Friday, January 26, 2007

Selling monopolies in Illinois

The state of Illinois is apparently going to sell off the its lottery to a private business to raise some quick cash. Presumably they'll hand over some of the physical lottery infrastructure to the buyer- that number-selecting machine with the swirling balls that they show on TV, for instance- but the real asset being sold here is simply the right to forcibly exclude competitors, and have the state of Illinois provide the muscle. If someone tries to compete with Lottery Inc., the cops will throw them in jail.

What will follow is predictable. The "private" lottery company will use its monopoly power to exploit the lottery-playing public. People will get angry, and what will they say? They'll hold this up as proof that the private sector doesn't work. Yet again, the free market will be blamed for the failings of interventionism and cronyism.

Hat tip: Hit and Run.

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007


For once, the featured letter in the morning's Chicago Tribune didn't make me cringe. It's a nice criticism of the Chicago media's infatuation with Senator Barack Obama. The letter writer points out the elephant in the room- for all the yammer about Obama rejecting "ideology" and being some sort of universally appealing figure, Obama is a resolute big-government statist who would further the erosion of our liberty. And he's right- the media has been so focused on the man's ethnicity and skill with crowd-pleasing platitudes (Mr. Obama approves of hope, apparently) that they seem to keep sliding over his actual beliefs. The writer gets a nice whack in at the supposed goodness of "bipartisanship," too.

If you're not from Illinois, you may not understand why I found this such a breath of fresh air. It seems pretty rare to find any reference to Obama in the mainstream press here that isn't fawning over him. I don't know what the coverage is like in other states, but in Illinois it's absolutely relentless. You can't open the paper without some article or column about how unifying or caring or bipartisan or hopeful or positive or charismatic Obama is. It's like being force-fed cotton candy. Kudos to the Tribune for prominently featuring some dissent.

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Sunday, January 14, 2007

New stuff

I've got new articles at Strike the Root and The premise of the latter is rather inflammatory, but I stand by it.

Meanwhile, over at my other blog, I've got a review of Gridlinked by Neal Asher. (New and slightly improved from the old version I posted a few months back.)

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Saturday, January 13, 2007

We are not amused!

The featured letter to the editor in the Thursday edition of the Chicago Tribune was a saddening example of what might be called the monarchical view of the American president. The writer was quite angry about the fact that, since the Ford administration by his reckoning, the president has often been a figure of amusement and fun. Laughing at the president, the way one would laugh at a commoner- outrageous! The author was quite angry, and considered this a serious ethical lapse. It's ironic- the author of the letter was clearly quite a supporter of the American form of democratic government, and yet held an attitude better suited to the subject of a king ruling by divine right than a citizen of a republic.

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Friday, January 12, 2007

New libertarian resource

This is pretty cool: there's a new site called Liberty Loop that's a sort of for libertarians, where you can post and vote on articles. It's just starting out, but it looks pretty good so far. Have a look.

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Fetch me some ipecac

According to an article at, some folks at a website called HotSoup have created something called the "Ford Pledge," which goes as follows:

"In honor of Gerald Ford, his decency, and the tremendous sacrifices he made to heal this country at a time of division, I pledge to spend 2007 working towards a similar depolarization – by cooperating with peers from opposing camps, by putting my countrymen’s needs before my party’s, and by making sacrifices if necessary. We stand stronger when united, and I pledge to lead my country by good example, just as I have been led by Gerald Ford’s good example. I pledge to spend 2007 working towards that strong unity, and I dedicate that work to Gerald Ford’s memory."
As is made clear in the rest of the article, the "tremendous sacrifice" was Ford's pardon of Nixon. Yep, we're deep in vital center, big government, "Ford preserved the public's trust in the state by concealing the crimes of its officials and thank God he did" territory here.

Fortunately, this will almost certainly die at the pretty platitudes stage, for which we should be grateful. Each party is damaging enough when it is alone, and partially opposed by the other party; the sort of unity proposed here would be a nightmare for any lover of liberty.

Hat tip: Hit and Run.

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Monday, January 08, 2007

The decline of the right, Exhibit A

In a move that seems almost calculated to showcase the degeneration of the Republican Party and American mainstream conservatism, Fox News talking head and conservative commentator Sean Hannity has a feature on his new show in which he declares whoever has pissed him off that week an "Enemy of the State." This week it's Sean Penn, for calling Hannity mean names. There's a video at the link.

Actually, this isn't the first time conservatives have been tossing this phrase around as a term of abuse. About a year ago, at (the neoconservative web magazine edited by David Horowitz), they were advertising T-shirts with the slogan "ACLU: Enemy of the State." That certainly wasn't as prominent as this, though.

You know, I first became politically aware early in the Clinton years, and I can vividly remember a time when many conservatives would have reveled in such a designation. They weren't as radical as I am now, and obviously a lot of those people are now raving statists, but there was nonetheless a lot of intense hostility to the state among many conservatives back then that is all but gone now. Too bad.

Hat tip: Hit and Run.

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New article

I've got a new article at Strike the Root. Hope you like it. Meanwhile, over at my other blog, I've got some stuff on the late Gordon R. Dickson.

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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

An exercise in futility

Sheldon Richman has been talking, here and here, about the income tax protest movement. If you don't know what that is, give him a quick look before reading further. In brief, they believe that federal income taxes are not constitutional and seek to demonstrate this in court.

I'm not all that interested in the merits of the tax protesters' claims, though Richman seems to do a good job of refuting them. What baffles me about the tax protesters is their strange optimism about the honesty of the government: that is, their apparent belief that if they prove that federal income taxation is unconstitutional, the federal courts will actually give a damn.

These are the same courts that have decided that growing food on your own land for your own consumption constitutes "interstate commerce," that McCain-Feingold did not violate the First Amendment, and that seizing land from one private party to give to another private party is constitutionally protected "public use." Do they really seem like they're that interested in massively decreasing state power over constitutional niceties? Even if everything the tax protesters say about the law is true, the idea that the federal government would give up hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue every year for the sake of the Constitution is absurd. They don't care about the law nearly that much.

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