Plan Bay Area seems to be caught between a rock and a hard place. Legislators envisioned the Plan as an ambitious regional transformation of population and transportation patterns. Environmentalists and affordable-housing activists hailed its establishment on July 2013. Today, cities find themselves facing consequences as they try to implement the Plan – and offering solutions that are sure to generate even more consequences. Unfortunately, such consequences have a way of reaching into everybody’s wallet.
Libertarians are of the opinion that government creates problems for which it then creates solutions, and the solutions always result in more government control and less individual initiative. Examples abound, but let’s just look at two of Mayor Ed Lee’s recent proposals.
1. Short terms rentals
Property owners got tired of the yards-long list of rental regulations and ventured into short term rentals, which until recently thrived as agreements between willing participants. That’s over.
On July 2, 2015, Mayor Ed Lee announced the creation of the new Office of Short-Term Rental Administration and Enforcement, “funded in the Mayor’s FY 15-17 budget, to create a ‘one-stop’ shop and centralized location to streamline applications for the City’s short-term rental registry and more aggressively coordinate complaints and enforcement of the City’s short-term rental regulations.”
Simple private agreements between willing participants in a business arrangement have morphed into yet another “streamlined” bureaucratic maze.
2. Support for Small Businesses
On June 15, 2015, Mayor Ed Lee announced $6.7 million over the next two years to “expand services for small businesses and strengthen neighborhood commercial corridors.” Services will include a long laundry list of “technical assistance, access to capital, business counseling, loans, physical improvements to storefronts, and capacity-building.”
Maybe City taxpayers would better benefit if government just got out of the way and saved $6.7 million.
Cancelling out one objective with another is what government does best!
Thank you to the volunteer team that staffed the annual Libertarian booth at Pride, June 27 and 28, 2015. We are grateful to Outright Libertarians, other Bay Area Libertarian Party chapters, and Golden Gate Liberty Revolution for continuing their collaboration with the LPSF on San Francisco Pride. Members of the team gave it their all, talking to hundreds of people, giving numerous World's Smallest Political Quizzes, distributing a pile of liberty literature, and – most importantly – listening to what folks wanted to say. So what did we hear?
We heard from the many who cannot fathom how a libertarian social order would work. It won’t, as long as a belief prevails that the best model is one of “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” So we ask, “Do you see a similarity between our culture of wealth distribution and that of the former Soviet Union, or that of Greece today? One is gone, and in the other there is great suffering.”
We heard from some who are beginning to see the drawbacks of big government, mostly thanks to major revelations such as the practices of the NSA, but are finding it difficult to see alternatives to “necessary government benefits.” Although we try our best to explain that these “benefits” translate into detrimental consequences and that the private sector is the best source of prosperity for everyone, we realize that it is difficult to let go of assistance once obtained.
We heard from the already Libertarians who are glad to see our booth. Our appreciation for their stopping by is limitless. Some simply dash over to say hello. Others stay and chat, about their feelings on libertarianism or about what they are doing back home to promote liberty. Of the latter group, we especially enjoyed our chat with a young woman from Calaveras County, who is determined to convince a handful of liberty-leaning colleagues of “Liberty on the Rocks” to follow up discussing with organized activism.
We always come away from our Pride outreach certain that we made a dent on the statist model. Whether that dent is very small, as in the case of the folks who pick up pin-back buttons or stickers and are aware of our warmly saying “thank you for stopping by,” or the dent is a little bigger, such as with near converts who after heartfelt talks leave their email address.
California has been riding the California Dream since the Gold Rush. Breathtaking views, cities that are cultural magnets, generous tax breaks for industries du jour, and liberal subsidies for the poor and middle class keep the Dream alive and the people coming.
An excellent publication by the California Department of Water Resources, California’s Most Significant Droughts, released February 2015, compares conditions surrounding these droughts and discusses the ways government is dealing with the current drought. Although the CDWR publication maintains an optimistic tone, the statistics it presents paint a challenging road ahead. A comparison could be made between the search for ways to squeeze water out of dryness and ways to continue finding oil notwithstanding diminishing supplies.
California’s exponential population growth and static development of irrigated acreage are primary conditions affecting the management of droughts. Irrigation acreage is important because at present agriculture is still one of the state’s significant industries, and population growth indicates that residents are allotted a constantly diminishing share of water supplies. These primary conditions are exacerbatedby environmental efforts to maintain or restore wild life habitats and an exceedingly convoluted web of “water rights.” The CDWR publication offers more visions of increasingly stringent conservation measures than visions of increased water supplies. In other words, as population grows, your food becomes more expensive and your showers shorter.
Charles Murray, of The Bell Curve and Losing Ground fame, has a new modest proposal, which he discussed during his presentation at the Commonwealth Club on May 18th. The proposal, outlined in Dr. Murray’s latest book By the People: Rebuilding Liberty Without Permission, suggests that ordinary people who are aware of how far this country has moved from the original intentions of its founders start the process of return by creating and using a legal defense "Madison Fund." We pay into this fund like we pay for insurance. When we are annoyed enough with a really useless and detrimental government rule, we break the rule and use the Madison Fund to pay for our legal defense. The idea is to make it costly for government to enforce useless rules, some of which have profound effects on ordinary people’s lives.
Some examples of this type of civil disobedience are the strategies of Uber, Lyft, and AirBnb. The non-aggression principle is followed as no one is being harmed, the public benefits from an efficient service, and the government is left with the difficult task of trying to undo a popular practice that voters are happy with. Murray suggests that everyone who is concerned with government overreach break at least one rule that enjoys a consensus of being useless and detrimental. Rules that stand in the way of our running a business or raising our families as we see fit are good choices.
The impetus of Dr. Murray’s proposal is his concern that the unique “American project,” in which government is limited and the individual is sovereign, is almost gone. Courts and legislators have corrupted the role of the enumerated powers, the commerce clause, and the general welfare, thereby reversing the powers between people and government. The Founding Fathers intended the individual to be sovereign, but today, government sees itself as sovereign. The individual, once the boss, is now the servant. Instead of the very special American project, we now have a maze of bureaucrats regulating every aspect of our lives.
Pinning our hopes on electing a president or legislators who would return the country to its Constitutional roots is not realistic. Special interests wield such power and command such immense amounts of campaign funds that change via the legislative process is unlikely. Liberty is more likely to be rebuilt when action is initiated by the people without permission.