reasonable people can differ on the issue of whether they want alcohol sold in their city.  Maybe they or a close relative is struggling with alcoholism and have trouble living in a place where they see it right in front of them when they go to the grocery store or pass a liquor store every day.   Maybe people just like living in a county where they know that people whose lives are dominated by alcohol will choose to live elsewhere.   Whatever their reasons, they are their reasons, and don't owe me or anyone else who does not live among them an explanation for their preferences.

I say all that to say this, the folks in Little Rock cannot seem to stand the idea that people in the hinterlands are making their own decisions on these sorts of things.   A "private club" can sell alcohol by the drink even in "dry" counties if they get approval from the state's ABC board.   That board has a history of being antagonistic to anyone who objects to them issuing a permit to sell alcohol in a dry county.  Add to it there have been some ethical concerns about their decisions to grant permits shortly after discussions about what the favorite charity of certain board members are (which might well be a charity which employs a relative).

Now some of you might be tempted to think that every county ought to be wet, and since the decision of the central authority (ABC board) to over-ride the wishes of the local residents is one that you would favor were you there, then you are OK with these decisions.    But just imagine the shoe was on the other foot.  Suppose the central authority was implementing some policy which you and your neighbors objected to? Oh, wait, I can see it now- if the central authority imposes what I want then its good, when it imposes something I object to then its tyranny! Sigh.

A localist is someone who can sleep well at night even though people they don't know in a city they have never been to are doing things differently.   As I talk to various activists from conservative to liberal to libertarian I find that there are a lot fewer people like that than I had hoped.  It seems almost everybody wants their team to hold the gun pointed at everybody else.

But for those few of you out there who can sleep at night even though people you have never met in a city where you have never been are doing things differently, HB 1387 would be a good bill to support.   It requires the approval of either the county or the city in a dry county before a private club can sell (you can still give it away at private parties of course) alcohol.   That is, it would take power away from the ABC Board in Little Rock to over-ride the wishes of the majority of people in the community in order to give advantage to some corporation HQed in another state!

If you want to see HB 1387 pass, I urge you to contact your state representative.

35 Comments:

Blogger Andy Climacus said...

"I think a community of libertarians would set the rules for behavior too loose for my liking, but as long as I don't live there, what is that to me? I think a community of social conservatives would set the rules too restrictive to please a libertarian, but so long as they don't live there, what's that to them? The important thing is that people can live wherever they like, and that the rules are set to please the people who live there, not people who live elsewhere, whether they be control-freaks in the capitol or opinionated theorists. "

Yeah, until your local community supports gay marriage, illegal immigrants, and becomes a totalitarian state, or something else you don't like, you don't really mind.

"Does the idea of having a "market" at work forcing government to comply to the wishes of those who live under it seem appealing to you? That is the localist lynch pin. Freedom doesn't need restrictions on movement, it is tyranny which must have a captive audience."

Well, why don't you support the market when it comes to immigration, if the market is so great?

"There are other explanations for these statistics of course, and the point of this article is not to sort all of that out. The point is that reasonable people can differ on the issue of whether they want alcohol sold in their city. Maybe they or a close relative is struggling with alcoholism and have trouble living in a place where they see it right in front of them when they go to the grocery store or pass a liquor store every day. Maybe people just like living in a county where they know that people whose lives are dominated by alcohol will choose to live elsewhere. Whatever their reasons, they are their reasons, and don't owe me or anyone else who does not live among them an explanation for their preferences."

The problem arises when those people who don't want liquor in their vicinity live right next door to people who actually do. Who decides which person gets to force the other to bend to their will?

"Oh, wait, I can see it now- if the central authority imposes what I want then its good, when it imposes something I object to then its tyranny! Sigh."

Yeah, but on the other hand, if locality imposes evil upon their society, you can't object to it.

In the end, the state provides a needed recourse against the abuses of petty dictators and misguided moral-crusaders. How would a system of appeals work in localism?

3:37 PM, February 22, 2013  
Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

Andy, first of all, thank you for responding. I will try to respond to your points with reason...

1) "Yeah, until your local community supports gay marriage, illegal immigrants, and becomes a totalitarian state, or something else you don't like, you don't really mind. "

Correct. It is not up to the rest of my community to adjust themselves to my preferences as to where lines ought to be drawn. To some extent, I should also adjust to them. That is my premise. And if I disagree vehemently enough on where they draw those lines, then perhaps I should not be living there in misery and making them miserable.

Note that none of this applies against the recognized rights in a Republic. That is to say, each individual can stand against the majority as it pertains to the society not obeying their own rules regarding what rights they recognize. But it would be the constitution of the state, or as regards to the national government the nation, which lays out what rights are recognized.

I can lobby for the recognition of other rights, but the majority is not bound by my belief of what my rights ought to be, but only by the plain language of the compact which brought the society together. IE they are bound by what the law is, but not by what I think it ought to be.

I am a little perplexed as to what you propose that is better than what I am proposing. Are you suggesting as a "solution" forcing everyone in all places to live under your personal preferences as to where the lines ought to be drawn?

9:07 AM, February 23, 2013  
Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

"Well, why don't you support the market when it comes to immigration, if the market is so great?"

Lot's of good reasons. As Freidman noted, you cannot have open borders and a welfare state at the same time. We have a welfare state, therefore open borders will bankrupt us.

But aside from that, I do support the market when it comes to immigration. People in our nation should be free to leave when they want to any nation that will take them and we should take people from other nations unless there is a reason not to do so. Sadly, right now there are a lot of reasons not to take a lot of people. One of them is they have even less understanding than most Americans of what it takes to have a society that is a good place to live.

I view the nation as a commonwealth in which we all have a share. It is the "private property" of the American public. It is about like the property of any large corporation, they get their management to formulate a policy to determine who can enter their property.

PS- Illegal immigration is not really the "free market" because true costs are not known. Violation of someone's rights took place prior to the "good deal" much like a hot stereo or products produced with slave labor.

9:20 AM, February 23, 2013  
Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

"Yeah, but on the other hand, if locality imposes evil upon their society, you can't object to it."

But you can object to it. And not only that, your objections can actually be heard by the persons with the power to change it, since they are not hundreds of miles away and ringed by lobbyists (who in all probability encouraged the politicians to enact the policy to which you object).

Don't you see that the further removed the decision is from neighbors the easier it is to see them as faceless peasants? Your toes will be stepped on harder and more often, with less effective recourse by you, if decisions are made centrally than if they are made locally.

Will that mean that more places will make decisions that you don't approve of? Maybe, but if your philosophy is at all in accordance with moral reality there should also be more places that will make more decisions that you DO approve of. Quite honestly it would not take much to improve on the current track record of government interference in our lives.

The rules you don't like would tend to be in a city where you don't live. On average, over time, everyone but the unappeasables would live in a place where the bar was set more in accordance with their liking than it is now. That is more freedom. When every county and city is free to set the bar where they will yet still none of them suit you, perhaps the problem is not with them!

I can object to it ultimately by going to the next city (Jesus said "when they persecute you in one city, flee to the next.") Localism greatly lowers the "transaction costs" of escaping from bad (for you, maybe good to those who stay) government. Thus the market will swiftly punish governments who make rules out of harmony with the moral order of the universe.

10:18 AM, February 23, 2013  
Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

"In the end, the state provides a needed recourse against the abuses of petty dictators and misguided moral-crusaders. How would a system of appeals work in localism?"

A survey of the history of how the modern central state treats its citizens should be sufficient to disabuse the open mind to the notion of how beneficial empowering a central state to be the sole arbiter of rights would be.

There is an interlocking system of checks and balances in Localism. I don't wish to type it all out here. The book is not a long read, but I really think it would be worth your while.

The short version is that the central government only guarantees freedom of property and movement from the states. The states uphold recognized rights from violation in the localities, but localities have the right to change states, or if enough counties get together, form a new state from within the old one (some of our largest states are the worst run). States can be kicked out of the union if the other states don't like the way they treat their citizens (after all who want to leave do so plus parts of the offending state vote to split and stay with the union). Again, this is the short version, and please don't compare it to perfection, compare it to the results we have from the central state concept we have now! The book makes more sense of it than I do here.

I should prefer a "petty dictator" whom I could easily leave (thus leaving the "dictator" with the choice of changing their ways or having declining numbers to dictate to and gain revenue from!) than a Great Dictator of the sort we have seen work their malice in the guise of some higher good (such as protection of "Rights" for their favored groups).

10:34 AM, February 23, 2013  
Blogger Andy Climacus said...

"Note that none of this applies against the recognized rights in a Republic. That is to say, each individual can stand against the majority as it pertains to the society not obeying their own rules regarding what rights they recognize. But it would be the constitution of the state, or as regards to the national government the nation, which lays out what rights are recognized."

I thought your original post was about how counties should take some of this power away from the state, since counties want to curtail the rights granted by the state? Maybe I misunderstood it.

"I am a little perplexed as to what you propose that is better than what I am proposing. Are you suggesting as a "solution" forcing everyone in all places to live under your personal preferences as to where the lines ought to be drawn?"

I'd suggest not telling other people how to live their lives, as much as possible.

"Lot's of good reasons. As Freidman noted, you cannot have open borders and a welfare state at the same time. We have a welfare state, therefore open borders will bankrupt us."

Then the freemarket solution is to allow a bad business to bankrupt itself, right?

"Illegal immigration is not really the "free market" because true costs are not known. Violation of someone's rights took place prior to the "good deal" much like a hot stereo or products produced with slave labor."

If the costs aren't known, then is the import of the second sentence also unknown?

"But you can object to it. And not only that, your objections can actually be heard by the persons with the power to change it, since they are not hundreds of miles away and ringed by lobbyists (who in all probability encouraged the politicians to enact the policy to which you object)."

Whoa, now. How are you preventing lobbying in this fantasy world of yours?

"I can object to it ultimately by going to the next city (Jesus said "when they persecute you in one city, flee to the next.") Localism greatly lowers the "transaction costs" of escaping from bad (for you, maybe good to those who stay) government. Thus the market will swiftly punish governments who make rules out of harmony with the moral order of the universe."

You already can travel from city to city, and from state to state. (You don't really like it when people enter your country through.)

"The short version is that the central government only guarantees freedom of property and movement from the states."

But the central government can't guarantee the freedom to dispose of your property as you see fit?

"I should prefer a "petty dictator" whom I could easily leave (thus leaving the "dictator" with the choice of changing their ways or having declining numbers to dictate to and gain revenue from!) than a Great Dictator of the sort we have seen work their malice in the guise of some higher good (such as protection of "Rights" for their favored groups)."

I'd much prefer no dictators.

7:25 PM, February 23, 2013  
Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

"I thought your original post was about how counties should take some of this power away from the state, since counties want to curtail the rights granted by the state? Maybe I misunderstood it."

Well, it is not easy to understand. The person who explained it to me (one of the authors perhaps?) had to explain it more than once before it clicked. It is a paradox that we enjoy more freedom and protection of our rights when the power to uphold them is decentralized rather than entrusted to one set of hands. In that case it quickly quits being about upholding rights and starts becoming about exercising power on behalf of favored groups. It is explained well in the book.

Localism doesn't give counties the power to take away RIGHTS granted by the state constitutions. It gives them the power to decide locally about many things that are NOT rights. For example, medical marijuana: we just had an election where by a narrow margin it was voted down (and that probably because it was so poorly written). Under localism, each county would decide what the rules were for mm.

That election was so close that the odds are good that in some counties people were for it. Why not push the decision down to the county level so the most people in each type of county can be happy with the law in that area? If some try it and it works, other counties will try it also.

Obviously this set up will empower individuals much more than everything being decided at the state level because 1) it is easier to influence and get change in your county than it is your state and 2) moving to the next county (or even city) is a trivial matter compared to changing states or even nations.

Notice that to have this freedom to set the lines where you want them (on matters not recognized as rights by the states founding documents) you have to grant to others the freedom to set lines where you don't want them. Fortunately, you don't have to live in their jurisdiction and they don't have to live in yours- if the "jurisdiction" is broken down to a local size.

Counties do have some recourse to states that run roughshod over them, but that is getting to another subject.

6:00 AM, February 25, 2013  
Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

"I'd suggest not telling other people how to live their lives, as much as possible."

Me too, that is why I am a localist. People are going to have different ideas about what "as much as possible means". Indeed my answer to that question would vary based on where I live. There may be places where people can handle more freedom without destroying themselves and others, and places where they can't. Look at Iraq. The fall of Saddam just left them free to hack each other.

Should it be against the law to be drunk in public? Operate a vehicle in public? Some would say "as much as possible" means you don't sanction them until they hurt someone. Others would say that it is so irresponsible to drive impaired that people should be sanctioned just for subjecting people to the risk. Opinions will vary, and in Localism they can all be right! Let's see what works.

6:06 AM, February 25, 2013  
Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

I don't quite catch you points on illegal immigration, and you did not address what I consider the most permanent point, so I will move on unless you care to amplify.

"Whoa, now. How are you preventing lobbying in this fantasy world of yours?"

It is not just my world, it is the world America mostly had from the Articles of Confederation to maybe near the Civil War. And it is a lot like the government Switzerland had. Historically those were some of the best-governed places on earth. Why not take what they did right and build on it?

But these policies would not "end" lobbying. They would likely INCREASE the amateur efforts because people would know that their participation mattered.

But it would also reduce, and spread out, the professional lobbyist. They go where the power is. If the power is spread out, they will too. Yet there is no more power, it is just more diffused. It may actually be too diffused to support a full time or "professional", thus living more room for the citizen activist.

6:16 AM, February 25, 2013  
Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

"You already can travel from city to city, and from state to state."

Yes you can, but the rules are increasingly made in one city, Washington D.C. So no matter where you go many of the rules people care about are the same. The spending mandates from Washington are the same, therefore the taxation levels in the states are similar and the amount of government is similar.

Consider that Arkansas gets abou $4.6 billion a year in taxes, but has a state budget in excess of $20 billion. It is federal money that drives the structure of state government and the programs they offer. And of course, state capitols like to keep tight reign over what little leeway DC gives them.

Even at that, there is a net migration from the high tax states to the low tax ones. This occurs on the margin because the costs of changing states, leaving your friends, family, and job, is high. Imagine if you could just change counties and get even greater variety of freedom how much stronger this affect would be.

6:22 AM, February 25, 2013  
Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

"But the central government can't guarantee the freedom to dispose of your property as you see fit? "

Yes, the book specifically says the national government can guarantee the right to real property in a state of a person who leaves it. It is tied into the right of departure.

6:24 AM, February 25, 2013  
Blogger Jim, SFret said...

We are a Republic that looks to the State as the broadest authority. It is not as limited in its powers and can dictate the powers referred to local governments.

I think it is a good check to 1. enforce the laws (to include the constitution) and 2. Have State government over-site.

Our freedom isn't absolute. Like the droll example (but good one), we can't have people just rushing through stop signs. That would be unacceptable BEHAVIOR.

I personally believe, since alcohol is legal, it should be legalized BUT REGULATED. Laws should not be lax as it concerns DUI. You get caught, 3 days in jail starting that minute (not later when it is convenient). It works in Alaska.

8:01 AM, February 25, 2013  
Blogger Andy Climacus said...

Those 'astounding photos' out of any context are pretty useless. For all I know, he's reacting to incredibly stupid statements.

Back to the discussion at hand:

"Obviously this set up will empower individuals much more than everything being decided at the state level because 1) it is easier to influence and get change in your county than it is your state and 2) moving to the next county (or even city) is a trivial matter compared to changing states or even nations."

In this case though, it's the opposite, isn't it? The state allows the right to sell alcohol, but the county wants to curtail it. As an aside, traveling may become a non-trivial matter in localism, as road trips take you through dozens of counties, each with wildly different laws.

"But it would also reduce, and spread out, the professional lobbyist. They go where the power is. If the power is spread out, they will too. Yet there is no more power, it is just more diffused. It may actually be too diffused to support a full time or "professional", thus living more room for the citizen activist."

Is there no more power, or is it diffused power?

This is a fantasy world if you think a corporation like Walmart with stores in every city in America can't afford to leverage those stores in lobbying efforts.

"Yes you can, but the rules are increasingly made in one city, Washington D.C. So no matter where you go many of the rules people care about are the same. The spending mandates from Washington are the same, therefore the taxation levels in the states are similar and the amount of government is similar."

Sure, but localism hasn't got any monopoly on wanting to curb Washington's interference. Besides, in the issue at hand, the county is objecting to a state issue, and not a federal one.

"Even at that, there is a net migration from the high tax states to the low tax ones. This occurs on the margin because the costs of changing states, leaving your friends, family, and job, is high. Imagine if you could just change counties and get even greater variety of freedom how much stronger this affect would be."

What evidence do you have that the costs of moving to another county isn't just as high? In many cases, moving across state lines may be more cost-effective than moving into another county, especially when the other counties are empty farmland or desert.

"Yes, the book specifically says the national government can guarantee the right to real property in a state of a person who leaves it. It is tied into the right of departure."

So the state can't tell me what property I may own, or whether I can sell it?

I ask because if the state were to allow me to own my property (alcohol) and sell it, then you are asking that a county be able to curtail that right, right?


1:02 AM, February 27, 2013  
Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

"In this case though, it's the opposite, isn't it?(about empowering the individual) The state allows the right to sell alcohol, but the county wants to curtail it. As an aside, traveling may become a non-trivial matter in localism, as road trips take you through dozens of counties, each with wildly different laws."

I am very glad you are raising these issues. This is the process that we all have to think through to know why we believe what we believe.

You see this as a case where the state is granting more freedom to the individual by over-riding the counties' decision. That is not the way I see it. Let me explain. I am going to guess that you are some sort of libertarian. I have sympathy with that, I was Ron Paul's Arkansas Communications Director in 08, and he leans that way to say the least. If I am right, you would want to set the bar for government involvement at the Non-aggression principle and no more. Am I close?

Since this state intervention is closer to where you want the bar set, you see it as more freedom. But if someone said that fraud was OK under the NAP you might object and say that it should be. Women might say that men who knock a girl up have some obligation to support the child, while men might favor the idea that there was no consent to do that. Or someone else might say that children under 21 can be subjected to force from parents or their agents, others might say it should by 18, 16 or some 40 and others would say never.

How do you sort out all of these different claims about where to set the bar? Maybe you could turn all power to interpret and apply the NAP over to some single body in DC like the Supreme Court. The central authorities are then imposing their will on whatever slice of the population does not accept the validity of the NAP as an absolute, along with everyone that does accept it but does not view it the same way as the courts.

Imposing the NAP on a society that does not accept it as the totality of the moral code for living together is not freedom. It is just a special case of tyranny. Not everyone shares the premises required for an NAP configured society. That is, self ownership or something like it, symmetry in relationships, and that the state gets ALL of its moral authority delegated to it from individuals and is therefore limited to whatever moral authority an individual can have in themselves.

Not all persons share these premises, therefore they do not accept the NAP as the total organizational principle of a just society. Indeed even people who DO think NAP fulfills this role have different ideas about the details. Who decides?

My position is that the more deciders there are, the more freedom people have. You may say "let the individual decide", but but definition that is not government. Government is about what rules we are going to use in our interactions with each other. What is in bounds and what is out. It is by necessity a group exercise. Smaller groups will be more accountable to the individual than larger groups,and giving groups more leeway will make it easier to find rules everyone can live with than centralizing those decisions.


3:57 PM, February 27, 2013  
Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

This is a fantasy world if you think a corporation like Walmart with stores in every city in America can't afford to leverage those stores in lobbying efforts

You should read the book. Corporations have gotten out of hand and some restrictions should be placed on them precisely because if they are not it leads to over-centralization of power. It is another example why the NAP alone is not able to sustain the free society it promises. There are 14 ways power can be centralized within a nation. If those ways are not blocked, then over time it will be. Localism accounts for that and lays out the minimum restrictions needed to block all 14.

But Wal-Mart would have LESS leverage not more. Leverage comes from getting into the top of the pyramid. When you control the top of the hierarchy, the rest will follow. They would have to bribe every localities local leaders one by one to have their way. They could not just bribe a few hundred polticians at the top and get their policies imposed on 310 million souls. And those local leaders would be a lot easier to dislodge than a congressman.

4:05 PM, February 27, 2013  
Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

"Sure, but localism hasn't got any monopoly on wanting to curb Washington's interference. Besides, in the issue at hand, the county is objecting to a state issue, and not a federal one."

No it does not, but wanting it and actually understanding how we got here and how to fix it are two different things. It is like termites are eating the house, and people have different ideas on how to rebuild what falls down, but never addressing how we eliminate the termites. They will keep attacking any wood structure, no matter how sound. The answer is not to build with fewer angles or more nails, it is to stop the termites from entering in the first place.

4:09 PM, February 27, 2013  
Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

"What evidence do you have that the costs of moving to another county isn't just as high? In many cases, moving across state lines may be more cost-effective than moving into another county, especially when the other counties are empty farmland or desert."

Ok now are you sure you are not just trying to be difficult with this question? When I say "cheaper" I don't just mean with money, though it is generally cheaper to move 15 miles instead of 150. But I meant in total costs, including non-monetary. That is, you don't have to leave your friends, you don't have to leave your family, you don't have to leave your job. You leave your bad government but keep everything else you like about your life.

I use counties because it is the smallest geographic unit whose boundaries do not routinely change. Ultimately I'd like the counties to delegate a lot of leeway to cities as well.

4:13 PM, February 27, 2013  
Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

One more point on the above- yes this is a state vs. locality not a fed vs state issue, but the principle of decentralization of power still holds. It is about where the rules are made on all matters that are not a right. I say make them at the lowest possible level. Decentralize power as much as possible to increase freedom as much as possible.

4:15 PM, February 27, 2013  
Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

"So the state can't tell me what property I may own, or whether I can sell it?

I ask because if the state were to allow me to own my property (alcohol) and sell it, then you are asking that a county be able to curtail that right, right?"

That would depend on what was recognized as a right in each state. If the state constitution, said that you could distill and sell liquor or grow and sell maryjane then you could do it even if the county objected. If you had a still or a field and you had to leave the state for any reason, the state could not take your property just because you were gone. That is where the feds could step in.

In this case though, the state constitution does not guarantee that people can sell alcohol. It is not something that the population recognized as a right enough to put in the compact "This issue is off limits to majority vote." Because of that, the decision on whether or not alcohol is sold has to be made somewhere. I want it made locally, not centrally. That way people on both sides of the issue can be happy.

On alcohol, perhaps you find my position distasteful. On marijuana you would like it much better than what we have now. For example we recently had a "medical marijuna" law fail by a narrow vote. If it had been done like I am suggesting, it doubtless would have passed in some counties, and failed in others. On things that are not recognized rights, push the power to decide down to the lowest level possible (while advocating for the list of recognized rights to expand to be more like what you want).

Am I making any sense to you? This is so subtle, but once it clicks it clicks, and changes the way one looks at things for so many issues of government.

4:24 PM, February 27, 2013  
Blogger Andy Climacus said...

"You see this as a case where the state is granting more freedom to the individual by over-riding the counties' decision. That is not the way I see it."

Before I address the philosophical issues you bring up, I need to point out that you don't seem to have answered this question at all, unless your answer is that every locality is able to define what is and isn't property, and whether you can sell it?

On to the philosophical issues!

The non-aggression principle is a good start, but there's no reason to ignore contract law.

"How do you sort out all of these different claims about where to set the bar? Maybe you could turn all power to interpret and apply the NAP over to some single body in DC like the Supreme Court. The central authorities are then imposing their will on whatever slice of the population does not accept the validity of the NAP as an absolute, along with everyone that does accept it but does not view it the same way as the courts."

The Supreme Court is generally the last resort, there's no reason to skip straight to it. There are other courts first. County Courts, State Courts, etc.

"But Wal-Mart would have LESS leverage not more. Leverage comes from getting into the top of the pyramid. When you control the top of the hierarchy, the rest will follow. They would have to bribe every localities local leaders one by one to have their way. They could not just bribe a few hundred polticians at the top and get their policies imposed on 310 million souls. And those local leaders would be a lot easier to dislodge than a congressman."

This still sounds like speculation and wishful thinking. Wal-Mart is a massive organization, bribing local leaders will not be an issue for them.

"Ok now are you sure you are not just trying to be difficult with this question? When I say "cheaper" I don't just mean with money, though it is generally cheaper to move 15 miles instead of 150. But I meant in total costs, including non-monetary. That is, you don't have to leave your friends, you don't have to leave your family, you don't have to leave your job. You leave your bad government but keep everything else you like about your life."

These are difficult questions!

And there are many, many, people for whom moving to another county would cost them their job, or make the commute too expensive to make the job worthwhile. There are farmers and people who actually own property for whom losing that land will cost them dearly.

"Am I making any sense to you? This is so subtle, but once it clicks it clicks, and changes the way one looks at things for so many issues of government."

I think it's starting to make sense. Do you believe in any universal rights at all? Or should every one be negotiated?

Does it matter if a majority doesn't vote in support of one of these universal rights?

1:03 PM, March 01, 2013  
Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

Yes! I believe in universal rights. I believe in the same position the Founders had, that we are endowed by our Creator with rights. They pre-exist the state and don't depend on recognition from the state to be legitimate. I believe that the state cannot violate those rights without committing injustice.

What I don't believe is that each individual gets to determine for themselves what their rights are. They get to determine what rights their Creator granted them, but they can't claim them on their own authority.

And where they do have rights, in interactions with others we are not always the best judges of how our own rights are applied. We are not objective in how we apply our own rights. Therefore we have civil authorities which are supposed to apply the law and apply the rights.

Humor me as I run down my super-brief take on the history of freedom...

10:06 AM, March 02, 2013  
Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

I am sure you will agree that with freedom comes responsibility. Most populations for most of history lacked the virtue required to sustain self-government. It therefore mattered less if their governments did not respect their rights.

That is, a lawless people would only use freedom to destroy themselves and trouble their neighbors, resulting in chaos. Because of that, immoral governments which did not respect their rights still had "legitimacy", they still had value in restraining evil because as bad as they were without them violence and the violation of rights would be worse. In short, when people did not respect one another's rights then it enabled a government which did not respect them either.

With the rise of Christianity in the protestant West, populations attained a level of virtue such that they did not NEED to be governed so much. The were largely capable of self-rule. When the people are respecting each other's rights because of internal self-control, the violations of rights coming from the rulers becomes much more glaring.

What exactly are our God given rights, and how are they to be applied? Not even the Founders knew. They made their list, then they added for safe measure the 10th amendment which said that the list was not all inclusive, the people could still claim rights in the future that were not on the list!

It seems to me that the more virtuous the population, the larger the proportion their total rights must be recognized by the state. Otherwise people will start noticing that the government is more of a threat to their rights than each other.

The thing is, I don't know for sure what is on heaven's list of Creator-granted rights. Nor does anyone else. Add to it that we have more than one variable in this experiment- not only must we consider what ought to be recognized rights, but their scope will vary with the personal virtue of the population. "If men were angels, no government would be necessary" wrote Madison.

We can say then is that if men were angles, we could expand "rights", that is, things not subject to majority vote, infinitely. Since men are not, if we expand rights beyond that of heaven's list, then lawlessness can increase with no law to check it in whatever area of life we have ceded to the individual.

11:12 AM, March 02, 2013  
Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

So how do we find "the right answer" with respect to what our rights are? There may or may not be only one "Heaven's List" of Creator-granted rights, but no one knows the totality of that list. Plus, given the variables involved, there can still be more than one "right" answer to the question given those other those other variables.

For example, for the purpose of protecting people from injustice, granting the whole list of rights (100%) might give them the freedom to do "X" amount of injustice to one another. But shortening the list of rights to (100%/2) might give the state the power to do an equal amount of injustice ("X" amount) to them. The population suffers the same amount of injustice one way or the other, so for the purposes of establishing justice, setting the bar at either 100% or 100%/2 results in an equal amount of injustice.

What is the answer in such a situation? We have to poke around and try to find the best answer, what we see through a glass darkly. Various places can have somewhat different answers. Let each state try what they think, and each county modify it if they see fit, and then let's see what works. Let's see how much freedom people can have before it is clear we have moved beyond the list of heaven. For then fallen humans will "game the system" and use freedom to hurt not only themselves, but others. Then let people choose what kind of place they want to live.

Will a society organized around the NAP be the best one? I don't think so, but if people are virtuous enough it could be. At any rate, people should have the right to try it, if they can get one another to agree to trust each other with that much latitude in their conduct.

Right now it is obvious to me that the central state is as big a threat to our rights as my fellow citizens are. The power to define rights is the power of dictatorship, since rights by definition are not subject to majority vote.

That's why we should decentralize that and every other power government has. We still need it, until we are angles, but we have to keep it localized or it quickly turns from servant to master. Localism not only recognizes that, but it sets up a framework to keep local power from falling prey to the ambitious centralizers.

11:36 AM, March 02, 2013  
Blogger Andy Climacus said...

"What exactly are our God given rights, and how are they to be applied? Not even the Founders knew. They made their list, then they added for safe measure the 10th amendment which said that the list was not all inclusive, the people could still claim rights in the future that were not on the list!"

Do you suppose they thought local authorities ought to be able to vote these rights away from the populace?

8:03 PM, March 02, 2013  
Blogger Portia said...

This is still me, signed in on wife's account.

The premise of your question is that they felt certain they knew what those rights were down to the last detail. It is not a question of "voting away the rights of the populace." Rather it is a lack of certainty over where the lines are in exercising some of those rights and what injustice are the people are likely to do to one another if the state recognizes a given category of behavior is outside the purview of the state.

Some things they felt pretty secure about. Free speech and free exercise of religion. They felt these were outside the state, resided with the individual, and were not subject to majority vote.

But free speech then morphed into "free expression". Does that mean if I want to cover my naked body with mayonnaise and run around in public shouting "touch my monkey" that my neighbors just have to tolerate that because I have "free speech"? I don't think that falls under the category of things protected by the first amendment.

So the state might say "all political speech is protected, and the locals can't over-rule that even if 100 to one they want to." But rules about what constitutes "obscenity", (non-protected expressions due to vulgarity overwhelming any other message the communication might contain) are sorted out locally. Some localities might decide that there should be no "obscenity" laws, that all expression, no matter how lewd, is protected. Others might sanction Mr. Mayonaise.

Was Mr.Mayonaise engaging in behavior that was his by Divine Right and therefore cannot be JUSTLY sanctioned by the state? Let each county answer that question as they see fit (within the limitations of the state that political SPEECH for example is protected.)

Some will get it wrong, be too stifling, and lose their creative minds and free spirits until they change it back. Others might have so few restrictions that good families leave because they don't want their children raised in a lewd environment. The market sorts it all out.

And of course, it works the other way too. The state decides smoking marijuana is not a right and makes it against the law. The people in the county think it IS a right, or should be treated like any other prescription drug. The county has the power in Localism to lesson state penalties within their boundaries by some agreed-on amount. If the state says it is jail time, the county can say it is just a fine. If the state says it is just a fine, the county can say it is no crime.

The affect there is to extend freedom because another activity is out of the reach of government in that area. Will recognizing this freedom result in less injustice or more? Let's try it. Then we can see if everyone becomes dope fiends, or they all write hit songs, or something in between.

So no, they did not contemplate local authorities being able to vote away rights recognized by the people. We are only talking about how to define the outer boundaries of these rights. Localism proposes a system which lets there be 50 versions of what those rights are (the state constitutions), and even in those states, how those rights are exercised can be expanded at the edges by localities.

Localism is NOT a system that says rights come from the collective. It is as system that says they are absolute, but our knowledge of them and how they are applied is not perfect. We lack certainty as to how the outer limits of these rights are applied in some situations.

In such cases, what is better, to have one decision made for everybody, or to let each locality have the freedom to make that determination for themselves? (I reject, this side of heaven, anarchist fantasies about a world where people don't ever need government to resolve disputes in accordance with the Rule of Law about the limits of where their rights are, that is why I say the choice is between a central decider or many more localized deciders)

3:34 PM, March 03, 2013  
Blogger Portia said...

People seeking moral certainty, easy answers, have a hard time with these ideas. I have found religious fanatics and hardcore atheists to be among the most resistant to the idea, because it accepts that we do not have moral certainty over what the outer limits of our own rights are.

We can't rightly be our own final judge of them, because we are the furthest thing from impartial judges on such matters. We must recuse ourselves. But at the least we can have a system that allows for a variety of answers to such questions. At least then we have the option to live among those who see, and exercise, administration of justice our way.

3:42 PM, March 03, 2013  
Blogger Andy Climacus said...

"The premise of your question is that they felt certain they knew what those rights were down to the last detail."

Boiled down to its simplest form: given a hypothetical specific right outlined in a hypothetical constitution, is it acceptable for a local authority to decide on its own to remove that right? If there are questions about that right, what level of government decides how to interpret it?

"So the state might say "all political speech is protected, and the locals can't over-rule that even if 100 to one they want to." But rules about what constitutes "obscenity", (non-protected expressions due to vulgarity overwhelming any other message the communication might contain) are sorted out locally. Some localities might decide that there should be no "obscenity" laws, that all expression, no matter how lewd, is protected. Others might sanction Mr. Mayonaise."

If I understand you correctly, you don't object to the state enforcing their law when it comes to political speech, but you'd have a problem with the state enforcing their law when it comes to obscenity? What's the difference?

"Was Mr.Mayonaise engaging in behavior that was his by Divine Right and therefore cannot be JUSTLY sanctioned by the state?"

What's your personal opinion on Mr. Mayonnaise? Is it our Divine Right to wander around in the all-together? Would you move your whole family if your local government decided it was ok to be naked?

"So no, they did not contemplate local authorities being able to vote away rights recognized by the people. We are only talking about how to define the outer boundaries of these rights. Localism proposes a system which lets there be 50 versions of what those rights are (the state constitutions), and even in those states, how those rights are exercised can be expanded at the edges by localities."

The issue I see here is one where the exercise of those rights are restricted beyond the scope where they ought. What then? People just leave their homes, and the market takes over?

"It is as system that says they are absolute, but our knowledge of them and how they are applied is not perfect. We lack certainty as to how the outer limits of these rights are applied in some situations. "

Is this just a system of legislation? How do you imagine the judicial system working then? I ask because your next statement seems to ignore entirely the judicial branch:

"(I reject, this side of heaven, anarchist fantasies about a world where people don't ever need government to resolve disputes in accordance with the Rule of Law about the limits of where their rights are, that is why I say the choice is between a central decider or many more localized deciders)"

"But at the least we can have a system that allows for a variety of answers to such questions. At least then we have the option to live among those who see, and exercise, administration of justice our way."

If there were a perfect system, would you allow it to be universally applied, or is variety desired over such a system? If the market finally decided a particular system was ideal (everyone moved to the same county, or all counties became identical) would it be ok to enact that system nationwide? Globally?


2:34 AM, March 04, 2013  
Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

" If there are questions about that right, what level of government decides how to interpret it?"

State Courts, unless it is related to state actors interfering with the right of exit from that state, including retaining control over real property left behind, in which case a national court decides.

"If I understand you correctly, you don't object to the state enforcing their law when it comes to political speech, but you'd have a problem with the state enforcing their law when it comes to obscenity? What's the difference?"

I always object to the state not enforcing their law. The questions is, how much of law should be decided at the state level and how much should be left to more local levels? And here I am talking about what is recognized by law as a "right", not subject to majority approval.

I used political speech as one example of a type of speech which society is willing to recognize as a right. Obscenity has always been questionable. Look at the Wiki article on obscenity http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Obscenity

You will see that even the last court case (Miller vs. California 1973) said that the definition of obscenity could be determined locally IF it met a few criteria.

So I am not suggesting anything too different than current law. All I am saying is let each state decide that issue. Some states may give more leeway or less in letting their counties decide, some may say ALL speech is protected, obscene or not.

As for Mr. Mayonnaise, no I don't think he has a Divine Right to go around exposing his member in public. If my county decided it was OK, it is likely that I would also disagree with them on many other issues. So, I might not move just because of own issue, though when you have kids that is a big one, but honestly I would be a terrible fit for a place that was so debauched, and so really I and my family should and probably would move. Both me and the community I leave behind would be happier if I did.

I don't ignore the courts, I mostly ignore the FEDERAL courts. But remember that originally county "judges" were also judges. The call the body at the county level the "quorum court". Those are judges, they are just not centralized ones!

I would not have to "universally apply" a perfect system. It would organically and voluntarily be applied universally piece by piece under localism

9:45 AM, March 04, 2013  
Blogger Andy Climacus said...

"So I am not suggesting anything too different than current law. All I am saying is let each state decide that issue. Some states may give more leeway or less in letting their counties decide, some may say ALL speech is protected, obscene or not."

I think maybe you've missed the point. Why is it ok for the state to enforce some laws, but not others? If some locality decided that political speech should not be protected, why should that be more objectionable than if they decided obscenity shouldn't be protected?

"As for Mr. Mayonnaise, no I don't think he has a Divine Right to go around exposing his member in public."

Do you have a Divine Right to not see naked people in public?

"I don't ignore the courts, I mostly ignore the FEDERAL courts. But remember that originally county "judges" were also judges. The call the body at the county level the "quorum court". Those are judges, they are just not centralized ones!"

Everything thing I've heard so far seems to ignore the court system. You object to being able to appeal past the state level then? Interesting.

"I would not have to "universally apply" a perfect system. It would organically and voluntarily be applied universally piece by piece under localism"

So what you are saying is that it would be better to have variety at all costs, (hoping it works out) then to force a perfect system on people?

1:25 PM, March 04, 2013  
Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

With this much interest, I would hope that you would get the book. I can't say what it takes 100 pages to say on a blog comments section!

I think your first two questions are really linked. Remember the saying that with government making more laws pretty soon everything that is not illegal will be mandatory? That line was mocking the decreasing amount of choice available to people.

If you have a system where everything that is not a violation of "natural rights" IS a "natural right" then you also have a decreasing amount of choice available to people in the form of what sort of government they want. There is no self determination in that case.

What I believe is that Mr. Mayonaise has no natural right to go nude in public nor do I have any natural RIGHT to NOT see naked people in public. The question is not a matter of rights which the state can use force to impose against the wishes of the majority, but it falls into the area where the community CAN make the rules.

So again, rights are areas where the individual has a claim against the majority. If it is not a right, then the "state" can enforce a preference. On THOSE issues localism wants the level of decision making pushed to the lowest possible level instead of centralized.

8:02 AM, March 06, 2013  
Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

I am saying that I don't believe in "perfect systems". And I definitely don't believe in forcing even "good" government on people who don't want it. Look what happened in Iraq and Afganistan when we tried to do that.

8:04 AM, March 06, 2013  
Blogger Andy Climacus said...

"With this much interest, I would hope that you would get the book. I can't say what it takes 100 pages to say on a blog comments section!"

I'll have to consider it, it seems an interesting idea.

"What I believe is that Mr. Mayonaise has no natural right to go nude in public nor do I have any natural RIGHT to NOT see naked people in public. The question is not a matter of rights which the state can use force to impose against the wishes of the majority, but it falls into the area where the community CAN make the rules."

What's the difference between the state making a law which prevents you (or Mr. Mayo) from doing what you (or he) would like, and the community doing so, besides the distance you can travel to get away from that law?

If a community decides to ban something, in effect, aren't they saying that isn't a right?

Clearly you don't want to live in an area where you or your family are exposed to Mr. Mayo's antics, and it's your personal opinion that he should not be allowed to do so. You must then believe that any locality which allows him to do so is acting improperly, yes?

"I am saying that I don't believe in "perfect systems". And I definitely don't believe in forcing even "good" government on people who don't want it."

Then what was all that market talk a while back? What is localism supposed to achieve, freedom to choose, over good government?

"Look what happened in Iraq and Afganistan when we tried to do that."

Nobody is implying this sort of force. This scenario is well out of the ball park in this discussion. I may as well say that


12:18 AM, March 07, 2013  
Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

What's the difference between the state making a law which prevents you (or Mr. Mayo) from doing what you (or he) would like, and the community doing so, besides the distance you can travel to get away from that law?"

The difference is that Mr. Mayo and my friends and his friends can all "win." We can all have the government we want where we live. We just can't have to government we want where someone else lives.

"If a community decides to ban something, in effect, aren't they saying that isn't a right?"

Yes. They are saying that they do not recognize that practice as a right.

9:33 AM, March 07, 2013  
Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

"What is localism supposed to achieve, freedom to choose, over good government?"

What is good government to me might be intolerable tyranny to you. It just recognizes that humans come from different places and will have different preferences where the line will be drawn. There is no inherent conflict over good government and choice of government, indeed I would argue that there is a correlation.

9:35 AM, March 07, 2013  
Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

And I hope you are right about the force thing. If states decide they want more leeway than the feds want to give them, I hope they don't come in with weapons, but based on everything I have seen, they would

9:37 AM, March 07, 2013  

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