Issues

We would like to offer the Libertarian view concerning subjects that affect us all, such as education, interference with free markets, social mores, individual rights.  Please read our articles on various issues, as well as the summary of our views below.

Crime and Violence:  We suggest the following:  1) Address the root causes of crime, such as mediocre schools, lack of economic opportunities, dependence on government, and misguided policies like the War on Drugs.  2) Require that criminals pay victims restitution for medical expenses, loss of property, and pain and suffering.  3) Focus on real crimes that harm the innocent.

Education of children:  Monopolies are generally viewed as inefficient means of delivering products or services.  In the absence of competition, monopolies have no incentive to produce the best possible goods.  Government schools are no exception.  Therefore, we support diverse systems which offer families the greatest choice, encourage highest parental involvement, and force competing systems to deliver their best efforts.  Poor children often suffer the most under the current educational system, since those that want to learn, lacking choices, are grouped with those who choose to be uninvolved and disruptive. We encourage families in poorly-performing school districts to explore alternatives such as, charter schools, voucher programs, and parent-managed co-ops, including home schooling co-ops

Environment:  Individuals bear primary responsibility for their own well being as well as that of Mother Earth.  The free market responds to consumers’ demands.  If consumers keep themselves informed and demand products and services that do the least environmental harm, the need for government’s vast array of costly environmental regulation disappears.

Foreign Policy:  "Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations -- entangling alliances with none." (Thomas Jefferson, First Inaugural Address).  Build positive relationships, with emphasis on free trade.  Avoid negative relationships, with emphasis on military non-intervention.

Gun Laws:  Prohibition did not stop liquor use.  The War on Drugs did not stop drug use.  Gun prohibition will not stop criminals from owning guns.  The Bill of Rights is intended to protect people from a government wanting to go rogue, and the Second Amendment of the Bill of Rights gives people the ultimate means to do so.

Health Care:  Regulation increases the cost of any product, including healthcare.  Transparency, competition, and an informed citizenry keep costs more affordable than healthcare supported by a vast, resource-wasting bureaucracy.

Immigration:  Whenever laws conflict with how people actually live and sectors of the economy actually work, problems arise.  No amount of “immigration reform” will change these contradictory facts:  1) Sectors of the U.S. economy need low-skilled workers, while everybody’s aspiration is to go to college.  2) Sectors of the economy need highly-skilled technicians who are flexible in their demands, while everybody’s aspiration is a highly-paid position with all kinds of benefits. We need to remove barriers that interfere with how people actually live.

Personal Liberty:  Libertarians are guided by the principle of non-aggression.  Guided thus, individuals should be free to make choices for themselves and to accept responsibility for the consequences of the choices they make. If government is held to the limited responsibilities spelled out in the Constitution, it will not intrude in individuals’ privacy, preferences, or choices.

Poverty and Welfare:  Government has the habit of first creating a problem, then passing vast amounts of legislation in attempts to solve it.  Policies such as taxation and regulation discourage entrepreneurism that creates jobs.  “Solutions” have done nothing but make more people dependent on government and less able to fend for themselves.  A better approach is to remove barriers to entrepreneurial activity, and institute a dollar for dollar tax credit for donations to charities that help those who truly need assistance.

Taxes:  Government's role needs to be limited to its Constitutional function of protecting life, property, and individual rights, as well as defending us from foreign attack.  Those functions can be funded by minimal taxation, as was the original intent of our Constitution.  It should be evident that the unchecked growth of government at all levels requires more taxation, which removes money from the free market economy that provides livelihoods.

OLD COMMERCE HIGH

Nourse TheaterCommerce High Gargoyle

 

The renovated Nourse Theater and building art at the old Commerce High School.

 

 

Libertarians favor individual action over government involvement. Government involvement removes individual initiative and accountability, often producing poor results.  We are following this logic when we recommend “No” votes on proposals to implement or expand most government programs.  

 

This logic is evident, for example, in school systems.  Parochial and charter schools, often serving disadvantaged children, are known to achieve better results with less money than traditional public schools.  An interesting and colorful piece of history of the San Francisco School District illustrates our point. 

 

Teachers old enough to remember call it “the old Commerce High School.”  Commerce High was established in 1883 as the business department of Boys High School.  Its original location was on Nob Hill, but it relocated to Market Street just before it went up in the flames in the 1906 earthquake and fire.  It was rebuilt at Grove and Larkin streets, only to move again to Franklin and Fell Streets in order to make way for the Civic Auditorium. 

 

In its new and as it turned out permanent location on Franklin and Fell, the school received a loftier name, High School of Commerce.  In 1927, a magnificent 1,800-seat student auditorium was built in the school site.  The Nourse Auditorium, named to honor educator Joseph Nourse, was used for assemblies and other school events.

 

In 1951, High School of Commerce closed.  However the splendid auditorium, with its Beaux-Arts design and grand hanging chandeliers became a coveted destination for special events and fine arts performances.  In 1985, this jewel of San Francisco and revenue generator unceremoniously fell victim to San Francisco Judge Ira Brown.

 

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PROHIBITION - THE FAILURE THAT WON'T GO AWAY

Agents destroying liquorLibertarians have always failed to see why the end of Alcohol Prohibition is seen as a good thing while the war on drugs is tolerated.  December 5, 2014, marks the 81st anniversary of the end of Prohibition, a good day to wonder why a colossal failure such as the idea of prohibition won't go away.

 

The 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, establishing alcohol prohibition, came about thanks to the temperance societies concerned about drunkenness in the family, factory owners wanting to increase workers’ productivity, and progressive reformers. “Progressive reformers also took to Prohibition for they saw it as a continuation of their efforts to improve society in general. Temperance societies and Progressives alike saw the need for more governmental control and involvement in citizens' lives.”1

 

The Amendment prohibited the production, distribution, and sale of alcohol, and it worked – it first.  Alcohol consumption fell by 30%!  However, all was not well.  “The intensity of the temperance advocates was matched only by the inventiveness of those who wanted to keep drinking…The illegal production and distribution of liquor, or bootlegging, became rampant.”2  Bootleggers fought for turf and profits.  There was no shortage of recruits, “Jobs were scarce and people needed to provide for their families, gangsterism was dangerous but provided an easy way to make money.”3

 

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BLOODY THURSDAY

Funeral of dock workers

Funeral of dock workersREMEMBERING THE WATERFRONT ON THE 80TH ANNIVERSARY OF "BLOODY THURSDAY" 

 

2014 marked the 80th anniversary of San Francisco’s Pacific Cost Maritime Strike and its tragic Bloody Thursday.  The strike stands out as a remarkable story, a struggle for dignity and self determination, a watershed in history, and ultimately a testament to the inevitability of change – change that often comes about or is accelerated by economic pressures that affect every single one of us.

 

In the late 1930’s and early 1940’s, the port of San Francisco was the second largest port in the United States in value of cargo.  Thousands of men labored at the docks, grateful to have a job at all and submissive to a system of humiliation and back-breaking work.  The system was dominated by the twin challenges of “Shape Up” and “Speed Up.” 

 

For dock workers, each day started with the shape-up, “The longshore hiring process up to 1934 was a degrading daily ritual known as a ‘shape-up.’…Men gathered, or ‘shaped,’ on the street outside the San Francisco Ferry Building at 6 or 7 o’clock in the morning in the hope of being chosen for a day’s work by a gang boss. Bridges [labor leader Harry Bridges] recalled that ‘We were hired off the streets like a bunch of sheep, standing there from six o’clock in the morning, in all kinds of weather’.”

 

The dockworkers’ day was subject to the speed-up, facilitated by the many levels of competition that dominated the longshoremen’s industry.  Dock workers were pitted against one another at the stand-up, gang bosses that picked the workers were themselves picked by the many stevedore companies, the stevedore companies vied for contracts from ship owners. Unfortunately, participants in this scenario saw only one way to survive – the speed up.  “During the mid-1920s, employers began to speed up the pace by introducing new cargo handling methods, exposing workers to added risks in what was already one of the most hazardous jobs in the country. While the job was getting faster, work shifts were growing longer, sometimes lasting for 24 to 36 hours.”

 

Inevitably, dock workers rebelled and change came.  “The tide began to turn in 1933, at the height of the Great Depression, when longshore labor organizers in San Francisco obtained a charter from the ILA [International Longshoremen’s Association] for a new union local, Local 38-79, part of the American Federation of Labor (AFL). The misery of the Depression, fourteen years of oppressive working conditions, and bitter dissatisfaction with the Blue Book Union [employers’ union that operated the hiring halls] sent longshoremen flocking to the new ILA union.”

 

When change comes, as it always does, decisions need to be made.  The ILA chose to follow its militant faction led by Harry Bridges.  With an old mimeograph machine given to the group by the Communist Party, the ILA cranked out their newsletter, The Waterfront Worker, which called for union control over working conditions and an end to racial discrimination (black workers were not allowed in the union).  Solidarity soon followed.  Strength in numbers brought on the strikes.

 

“The decisive battle took place at Pier 38 on the morning of 5 July 1934, after a break for observance of the July Fourth holiday. Four thousand strikers formed a picket line around freight trains loaded with scab cargo. Police threw tear gas bombs into the crowd of strikers, who fled up nearby Rincon Hill. Picketers held the police at bay by pelting them with bricks and bottles, but were forced to retreat by a massive attack of tear gas bombs that set the hill on fire.” 

 

The end of Bloody Thursday saw two dock workers killed, 31 wounded by gunfire, 78 seriously injured. “Tens of thousands of mourners gathered in San Francisco on July 9 to honor the martyrs Sperry and Bordoise. Their caskets were placed on open trucks banked with flowers, and a small union band on another flatbed truck struck up Beethoven's funeral march…One participant recalled: ‘The sound of thousands of feet echoed up that hollow canyon — nothing else . . . It was a magnificent sight — those careworn, weary faces determined in their fight for justice thrilled me. I have never seen anything so impressive in all my life.’”

  

There was no turning back.  The dockworkers demanded and gained control of the hiring process, better working conditions, and an end to racial discrimination. 

  

Unfortunately, the “new union” accelerated another change.  In response to what the longshore employers saw as their loss of power over productivity, the “mechanization” of the Port of San Francisco started in earnest, with the new union engaging in constant labor strife in attempts to stop it.  By the 1960’s the fight was pretty much over, with the adoption of the Modernization and Mechanization Agreement (M&M) of 1960.  Harry Bridges, the militant labor leader of the 1930’s, in the 1950’ had to make the Solomonic decision to accept the M&M, “We have reached the point possibly . . . where the battle against the machine for us has become a losing one.”  His decision will always remain controversial – perhaps it was wrong to give up the fight or perhaps the decision came too late. 

 

The Port of Oakland acted sooner in accepting inevitable change by negotiating, obtaining federal funds to modernize port facilities, and providing incentives for ships to dock in Oakland instead of San Francisco.  San Francisco did not stand a chance.  The City’s “finger piers” did not accommodate the large vessels that came with containerization, planning did not include affording cargo trucks speedy travel through the Waterfront, outmoded equipment could not handle loading and unloading of ships.  To make matters for the longshoremen’s industry worse, the City’s geography did not allow for vast flat areas necessary to store the new gigantic cargo containers, and it made trucking cargo up and down hills expensive and dangerous.  “Shipping companies moved, mostly to Oakland, and many piers were left vacant. Many of the severely underused piers were not maintained. Some deteriorated and were demolished. Others burned down. Some were given new uses — usually with maritime connections. Some limited shipping has also survived”

 

In this 80th anniversary of Bloody Thursday, we continue to witness changes on the Waterfront, as it once again transforms its zeitgeist.  Buildings will go up, high-end establishments will flourish to accommodate the residents of the new buildings, a myriad of laws, rules, and regulations will attempt to control traffic and provide infrastructure.

 

And there will be the inherent resistance to change, as those with power fight to keep it.  The free market will be manipulated, natural population movements will be discouraged, class wars will prevent smooth transitions, laws and agreements will bring unintended consequences.  We will see examples of these tendencies in every political election, as we did in November 2014, with propositions to increase the minimum wage and to place an exorbitant surtax on property sales.

 

The 80th anniversary of Bloody Thursday is a good time to reflect upon the inevitability of change, as well as the negative consequences of the uncooperative resistance exhibited by both the employers and the workers in that time of strife.

  

The tale retold here was taken from the National Register of Historic Places, Section number 8, January, 2006, Port of San Francisco Embarcadero Historic District.

 

 

 

 

AS SURE AS TAXES AND MORE TAXES

Promises

We'll Tax Only the Rich!  We promise!

That was the promise politicians made in order to pass the 16th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and establish the income tax.  How is that promise working out for you?

The Libertarian Party asks “Why An Income Tax?  Before 1913, federal income taxes were rare and short lived.  America became the most prosperous nation on earth.  The U.S. government did not try to police the world or play ‘nanny’ to everyone from cradle to grave.  People took responsibility for themselves, their families, and their communities.  That is how the founders of America thought it should be.  And it worked.  It can again!”  http://www.lp.org/issues/taxes

But we do have an income tax, as well as several payroll taxes, corporate taxes, capital gain taxes – the list is endless.  Those taxes are ever present, obnoxious entities that influence pretty much all our actions.  These entities suck income from those who earn it, heap mounds of paperwork on everyone, snoop into everyone’s every move, generate constant threats, carry with them an assumption of guilt not innocence, and are beloved by those who either do not pay any of them or can shelter themselves from paying much of them.  Worse, these taxes (along with fiat currency, of course) finance a gargantuan wasteful bureaucracy that crowds out the efficient free market, noses into our private lives, and manhandles us at airports.

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UNCONTROLLED GROWTH OF NON-TEACHING STAFF IN SCHOOLS?

GROWTH IN PUBLIC SCHOOL NON-INSTRUCTIONAL STAFF: TIME TO JUST SAY NO?

Regardless of how well they are intended, government programs often carry significant detrimental consequences. One such consequence is that once established, programs grow and grow, frequently crowding out alternative, more efficient approaches to challenges the programs mean to address.  When programs meant to help school children are instituted and subsequently entrenched, consequences can be especially egregious.

Such programs seldom entail classroom teaching of reading, writing, and computing. Instead most have resulted in an explosive growth in non-instructional staff that has little or nothing to do with teaching our children to read or write.  Predictably, California public school students, for example, consistently score below proficiency levels in reading assessment tests. 

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 1970 the public school national ratio of pupils per administrative staff was 697.7 (one staffer to 697.7 pupils). In 2011 the number was 379.20 (one staffer to 379.20 pupils).  These numbers of non-instructional staff include “officials, administrators, and instructional coordinators.”  These numbers do not include principals and assistant principals, instructional aides, librarians, and counselors – all of which are classified as instructional staff.  Nor do the numbers include “support staff,” the numbers of which went from one staffer to 43.8 pupils in 1970 to one staffer to 26.40 pupils in 2011. If we look at the growth numbers 1970 – 2011 of classroom teachers vs. that of administrators, we see an increase in classroom teachers of 54%, and an increase of 100% in purely administrative, non-instructional staff.

The customary official declaration is that such growth in the ratio of non-instructional staff to pupils is desirable because it frees teachers from tasks that, absent these staffers, teachers would need to do. Closer to the truth is that most non-instructional staff plays a dubiously-essential role in the school system, but diverts focus and funds away from teachers.

Now there is Proposition C, The Children’s Fund, on the November 4, 2014, San Francisco ballot.   This program started out in 1991, to last for 10 years, as an auxiliary service of the school system for children under 18, providing job readiness, training and placement, health and social services, recreation, delinquency prevention and library services – all funded by a 2.5% set aside of property taxes.  When the program was renewed by voters in 2001, the set aside grew to 3% and the expiration grew to 15 years.  So now the program is up for renewal – for a 4% set aside, to expire in 25 years, and providing benefits for children and “youth” to 24 years of age.

To ensure the perpetuity of the noticeably extravagant “Children and Youth Fund,” Proposition C bundles two innocent- sounding programs with it, the “Enrichment Fund” and the “Rainy Day Fund.” The “Enrichments Fund,” funded by general City revenues, supports libraries, sports, music and other “enrichment” school activities. The “Rainy Day Fund,” pays the salaries of teachers who are no longer needed when pupil enrollment in the school system falls significantly.

Additionally, Proposition C creates a brand new department, the “Oversight Advisory Committee,” under which all three components of Proposition C will operate.

At some point, one would think parents would just say NO. At some point, they would demand that their tax dollars are spent on teachers, teachers’ aides, libraries, and basic school supplies.

Resources are not unlimited. Therefore, schools and school funding should focus exclusively on teaching the basics in the most effective, innovative, and incentivizing way possible.   Human nature is what it is, and the status quo tends to grow and resist change.  It is up to parents, who want the best outcome for their children, and taxpayers, who foot the bill, to bring about reform.

Statistical Reference:

http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d13/tables/dt13_213.10.asp

Table 213.10 Staff employed in public elementary and secondary school systems, by type of assignment: Selected years, 1949-50 through fall 2011.

http://www.nationsreportcard.gov/reading_math_2013/

2013 Mathematics and Reading – Focus on Individual States