Friday, June 29, 2012

The lesser of two evils

In his blog, a fellow lover of liberty, Jeremy Ashton, argued against voting for "the lesser of two evils" (eg Mitt Romney). I hear that a lot from libertarians.

It's all very nice to be pure in one's political principles. Indeed, I fight for the same principles as does the young and idealistic Ashton. I agree with him that Romney does not measure up in many ways. I doubt Romney even understands the Constitution with any meaningful depth, let alone endorse its underlying principles.

But, I refuse to allow myself to be deluded into believing that if I am politically pure in the polling booth, that somehow the desired outcome will come to pass.

That sort of delusional thinking gave us Bill Clinton -- twice (and anti-Constitution Supreme Court Justices Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg). Purists thought that somehow their candidate, Ross Perot, could win. (Not that Clinton was worse than George Bush #1 or Bob Dole -- I honestly never saw much difference other than in Bush's choice of cabinet nominees and his gift to the nation in the person of Clarence Thomas.) Think about what happened in those two elections: Perot took a few votes from Clinton, but lots of votes from Bush and Dole. Without Perot, we wouldn't be burdened with Breyer and Ginsburg.

Show me a presidential candidate who has a reasonable chance of beating Barrack Obamao and Romney and I will eagerly vote for that person. No, Dr. Ron Paul does not have even a remote chance. The "news" media has, and will, see to that -- and all reasonable people recognize that simple reality. (But, I will say one very significant thing that Dr. Paul accomplished during his 2012 run for the presidency: He taught the Constitution to the other Republican candidates -- including Romney -- and to those of us who tuned into the debates.)

Some Ron-Paul apologists say that if Obama stays in the White House, many on the right will remain energized to keep up the fight. But, the GOP is still likely to be festered with RINOs. Many in the GOP leadership clearly do not represent the GOP mainstream or grassroots; they are statists just like the Democrats. We even put RINOs in office right here in southwestern Utah while solid people on the Right don't always fare as well as they should. (Merely voting for Reagan does not make one a true Republican -- living the Constitution and the Party Platform does. I've always categorized Romney as a RINO at best.)

So, I think Paulbots counting on true Conservatives to "remain energized" to win future elections isn't enough. To win, the Right will also need every RINO plus a meaningful portion of those who voted for obama to realize they made a serious mistake and that free stuff and big government isn't nearly as important as liberty. Having a small, but desperately-needed group refuse to vote for the GOP nominee, such as Dr. Paul and his followers, makes it extremely difficult to steer the nation back toward what they themselves want most.

Ideally, the purpose of the primary election is to select the best possible candidate -- one who is a solid constitutionalist. Pragmatically, it's purpose is also to select the most electable candidate (Bob Dole?!?). This year, the GOP primaries showed that Dr. Paul was not electable. The person deemed most electable was Romney. Considering the alternative -- Obama, we all must be behind Romney, although having a small portion of people voting third-party-for-principle in safe states like Utah might be excused.

Principles are essential. Everyone should have them and prayerfully test them against God's truth. Here, Ron Paul and his followers shine. But sometimes, principles cannot be attained without a little pragmatism. Those who insist on a man who isn't heard for their spokesman (eg Ron Paul), will not be heard.

I agree with Ashton that the voting-for-the-lesser-of-two-evils "logic doesn't even make sense to me as I will not be casting my vote for Obama." But, unless a third-party candidate can pull enough votes away from both major-party candidates to win, Obama (the worst of two evils) will, indeed, win. Like Perot, the perfect candidate Ashton favors will take few votes from Obamao, but take a huge bite out of Romney's tally. (Thanks to Eric Holder, voter fraud will only add to Obamao's tally.)

The stakes are too high to base one's vote on idealism. There is a good possibility of the Republicans holding a majority in at the House. Assuming the Republicans live up to the Republican Party Platform and the Constitution, good things can happen. For example, a substantial portion of Republicans promise a repeal of ObamaCare. Romney has vowed to sign a repeal. What are the chances of Obamao signing such a bill or anything else that restores liberty?

It is very likely that four Supreme Court Justices will die or retire before the end of a second Obamao term. This nation is finished if Obamao gets to nominate their replacements. It will be beyond recovery -- no matter how pure Ashton's political wishes are in the polling booth. Romney may not be perfect, but he's the only person who has a shot of pushing Obamao out and giving the Republic a few more years of life. With Romney in the Whitehouse, we have more time to get Ashton's purist in office -- perhaps Romney's VP (if he measures up).

I'd truly like to see the Republican Party put up candidates who truly embody the Republican Party Platform and the Constitution. But, the world of politics is not as perfect as Ashton seems to wish it to be. We never get a perfect candidate or even one who comes close. So, if we can't have perfection, at least we need to be practical (Merriam-Webster: "Of or concerned with the actual doing or use of something. Likely to succeed or be effective in real circumstances; feasible.") about the election process. Nothing else works -- not even libertarian wishes.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Legalize small honey producers!

Back in the early '60s a childhood friend and I joined a 4-H beekeeping club in Box Elder County, Utah. Under the guidance of the club advisor, who was an experienced beekeeper, several of us youth in the area learned to care for honey bees and to harvest and sell honey.

At some point, I recall having to get a state beekeeper's license but I don't remember having any other required licensing or regulation to harvest, package, and sell my honey.

A typical bee hive will produce 40-100 pounds of honey above what the bees need for their own needs – far more than a beekeeper and his family can use. Therefore, even a small-scale hobbyist beekeeper must sell, give away, or discard much of that honey. The income from that hobby helped put me through college. I stayed with it until I graduated from college and began a career as an Air Force officer in 1974.

A few months ago, I volunteered to start a 4-H beekeeping club here in Iron County, Utah. In order to give the county's youth the best possible beekeeping experience, I set about gathering the necessary resources and studying all that has changed in beekeeping over the past 40-50 years.

Some of what I have learned is troubling. I've learned about new pests, diseases, pesticides, and genetically-modified (GMO) crops which appear to threaten the survival of the honey bee.

Pollination by the honey bee reportedly is responsible for one-third of the nation's food production. Even urban and suburban homeowners rely on unknown and unseen hobbyist beekeepers in their neighborhoods for pollination of their garden vegetables and fruits. Without honey bee pollination, California's almond crop would be cut by 90%. It is therefore essential that the honey bee be protected.

I am convinced that the backyard hobby beekeeper will be the salvation of the honey bee because large commercial beekeepers must place their hives where they face the intense use of pesticides and GMOs on large mono-culture farms. Certain commercial beekeeping practices necessary for pollination are extremely stressful for the bees. Backyard hives generally don't face that level of danger. Therefore, the hobbyist beekeeper must be protected.

That leads to what I find to be most troubling: The heavy-handed government control over a successful beekeeping hobbyist.

Current law requires each of my 4-H beekeeping youth to have a state Beekeeper's License ($10 for up to 10 hives). If he or she is to sell any of his honey, he or she must also train for, and possess, a Food Handler Permit ($21 here in Iron County) and a state Cottage Food Producer License ($30). Add to that business licenses and business registration with various local and state government entities and a young 4-H beekeeper faces substantial bureaucratic obstacles to a small hobby that will likely result in a small amount of sales. The law even requires a bureaucrat's approval of the label on the bottle! The heavy level of licensing and regulation required of even a non-4-H hobbyist beekeeper who sells part of his harvest is daunting.

I have been advised by an employee of the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food that, "typically, when dealing with an organization like [a 4-H club], where the purpose is more educational and charity based than commercial, we would not require you to be officially registered. Charity bake sales don't register, for example." That statement is comforting, but also troubling. There does not appear to be any statutory or regulatory exemption for "educational and charity based" sale of food products such as honey or even cookies and cupcakes. All we have to go on is a statement by a government employee that the law isn't "typically" enforced in such cases. Does the above statement mean that all sales must be through the club, even though each member is keeping his own hive(s) and processing his own honey? Or, is he or she free to do everything on his own, from tending the hive through selling honey? Additionally, at what volume of sales would a 4-H youth attract the attention of the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food or other regulatory agency and face enforcement action? There is a dangerous level of vagueness that can easily entrap a 9-year-old novice beekeeper and her 63-year-old 4-H adviser. There is no such "we won’t enforce the law" protection for a small-scale non-4-H hobbyist beekeeper who wants to sell a few bottles of surplus honey.

To resolve this dilemma, I urge that, at a minimum, Utah Codes 4-5-9.5 and 4-11 and R70-560 be amended to clearly establish the beekeeper's license as including the privileges and rights of a Cottage Food Producer, Food Handler, and small business as well as the sole license necessary at all state and local levels for the hobbyist production and sale of honey for persons possessing or managing 10 hives or less. To ensure the safety of the product, I also suggest a restriction that juveniles should be monitored by a responsible adult while processing and packaging honey for sale.

This regulatory and licensing relief is essential to make it easy for new beekeepers to get into the hobby and to avoid pushing existing hobbyist beekeepers into a honey black market. It's one of countless areas in which government needs to be pushed back to the limited role that a free and prosperous people needs.

Friday, June 22, 2012

They all add up!

I have never met anyone who doesn't agree that government size and government spending are out of control. Yet, it seems that everyone has a pet government program that they think is an exception to government waste and excess.

Examples of government (yes, even your local government) going beyond it's proper role include:
Art museums
Attracting new businesses with tax breaks funded involuntarily by existing businesses and homeowners
Business loans
Business parks
City beautification projects
Convention centers
Dog parks
Electric service
Equestrian trails
Farmers markets
Farm subsidies
Food subsidies
Food "stamps"
"Free" government schools
Head Start
Health clinics
Homeless shelters and kitchens
Home loans
Industrial parks
Internet service
Karate and other martial arts schools
Mass transit
Phone service
Public radio
Recreation centers
Shopping centers
Social Security
Sports and other recreational programs
State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP)
Stadiums for professional sports teams
Student loans
Subsidies for "green" energy
Swimming pools
Trash pickup
Am I the only taxpayer who has noticed that the cost of all these pet government projects add up?

Am I the only taxpayer who has noticed that politicians never really disclose the operating and maintenance costs of new facilities such as swimming pools and how those costs typically exceed projected revenues?

Am I the only taxpayer who has noticed that private enterprise simply cannot compete with the deep pockets of a government that has chosen to take over a private-sector function?

Am I the only taxpayer who has noticed that small businesses go away when government establishes or subsidizes competition to those small businesses?

Am I the only taxpayer who has noticed that every one of these pet government projects can be better served by charity and/or by private enterprise in a free market and that when government get involved, costs soar while quality goes down?

Before you ask your local, state, or federal government to establish any of the things listed above or anything else that is not specifically mentioned in the applicable constitution or charter, ask yourself,
Why has not private enterprise filled that need?"
A careful evaluation will show that smart businessmen probably have already done a few things:
1 - They've done a market study and found that the revenue from a $12 million art museum would be a huge money hole or that nobody will buy a car that costs a quarter of a million dollars and will only travel 50 miles without recharging.
2 - They've learned that government is likely to jump in with a taxpayer-subsidized or government-owned competition.
3 - They've considered all the regulations, fees, permits, and taxes involved.
Voters need to start asking themselves, "What is the proper role of government?" The answer is best given in the Declaration of Independence: To secure (protect) our God-given rights. Government's role is not to entertain us nor coddle us. When government goes beyond its proper role, it actually infringes on the rights of the people by taking their property (money) to fund somebody's pet project.
Would you be willing to give up your favorite federal program if it meant never having to pay the income tax again? — Harry Browne
We need smarter voters -- voters who can add up the costs of government!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Who needs a college education?

I have a Master's Degree. Absolutely nothing in my six-year college schooling gave me the skills needed in my chosen careers: military officer and airline pilot. In fact, most college graduates use very little of their college schooling in their post-college occupations. In almost all cases, the graduate's employer teaches its new employees all the skills they need.

Why, then do employers seek people with college degrees? Simply because we're all over-schooled and it's assumed that a person who isn't over-schooled is somehow defective. The possession of a degree is simply used as a discriminator to sort job applicants. Another way to look at it is as education inflation -- because everyone is over-schooled, the value of the schooling has fallen.

Purportedly to protect the public, some occupations require certification of specific skills. Such occupations include educators, engineers, attorneys, and medical personnel. These days, a college education is generally the only path to attain that certification. But, realistically, anyone with reasonable intelligence could be trained to fill any of these occupations through OJT. Yes, even a surgeon or an architect. (One of my great-grandfathers was an attorney -- he passed the bar exam by self-study in 1874.) All college schooling does is establish some standardization and documentation of the training and certification process.

If a college degree signifies anything meaningful, it is to identify persons with at least average intelligence who can set a goal and stick with it. Thus, it is a very expensive new-hire screening tool which saddles the graduate with debt comparable to a home mortgage. Surely there is a screening process that costs less than $100k.

Perhaps the most significant impact government schools from K through graduate school has on their students is more appropriately called indoctrination -- not education. We borrow $100k to pay for that? And, don't get me started on the popular pity-me degrees (eg women's studies, black studies, etc.) that have absolutely no value whatsoever in the real world other than to sow and feed feelings of hate and bitterness in the minds of students who have never learned to reason.

Instead of setting college degrees as a way to identify a person's value in society and the workplace, how about restoring the quality of education we had in grades 1 through 9 100 years ago before the "progressives" took over education? I have a copy of a letter written in 1925 by my paternal grandfather to my grandmother. I think he only had a sixth or seventh grade education. Yet, very few of today's college graduates have the writing skills, including grammar, spelling, and penmanship that Grandpa had. And Grandpa didn't have to borrow $100k to learn those skills.

There is no doubt that everyone needs a good education in order to be a productive citizen. That education must include reading, writing, mathmatics, science, history, civics, economics, and logic. With those skills, people are prepared to teach themselves virtually anything that interests them. In preparation for most occupations, a very good education can be accomplished in less than 9 years in schools patterned after a pre-1900 school. In most cases, everything else in todays schools (including at the college level) is fluff.

All that said, get the training you needs for the field of employment that best fits your interests and abilities and avoid debt in attaining that training. If college doesn't fit that end, avoid it. If one needs a college education because it's the only path to one's chosen career, by all means, do it, but avoid taking on debt to accomplish that goal. Otherwise, we all need to abandon the ideas that a college degree is useful or necessary for most occupations and that a person without a degree is defective or inferior.
"My grandmother wanted me to have an education so she kept me out of school." — Margaret Mead

"I've never let my school interfere with my education." — Mark Twain