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the new “Independent Republican Party”

Unfortunately, most Republicans today continue to be too dependent on former president Donald Trump, a person not worthy of emulating. For that reason, I have formed, and trademarked, a new organization called the “Independent Republican Party.” Any registered Republican is welcome to join. There are no dues. The only commitment required is standing up for traditional Republican principles and remaining independent of the influence of Donald Trump. It is important to take this action now because the Republican Party is losing its moral high ground by failing to censure Trump’s bad behavior. And, if anyone needs to be reminded of what principles we should stand for, they need only read “Conscience of a Conservative,” either the early edition by Barry Goldwater or the more recent one by Jeff Flake.

Come on, Republicans; in your heart you know he’s wrong.

What Guns Do I Really Need?

In the ongoing debate over gun control you often hear statements like “no one really needs an AK-47 or an AR-15” (these are usually mislabeled “assault weapons”) or “no one needs a 30-round magazine.” So, what guns do I really need? Since many people, if not most, buy guns for self-defense, I think it is instructive to ask what guns are needed by those who are charged with defending us. At the national level we have our military, and they think they need weapons like fighter jets and nuclear bombs. I agree. At the local level, our defenders are police and security guards. Hardly anyone would claim that they need fighter jets or nuclear bombs. The military think they need tanks and howitzers. I agree. Do police need these weapons? I say no. But our police forces in recent years have become militarized and there are some police forces who own these types of weapons. This is an alarming trend because, while the mission of the military is often to “kill people and break things,” the role of the police is to “serve and protect.”

To further this analysis, I like to revive the saying that clarifies why I need defensive weapons: “when seconds count, the police are often only minutes away.” Therefore, I would argue that a good way to answer the question of what guns I need is to ask what guns the police need so that I can successfully defend myself until they arrive. I have established the fact that police do not need nuclear weapons or tanks. What about grenade launchers or fully automatic weapons? Again, given the mission of the police, I would argue that they do not need these weapons. Therefore, neither do I. What about handguns? It seems obvious to me that both police and security guards need these types of weapons. Therefore, so do I. But I cannot imagine why they would need 30-round magazines for these weapons. Therefore, neither do I.

Finally, we get to the toughest question. Do police need AR-15s? In the past, a few selected long guns for sniper kinds of activities and shotguns for closer range incidents were adequate. It seems to me that is still the case. Also, while I can certainly see the need for large capacity magazines for military soldiers, I cannot see that same need for police.

Therefore, I must conclude that people who purchase weapons for self-defense “need” weapons like handguns, shotguns, and rifles, but not AR-15s or large capacity magazines (or fighter jets or nuclear bombs or tanks or howitzers or grenade launchers).I hope my comments finally clarify this issue so there will not be a need for further debate.

Edward Snowden is a Martyr

I have recently learned that misdeeds of government officials are nearly impossible to expose. I learned this by reading Edward Snowden’s book “Permanent Record.” It was shocking. I was already familiar with Snowden’s story; that he had exposed the U.S. government’s mass surveillance program to collect nearly ALL communications by Americans, irrespective of whether these Americans were suspected of any wrongdoing and doing so without a specific court order. This practice must have been known by many senior government officials since two presidents lied about this to the American people, George W Bush, and Barack Obama. James Clapper, former Director of National Intelligence even lied about it under oath to a congressional committee.

Edward Snowden released information that exposed the lie. I had always assumed that similar “whistle blowers” could be relied on to do the same whenever there was serious malfeasance by government officials. But what shocked me after reading Snowden’s book was his outlining, in great detail, the extreme difficulty in getting information out to the public about such malfeasance. As a result, I now fear there is much more that the public does not know about such malfeasance. We need to encourage and support whistle blowers like Snowden, not threaten them with life in prison.

Expand Social Gambling

House Bill 2772 would expand off-reservation gambling but would turn over control to the Arizona State Department of Gaming. Bad idea. If we are to expand legal gambling, it should be regulated by market forces, not the government. If licenses are required for gaming, they should be auctioned, as suggested by local columnist Bob Robb. Bob also questions the “prudence and morality of making state programs more dependent on gambling revenues.” This is a subject that deserves more attention.

Several months ago, I attended a meeting of the Governor’s Regulatory Review Council where the Department of Gaming was making a presentation about their budget. They began by stating that their mission was to maximize revenue to the state while maintaining the dignity of Arizona. I could not help but make a comment during the call to the public: I suggested that their state mission was impossible because there is nothing dignified about Arizona running a gaming operation (the lottery), especially since gaming is such a reprehensible action that private citizens are prohibited from engaging in it.

End the Draft

By continuing to make Selective Service registration and draft eligibility apply only to men, the Coalition for Men is arguing that the system is violating constitutional rights of men by sex discrimination. They are certainly correct but there is a much simpler argument that does not carry the baggage of sex discrimination. That argument is simply that the draft is slavery and we abolished slavery in the 1800s. This concept is further embodied in the libertarian notion of self-ownership, that we own our bodies, and no one has a greater right to control them.

My thanks to the retired NSA director and the nine general and flag officers who are supporting the idea of ending the draft, but I wish they had made their arguments based on individual rights rather than sex discrimination.

Sidewalk Sale to Help the Homeless

A recent newspaper article had a suggestion for how to solve the problem of homeless people wandering about near the downtown Phoenix homeless shelters. The article suggested allowing groups and businesses to buy the sidewalks. This would allow for control of the pedestrian traffic and ensure that some entity has responsibility for these people. (We have all heard of the “tragedy of the commons” where public property is destroyed because no single entity is responsible for it.)

I would take this idea one step farther and suggest that both the sidewalks and the streets be privatized. The same idea of responsibility for pedestrians on the sidewalks would then apply to traffic on the streets. I believe that would significantly reduce vagrancy, traffic accidents, and crime. For anyone who has not seen how this would work, you need only look at a few homeowners’ associations or, for a much grander example, look at the town of North Oaks, Minnesota. It is not gated but all the land is private, including streets and walkways. There is no litter, no vagrancy, and little or no crime. Surprised?

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.