THE YAL DEBATE TEAM AND THEIR GUEST DEBATERS
Heaps of praise to the great debates Young Americans for Liberty presented on March 10th at the Cesar Chavez Student Center of San Francisco State University. Three sets of student members of YAL and their guest debaters ably sparred on three subjects: The U.S. National Debt – Stimulus or Austerity? What Constitutes Free Speech? Income Inequality – Causes and Remedies. It must not go unnoticed that YAL is braving the super progressive environment of SFSU to reframe challenges and offer solutions that work.
Libertarians are forever sounding alarms about the consequences of legislative decisions. Besides challenges to individual self determination, property rights, and voters’ ability to hold accountable via the ballot box individuals who make decisions on our behalf, Plan Bay Area is predictably contributing to the housing crunch.
As we noted in our article Priority Development Areas and Your Neighborhood, Plan Bay Area was designed to confine population, housing, and commercial growth to transit corridors, ostensibly in order to reduce travel distances to and from work and shopping (not much mention of schools, places of worship, or getting together with friends living outside of PDA’s). Therefore, San Francisco is doing a lot of construction in the eastern corridors. The Plan Bay Area map seen here shows the principal transit corridors highlighted in red, pink, and purple.
Apparently, the fallout has already begun. As Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez says in his article Why Not Look to Westside to Build Homes?, the adage “Go West!” does not apply past the Panhandle; past the Panhandle it is more like, “Fat Chance!"
And the eastside residents are crying “Not Fair!” So, our legislators are retooling. Supervisor Eric Mar says that growth can’t just be on the east side. Supervisor David Campos may propose a moratorium on market rate housing development in parts of the Mission; which means no development at all unless taxpayers come up with boatloads of money to build even more subsidized housing than is already planned.
We Libertarians would like to remind our readers that Supervisors Mar and Campos were enthusiastic supporters of Plan Bay Area – and therefore its Priority Development Areas. Perhaps look under the cushions for more taxpayer money to develop transit corridors in the western parts of The City ASAP?
We recommend Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez’ article in the San Francisco Examiner of February 17, 2014: On Guard: Why Not Look To Westside to Build Homes?
The forthcoming closure of Borderlands Books on San Francisco’s Valencia Street has been front page news in several publications. When any small business cannot make ends meet, we Libertarians lament, since we see the success of independent small businesses as a prerequisite to a free and open market. When a small business receives its final blow from government, we view that as doubly sad. Please read the heartfelt comment on the closure on the Borderlands website. The comment presents a picture that no book-learned economist or opinion-issuing political party can match. Here is an excerpt:
"In November, San Francisco voters overwhelmingly passed a measure that will increase the minimum wage within the city to $15 per hour by 2018. Although all of us at Borderlands support the concept of a living wage in principle and we believe that it's possible that the new law will be good for San Francisco -- Borderlands Books as it exists is not a financially viable business if subject to that minimum wage. Consequently we will be closing our doors no later than March 31st.
Many businesses can make adjustments to allow for increased wages. The cafe side of Borderlands, for example, should have no difficulty at all. Viability is simply a matter of increasing prices. And, since all the other cafes in the city will be under the same pressure, all the prices will float upwards. But books are a special case because the price is set by the publisher and printed on the book."
Indeed, perhaps minimum wage increases can benefit certain segments of the workforce. For example, workers of large corporations might benefit, since those corporations, especially those that are diversified and/or enjoy monopolies, can raise prices to cover increased wage costs without affecting their sales. The workers might benefit, that is, if they do not need to purchase the higher-priced products of their employer.
So, the San Francisco leadership talks the talk about supporting diverse neighborhood small businesses in preference to big box stores. But does the leadership walk the walk? Apparently not, in our view.
Please visit the Borderlands Books website. Or better still, visit the store and buy some books.
Update Note: An interesting development has occurred at Borderlands Books. Owner Alan Beatts and his staff have come up with a novel idea that might keep the bookstore open: Sponsorships of $100 annually. A preliminary list of benefits sponsors would enjoy includes reserved seating at author events, rental of the café and/or the bookstore for after-hours events, access to preview sales of rare books, and sponsor-only gatherings. The San Francisco Examiner reported on February 22 that 150 sponsors emerged by the end of the day after the sponsorship program announcement. This is a good example of the entrepreneurial spirit at work!
More Update Notes: One of our readers pointed out that San Francisco’s minimum wage was not “government’s fault” but the result of the passage of Proposition J by voters in November 2014. It is true that voters approved Proposition J. To us, however, it is important to note that Proposition J was placed on the ballot by the Board of Supervisors and will be enforced by government bureaucracies. This kind of minimum wage is not the result of the free market, where the output of an inexperienced fast food worker who burns the burgers and breaks a lot of dishes might be worth no more than $5 an hour, and whose output might be worth $1,000 an hour when the same individual graduates from medical school and becomes an experienced brain surgeon.
Thank you to the reader for his observation. We love to receive your thoughtful comments. Our contact information is on "Contact Us." We have a Facebook page and a Discussion List.
San Francisco is unquestionably a progressive town. All elected officials are Democrats. Compassion means rent control, subsidized housing, minimum wage, City mandated workplace healthcare and paid leave, free MUNI for students and seniors, and 17% of workers unionized vs. 11% nationwide. As for voters, they seem to revel in approving bond initiatives for all manner of spending.
Therefore, it might come as a surprise that the City and neighboring counties have lots of liberty-leaning folks who believe in the benefits to all of small government, free markets, personal liberty, and personal responsibility.
Liberty-leaning The Independent Institute thrives in nearby Oakland. This non-partisan non-profit organization sponsors in-depth studies of economic and social issues. Its website describes “The mission of The Independent Institute is to boldly advance peaceful, prosperous, and free societies grounded in a commitment to human worth and dignity.” http://www.independent.org/
Mountain View based Libertarian Futurist Society honors pro-freedom fiction writers with the annual Prometheus Award. From their website: “Do you love liberty and Science Fiction? Do you dream of a free future? Are you a fan of writers like Ayn Rand, Robert Heinlein, Poul Anderson, Vernor Vinge, James Hogan, Neal Stephenson, and Ken MacLeod? If so, then join the Libertarian Futurist Society!” Now, that can only be described as cool! http://lfs.org/aboutus.shtml
Libertarian (Big and small “L”) radio also thrives in the Bay Area. We recommend that you check out the websites of Bob Zadeck http://www.bobzadek.com/ and Freedomain Radio hosted by Stefan Molyneux https://freedomainradio.com/
There are several libertarian Meetup Groups, including ours which is sponsored by Starchild, our Outreach Director:
Free Exchange http://www.meetup.com/Free-Exchange/
Freedomain Radio http://www.meetup.com/Freedomain-Radio-Bay-Area/
Golden Gate Liberty Revolution http://www.meetup.com/RonPaulSF/
Libertarian Party of Alameda County Meetup http://www.meetup.com/libertarian-438/
Libertarian Party of San Francisco Meetup http://www.meetup.com/the-LPSF/
San Francisco Bitcoin Social http://www.meetup.com/San-Francisco-Bitcoin-Social/
So, if you think that the progressive approach to personal liberty and personal responsibility is not entirely to your liking, connect with people that feel as you do – check out the websites above.
Today’s headlines proclaim that the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency board of directors voted unanimously on January 20th to fund “free” Muni rides for “low to moderate income” seniors and people with disabilities. The press is parroting the wording in the SFMTA’s press release announcing the “free” service. Would it be too much to ask that City officials and the press quit using the word “free” to describe “subsidized?” Every good or service has a price, and someone pays when consumption occurs. This is true whether we are talking about lettuce, jeans, housing, or transportation.
The subsidy is not insignificant when we consider the annual income thresholds to which it applies: $67,950 for singles, $77,700 for couples, and $97,100 for families of four.
The senior and disabled subsidy is part of a list of other decisions made by the SFMTA Board, such as increasing service on some lines, enhanced maintenance practices, cleaning up vehicles, and increasing staff.
Funding for what we consider to be ongoing service maintenance will come in part from the passage in November 2014 of Proposition A ($500 million in general obligation bond) and Proposition B (Charter Amendment requiring the City to increase the base amount provided to the SFMTA by a percentage of population growth). Definitely nothing “free” here!
Funding for the senior and disabled subsidy could also come from Propositions A and B, but City officials are hoping to extract some more money from the tech industry. Our question here would be -- why would any business give money away to the City unless it received benefits from the City, such as tax breaks, or were confident it could pass the cost on to consumers?