Skip to content

Housing the Homeless

We have lots of media attention recently to the problem of housing the homeless. Local nonprofits are studying the issue with seminars and research reports. But nearly all these efforts focus on the same tired solutions, more government actions, and more government spending. For those of us who believe in market forces and the good intentions of most people, the solution is clear: It is the government that is obstructing the solution. We have far too many building restrictions and zoning restrictions. The government just needs to get out of the way.

Henry David Thoreau said it best: Government never of itself furthered any enterprise, but by the alacrity with which it got out of its way. The character inherent in the American people has done all that has been accomplished; and it would have done more if the government had not sometimes got in its way.

New ACC Commissioner Needs Guidance

Newly elected Arizona Corporation Commissioner Lea Marquez Peterson wants APS to slash its rates but she is dreaming if she thinks she can accomplish this, even with her eight suggestions for the new APS CEO to focus on to lower costs. There are two problems with Marquez Peterson’s approach. The first that she tends to favor micromanagement of the utility companies, especially imposing green power production methods such as wind and solar. These will increase costs. It is simply not possible for political bureaucrats to know in advance what the proper mix of coal/gas/biomass/hydro/nuclear/solar/wind should be

But second, and more significant, none of her eight suggestions will allow for competition. This is the ONLY long-term approach that can cause APS customers to get the lowest rates possible. I know this because I am familiar with the rate making process, having been a staff member at the Corporation Commission for four years, having studied rate making in my MBA program, and having monitored the ACC for over 40 years. Ratemaking is a VERY complex process, and it is simply not possible for government bureaucrats (or anyone else) to know what constitutes “fair” rates. Therefore, ratemaking inevitably devolves into a political process, not an economic analysis.

The accountants and lawyers and economists at APS are far smarter than the government bureaucrats at the ACC and will always succeed in preserving their revenue stream……..unless…..they are forced to compete. Government monopolies never benefit the citizens, always the regulated entity wins. It is time to set APS free and let them compete.

Voting is not a Right

Almost every day there is something in the media about the “right” to vote. This is misleading because voting is not a right; it is a privilege granted by government, similar to a driver’s license. Rights, on the other hand, are granted by God or by nature if you prefer. They are basically the right to be left alone to do whatever you like……if you respect that same right for everyone else.

The logical question follows: Who should get the privilege to vote? In a democracy, voting is basically the way that the citizenry controls the government. Therefore, the answer to the prior question relates directly to what we want the government to do. Since government only has one legitimate function and that is to protect liberty, the answer to whether any group should have the privilege of voting is to ask whether granting this privilege to any certain group will increase liberty.

This question has recently arisen with respect to felons who have served their time and with respect to 17 year olds (in California, of course) and with respect to a few other groups. My own answer to such questions as adding new voting groups is almost always “no!” And, to further clarify my point, we should ask the opposite question. If we took away voting privileges from any group, for example, 18 year olds, would we likely get more liberty? In this example, my answer is “yes!” The reason is best summarized by the adage that “if you are young and not a liberal (favoring more taxes), you haven’t got a heart but, if you are old and not conservative (favoring smaller government), you haven’t got a brain.” Essentially, when you have not yet built up assets of your own, you are more likely to approve taking away other people’s assets via the tax system, which is a reduction of liberty.

What does this analysis imply for today? One practical result might suggest that we should raise the voting age to 21. (We might even get away with it if we simultaneously lowered the drinking age to 18.) As a thought experiment, one might ask whether requirements such as providing identification at the polls, poll taxes, literacy tests, and property ownership are likely to increase liberty. Similarly, one might ask whether efforts to make voting easier, such as by ballot harvesting, mail in ballots, etc., are good ideas. Even “get out the vote” might be questioned unless it was the clear that the targeted voters would vote in favor or more liberty. Obviously, these are JUST thought experiments.

Esper Firing is Ominous

As a lifelong Republican, I praised President Trump’s court appointments, deregulation, and tax cuts but I also criticized him when he was wrong on issues like tariffs and the national debt. However, much more troubling is his recent attempt to use the active duty military for policing rioters. It appears that the firing of Secretary of Defense Mark Esper was in retaliation for Esper’s refusal to go along with such use of the military. This is the kind of stuff that tin pot dictators do to have their way and it is much more serious than either Trump’s despicable personal behavior or his other policy errors. We must be on guard for any similar acts.

Our Country is Divided: YEAH!

I am so tired of hearing pundits moan about how divided we are. Thank God we are divided. For those of us who love liberty we can only cringe at the idea that our country might not be divided, and that everyone be in favor of the current trend toward socialism. For those of you who bemoan the rancor and division, would you be OK with 100% support for liberty, i.e., everyone who is peaceful and honest should be left alone? What a wonderful world it would be. Until then, let us be divided.

Vote No on Maricopa County Prop 449

Maricopa County Proposition 449 extends a tax that is solely for the Maricopa County Special Health Care District. The reason that I recommend a no vote is because special taxing districts are a bad idea. Very few voters know anything about any of these special districts, let alone anything about the elected politicians who govern them. This means, essentially, no accountability and more bureaucracy to manage these special districts. We already have an elected Board of Supervisors for Maricopa County. These supervisors are charged with managing the spending for Maricopa County and they should be the ones responsible for all country government facilities, including the county hospital.

I am guessing that anyone reading this cannot tell me the name of any of the politicians who control the spending of this special health district. But an even better example of this special tax being an “inside job” that very few voters know anything about is to look at the “Informational Pamphlet” sent to voters. There were 37 arguments “for” the proposition and none against. Furthermore, all 37 arguments were paid for by Valleywise Health. That is, not a single person or entity cared enough about this measure to pay for their own submission to be published.

Let’s put the county hospital back under the control of the Board of Supervisors where it belongs. Vote no on Prop 449.

Phoenix, Give Yourself a $1.4 million tax cut on Nov 3rd

Phoenix voters: Can you remember the last time a tax cut was on the ballot? Neither can I, but we can give ourselves a 1.4-million-dollar tax cut on November 3rd. This is because there will be a request by the City of Phoenix to exceed the state spending limit which was passed way back in 1979. For political wonks, it was primarily sponsored by Senator Ray Rottas. I was a lobbyist then and helped him get it through the legislature. But…….unfortunately, Ray had to add some “wiggle room” into the bill in order to get enough votes. That wiggle room allowed the various political jurisdictions in the state to override the spending limits if they would take the issue directly to the voters every four years. Is anyone surprised that Phoenix has done that every four years since the first vote in 1981?

But you have the chance on November 3rd to restore some sanity to government spending and give yourself a huge tax cut. The proposition is Number 444.

Just vote NO!

Yes, Virginia, Roads Can Be Private

Those of us who call ourselves libertarian believe that government has only one legitimate function, protecting our liberty. This basically means national defense at the federal level; police and courts at the local level. Everything else should be private and operate in the world of competition and cooperation, not in the government run world based on taxation and coercion.

Most people can accept “privatization” of some services such as trash pickup and certain infrastructure but they baulk at the idea of private roads, even though these same people are aware of private freeways, called toll roads, and private local roads, usually controlled by homeowner associations. However, the roads in between these two extremes, what we usually call arterials, the roads we use to get from one place to another in a city, must be government controlled.

Not so. I just returned from visiting friends in North Oaks, Minnesota, a city of more than 5000 people where ALL the roads and ALL the lands are private. Homeowners own the lands front of their home up to the middle of the adjacent roads and they grant an easement for the roads. When you enter North Oaks there is not a gate but there is a sign which informs you that you are entering an area that is entirely private and that, if you do not have a reason to be there, you are trespassing.

You may not be surprised to learn that there is almost no crime in North Oaks, there is no graffiti, there are no people sleeping in tents along the roads, and there is none of the other objectionable features that we have come to associate with government owned property. This negative phenomenon is sometimes referred to the “tragedy of the commons.” When property is owned in common, e.g. by government, there is less incentive to take care of it than when it is private.

Could all roads be private? Yes, Virginia. Could all land be private? Certainly. Government could lease land that it needs from private owners. Current government owned land could be sold with deed restrictions for uses we want to maintain such as parks and monuments.

Finally, I was struck when visiting North Oaks to see the contrast between the conditions there and the destruction and riots of nearby Minneapolis where I went to high school. There is a lesson here.

Justice Montgomery should recuse himself on the marijuana issue

So far, Justice Bill Montgomery is not recusing himself from voting on the ballot measure to legalize marijuana, even though, as County Attorney he was the most vocal opponent of legalization and lead the fight against the last ballot measure. He certainly should recuse himself now that he is on the Supreme Court. To make this issue even more smarmy, some will remember that Montgomery’s group that was opposing the marijuana legalization was largely funded by John Kapoor, the now convicted felon who headed Insys Therapeutics, the largest producer of fentanyl, a drug that, unlike marijuana, is extremely dangerous and addictive. Obviously, Kapoor did not want any competition from marijuana.

William Perry Pendley for BLM Director

The Left has released its dogs on Trump’s possible appointment of William Perry Pendley to head the BLM. They are wrong. Pendley is a good choice for BLM director, and precisely for the reasons that are criticized by the Left. The federal government owns far too much land and, as Pendley has advocated for years, most of it should be sold. This would bring needed revenue to the government for the sale price of the land and would reduce the huge expenses of managing the land. It would also increase the revenue to the local taxing jurisdictions. But the most important benefit is simply the recognition that private interests always manage real estate better than any government entity. For example, forest fires occur almost exclusively on government managed lands, not on the vast acres of privately managed forests.

Contrary to the allegations of the Left, the BLM lands were NOT intended to be retained in perpetuity and “managed” by the federal government. One indication of this fact is that the BLM was originally called the GLO, General Land Office. These lands were intended to be sold. Leftist bureaucrats always want to maintain and expand government power. Part of that goal was embodied in the name change of the GLO to the BLM.

Appointing Pendley to the BLM post is one small step in reducing the federal government overreach and in respecting the sovereign status of our western states.