Sunday, November 30, 2008

City Council Application

Applications for appointment to vacancy on Asheville City Council 2008:

47 Applicants

32 men.
15 women.
41 whites.
2 African-Americans.
1 Hispanic.
3 race unknown.
8 are 18-35 years old.
34 are 36-64 years old.
4 are 65 years or older.
1 age unknown.

[This application did not make the deadline and will not be considered by city council at their December 2 meeting.]

Leslee Kulba
Asheville NC

What motivates you to apply for this position.

The current body, as constituted, is not preserving liberties. I want to be one vote against government coercion. Dollars collected at the force of government should go toward the public good – not master plans by Massachusetts firms pushing business improvement taxing districts, watershed studies, etc. Charged with protecting the rights of my constituents, I would have to shift resources from code enforcement (hassling people with bad taste) to law enforcement (hassling people who steal from and beat up other people). It would not be my job to jabber into the camera until the cows come home, but to be another vote for limiting government to its fundamental responsibility.

Where do you fall on the conservative-liberal spectrum in terms of fiscal and social policy?

I fancy myself to be a strict Constitutionalist, which puts me in the 99th percentile in the correct direction in both spectra. “Liberal” has too many definitions to have meaning. I am a classical liberal in that I believe government should grant no privileges. This is not the opposite of conservatism. With respect to fiscal policy, I believe minimal taxes should be collected for protecting the rights of citizens to pursue their dreams. This means I support a police force and an EMS force. I do not support a recreation force or a zoning force. I also tolerate government competing against the private sector to provide essential infrastructure. The public works department and water department are currently managed well by the city. With respect to social policy, man has a duty to work out his own salvation in his own way in his own timeframe. What people do in their own closets is between them and their God, until it infringes on the rights of others. Then, it becomes government’s business. I am freakingly appalled by policies that punish those with foresight to set up stable households and careers through high moral conduct, by making them support the foolish lifestyle choices of those who want to get drunk and party, leaving behind a trail of kids called mistakes, AIDS, addiction, and other sad consequences major world religions from time immemorial have warned against. Charity works when one is touched by the love and sacrifice of another on his personal behalf, and not when a bureaucrat shuffles reports 'ad nauseum' structuring data for his cases. Government can appropriately intervene in crimes against persons and property. The rest is best left to individual conscience and choice. Election to public office does not transmogrify base metal into omniscient gods. Government programs, as a general rule, do not work.

In your eyes, what should be the top 2 or 3 priorities our city council should be focused on in the upcoming year and why?

Public Safety. That is the 'raison d’etre' of government. I would be incompetent if I was seated in government office, and every week we continued to read about a shooting or stabbing in public housing. This is serious, and we need to acknowledge the limitations of the system and find creative ways to protect the liberties we pledge to uphold and stop acting like we expect Black people to shoot each other up in drug turf wars.

Scaling Back. This is supposed to be a country of limited government. The planning department doesn’t need to be so busy and meticulous it drags the city into expensive lawsuits for violating the liberties government is supposed to protect. The arts should be subsidized by those who appreciate particular works or skills. A one-year moratorium on studies would do more good than harm. The UDO needs to be scrapped and replaced with minimum standards that promote safe and healthy building. People should be able to live in housing made affordable by its smallness and use of economy materials and designs. The city may maintain public spaces, but it should not program them. No state or federal grants should be accepted for local business. Police officers need to be relieved of babysitting duties and stationed more strategically. Transit needs to be efficient.

What do you consider the most crucial problem, need, or cause for the citizens of Asheville? How would you approach its resolution or champion the cause?

Asheville needs to be liberated. Too many special interest groups want to clamp their agenda on others. City council wants to design doorways and parking lots without regard to the design costs and functional necessities of those who will own and occupy the buildings. People have forgotten what made America great. They want to sing the praises of Che Guevara and emulate Fidel Castro’s system of socialized medicine. They blame the stock market problems on deregulation. Citizens should, in the Ancient Roman sense, love and honor the laws of the land, but they can’t because no sane person is going to love, let alone commit to memory, laws that tells them how many inches go between what species of trees, for example. How can anybody write the UDO in their hearts and walk daily by its precepts? When laws are not self-evident, but can be derived only by consulting the books, the exercise of conscience becomes subservient to the wish to stay out of jail. The law should foster conscience. Government needs to be rolled back, and rolled back big-time. If people feel threatened by liberty, they can consider putting forgiveness and tolerance of diversity in action.

I’d like to get a group of volunteers together to knock the UDO down to a masterpiece of elegance and common sense. I would entertain any proposal to abbreviate the Code of Ordinances. I would vote against any unnecessary legislation.

2008-09 and 2009-10 fiscal years will be financially tough for the city. What will be your top funding priorities, and what would you like to see reduced to balance the budget?

If these questions have not yet been answered, it is because the respondent harbors a disconnect between hopes, wishes, and dreams and revenue streams. Either members of council suffer the same malady, or they have problems understanding the concepts of “necessary and sufficient,” and mutual exclusivity. Excessive regulation is symptomatic of failure to appreciate these concepts. My answers to this question were already provided.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Schiff Was Right

Austrian Economist and financial commentator Peter Schiff was right in 2006 and 2007. Funny thing, that.


Weekly Columns by Peter Schiff | Financial Sense University

Interview with Peter Schiff
by Tim Swanson | Mises Economics Blog | April 21, 2008
My investment advice is rooted in my understanding of economics. It is that understanding that allowed me to accurately forecast the trends of the last decade, and to have positioned my clients in advance to both protect their purchasing power and profit from what has already played out.

Thanks for the Inflationary Depression [audio]
Peter Schiff | The Lew Rockwell Show | 05-10-2008

Friday, November 28, 2008

Conceptions of Capitalism

In an excellent blogpost at NoodleFood entitled Absent a Moral Defense of Capitalism, fellow Objectivist Gina Liggett writes:

"As Dr. Brook states in his talks, obviously the fact about capitalism's success is simply not enough; the fact that government interference in the economy wrecks havoc is simply not enough. We must make the moral argument that laissez-faire capitalism is not only practical, it is morally right."

A good friend involved in the Ron Paul Campaign for Liberty responds:

[I acknowledge] the right to enjoy the fruits of our labor, the right to possess that which we produce, the right to trade our possessions, the right to freely and peacefully associate with others and the right to pursue our individual happiness without any restraint beyond the reciprocity found in recognizing and honoring all of these same rights in others.

Unfortunately, what the rest of the world calls "capitalism" has nothing to do with any of these individual rights. The modern world consists of nations practicing what, at best, could be called "mixed economy" or "state capitalism". Most variants of "capitalism" in the world today, first violated one or more of these rights. What we refer to as laissez faire, laissez fair capitalism, capitalism, a free market or a market economy do not exist in any modern state. A moral defense is the only way to defended the concept. I just wonder if we shouldn't find a better name for what we all agree is the natural way for freemen to organize their financial affairs.

Thanks for your comments.

I share the view of Rand and Mises: Capitalism cannot violate any rights. Only statism violates rights.

A "mixed economy" is, by definition, not capitalist -- just as a mixture of water and poison is not water. What America and most of the rest of the world practice is Interventionism. The rest are socialist or variants thereof.

I believe there needs to be a renewed understanding, embrace and promotion of total laissez-faire free market capitalism. I am working on this with Objectivists around the country (world, even). That is why I drafted the conceptual scheme that I shared with you earlier.

There is even an Objectivist Party that has been started; although, I'm not confident that this is the proper approach (see correspondence to the Objectivist Party below).

Frankly, the so-called cause of "liberty" is vague, undefined, and has too broad an appeal. It is a valid principle, but without a concrete political expression, it leads to nothing substantial or consistent.

Both Mises and Rand have a lot to say about capitalism -- they are its primary champions. They also have a lot to say about anti-capitalist sentiments and policies. I am reading "Liberalism: The Classical Tradition" by Ludwig von Mises right now. This is von Mises's prescription for a properly ordered society; one based on the ideology of Liberalism. ("Liberalism" is another term I believe should be restored to its proper meaning.)

I honestly believe that if we cannot agree on the fundamentals, any moderate successes are doomed to fail in the long run. As we have amply seen already. Better to get on the same page first, then act.

The country and the world are at a crossroads. Let's get on the right side and pack a compass.

You have a better understanding than most and I look forward to working with you "as we go marching."


Correspondence with The Objectivist Party

From Dr. Tom Stevens
Sent: Friday, November 21, 2008 11:34:25 AM
Subject: Objectivist Party Member Priorities

Here are the priorities for Objectivist Party members who would like to be of help to the cause. If you feel something should be added to the list, do not hesitate to suggest it.

Thanks for your thoughtful and thorough notes.

I threw together some thoughts in graphic form on a conceptual framework for a liberty-oriented political action club for consideration by a local libertarian group (this is a draft with implications). It was coolly received and I forward it to you for whatever it might be worth.

I think that an Objectivist political organization should have as its central theme the unapologetic promotion of laissez-faire free market capitalism. This is the political component Ayn Rand identified in her synopsis of Objectivism, given on one leg.

I am unsure about turning the entire name Objectivism over to only a political focus. The political component, according to Rand and Objectivism, is Capitalism. I have tried to frame that aspect in the graphic, hopefully with fuller definitions and extrapolations to come. At any rate, I think it provides a good starting point, with much to develop, where Capitalism is broadly defined as a political-economic social system of freedom (per Rand, Reisman, Bernstein, & Mises).

I have, however, encountered a wavering commitment from libertarians and Ron Paul supporters to recognize and champion capitalism, as such. Below is some correspondence from that conversation with local libertarians for background.

Correspondence with Asheville libertarians

From: ...........
Ref: Conceptual Framework
Might I suggest that the chart would be perhaps improved if "Capitalism" were to be replaced with "Liberty". Liberty seems like a more broad ideology on which to build than capitalism. Also, it is far more attractive in that the mere word "capitalism", which is often regarded as fearful or downright evil to the political left.

Let me clarify something about the conceptual structure conveyed in the chart.

In this chart, an activist organization would consist of three main components: Organization, Ideology, and Activism. All of which enable the organization to fulfill its mission.

As part of the group's ideological development, certain foundational principles would be identified; such as the libertarian principles of Self-Ownership and Self-Determination. Those principles would naturally generate a set of values; for example: Privacy, Independence, and Justice. Taken together they lend themselves to the formation of key concepts. Those concepts, once fully broken down (as shown in the chart), can then help indicate which concrete and specific issues are the most appropriate targets of political activism as well as the ideological position to take on them.

The concept must support the principles and values that constitute an ideology.

Capitalism 'per se' is, as we know, the only political-economic social system that recognizes, respects, and preserves individual liberty. Therefore, at least for us, it is the principle of liberty that is hierarchically prior to the concept of politics and its subsequent concrete manifestations. A proper political system that derives from libertarian principles will be one that incorporates the key attributes of Rights, Governments and Markets. In this conceptual structure, the inclusive concept is Capitalism.

I hope that helps to explain the parts of the chart that I was able to expand on so far. Also, bear in mind that this chart is an internal document, it is a rough draft, and is intended for our consideration only.

On the further linguistic question, I have long considered shuttering away explosive terms like "capitalism" in my normal conversations in favor of terms that could better gain me entrée into diverse political conversations. However, capitalism, I now believe, cannot simply be called something else merely to sooth the nervous minds and sensibilities of its duplicitous opponents, the anti-capitalists. It is they who attempt to obfuscate their intentions through the disingenuous manipulations of language and ideas. We could at least set ourselves apart on precisely this point: by saying what we mean and meaning what we say.

I think it is long past time to be squeamish about important ideas. It is imperative that we precisely set the terms of the debate and clearly distinguish ideas that favor liberty -- in the social, economic and political arenas -- from those that do not. What better litmus test than to have clear and consistent libertarian ideas forthrightly upheld with substance and conviction.

If some terminology is from time to time shown to be wrong or wrongly used, the error should be corrected and clarifications made. If it is right, it should be embraced and promoted for what it is. We cannot 'synonym' our way around a foundational idea. If the term "capitalism" suffers disrepute, then surely it falls upon us to restore it.


The flowering of human society depends on two factors: the intellectual power of outstanding men to conceive sound social and economic theories, and the ability of these or other men to make these ideologies palatable to the majority. -Ludwig von Mises, Human Action


Capitalism and the Moral High Ground
Craig Biddle | Objective Standard | Winter 2008
We who wish to advocate capitalism must take the moral high ground—which is ours by logical right—and we must never cede an inch to those who claim that self-sacrifice is a virtue.

Capitalism Without Guilt: The Moral Case for Freedom [video]
by Yaron Brook | National Press Club | October 22, 2008
In this lecture in Washington, D.C., Executive Director Yaron Brook demonstrates how Ayn Rand’s revolutionary ethics of rational self-interest supplied the moral foundation that previous proponents of capitalism lacked.

Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal
by Ayn Rand | 1966
Ayn Rand explains the social system that she held has “never been properly understood and defended—and whose very existence has been denied.” That system is laissez-faire capitalism: a social system in which the government is exclusively devoted to the protection of individual rights, including property rights, and therefore in which there exists absolutely no government intervention in the economy.

The Capitalist Manifesto: The Great Disconnect
by Andrew Bernstein | August 28, 2005
The capitalist revolution began in Great Britain in the late-18th century. Since that time, the capitalist nations have been the freest countries of history.

Ayn Rand: Radical for Capitalism [video]
Yaron Brook | October 11 2007
Capitalism is usually conceived as an evil idea, the mere fact of practicing self-interest has been thought as wrong and the traditional ethics teaches us that we don't have to combine with the idea of entrepreneurship. In her book Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand explains us how these two ideas are compatible: When we seek our benefit, we benefit the others.

The Ludwig von Mises Legacy [video]
Mises Institute | December 13, 2005
A man who never stopped fighting for freedom: not when the Nazis burned his books, not when the Left blackballed him at universities, not when it seemed as if statism had won. With courage and genius, he fought big government until the day he died... in 25 books, hundreds of articles, and more than sixty years of teaching.

Radicals for Capitalism
by Brian Doherty | February 12, 2007

The Free Market and Its Enemies
by Ludwig von Mises | 2006 (1951)

Capitalism, topic search, Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Brother, Can You Spare a Bench?

Sit-in will protest removal of benches in Asheville
by David Forbes | Mountain Xpress | 11/20/2008

A group of “concerned citizens” will hold a sit-in at noon this Sunday to protest the city’s removal of two park benches in front of Pack Memorial Library. The city has announced that the Asheville Police Department will remove protesters if they impede traffic on the sidewalk.

According to the protester's press release, “many city officials, residents, and businesses seem determined to treat their homeless neighbors as undesirable garbage that should be promptly disposed of.”

In specifically what way does the removal of a bench treat “homeless neighbors” as trash?

Local activist and concerned citizen Jen Bowen recently commented online: “Taking away our park benches just makes our city appear as if we can’t deal with the these human beings in any thoughtful manner...”

I think Jen is right. But it does not only appear that we can’t deal with the homeless in any thoughtful manner: We cannot deal with the homeless in any thoughtful manner.

The city has spent a lot of time and money implementing it’s quixotic decade plan to end homelessness. (We have 7 years left and I just can’t wait ;) I am unsure how the city can eliminate a lifestyle that, to a large extent, is voluntarily chosen. Government should be protecting individual rights, not violating them.

The government cannot solve social problems. It can only stop causing them. Zacchaeus House was doing its part but the city wanted to shut them down for want of segregated bathrooms.

“...the property must satisfy a host of special building-safety requirements, such as multiple bathrooms, exit signs and compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.” - Mountain Xpress

Instead of a chest-thumping protest of the city’s removal of a bench, this could have become a symbolic launching point to reassess our approach to the problems of vagrants, drunks, and miscreants—as well as the genuine homeless. But we have trouble making moral distinctions, don’t we?

I worked for a Task Force for the Homeless in Atlanta. Endlessly collecting statistics on the homeless does not feed or clothe. The purpose of collecting stats is to lobby the government for funding for administration, salaries and facilities for the stat collectors.

Significant and lasting solutions must come from a charitable community. The public sector is incompetent in dispensing charity. In fact, forced charity is an oxymoron. The consequence of government interference in charity is the extinguishing of the charitable sense. Individuals turn regard for their neighbor over to cloistered, grasping bureaucrats. Some charity, huh?

And how are those change boxes coming along? If you see a hungry woman on the street, will you walk over her to put a dollar in a box?


Zacchaeus House
Tim Peck | March 19, 2008
A private home in Asheville doubles as a place of worship and a sanctuary for the homeless. the home-church has been named Zacchaeus House and is operated by Rev. Amy Cantrell.

The Death of Common Sense: How Law is Suffocating America
by Philip K. Howard | Grand Central Publishing | March 1, 1996

Sunday, November 09, 2008

City Council Vacancy

The 2008 Buncombe County Board of Commissioners election will leave open one seat on city council by virtue of a sitting council member having won a county board seat.

This vacated council seat will be filled according to state statute. Statute allows council to summarily appoint a member of their choosing from all of the public or submit a pool of candidates for the appointment to an administrative review process of their own design. They have chosen the latter and promise to give their full consideration to any and all comers.
N.C.G.S. §160A-63: "A vacancy that occurs in an elective office of a city shall be filled by appointment of the city council..."

Asheville City Charter, Sec. 7: "Any vacancy in the office of mayor or council shall be filled by the council for the remainder of the unexpired term from the qualified electors [a qualified voter in an election] of the City of Asheville."

N.C.G.S. §160A-60: "City councils shall have authority to fix qualifications for appointive offices..."
But does this general talent search not leave the other trailing candidates a bit in the lurch? -- Freeborn, Butner and Lite (in that order). Do they not have some standing in the whole affair that sets them apart from other possible late applicants? Have they not already established their qualifications to a substantial degree?

That Bryan Freeborn lost in the 2007 city council race is not just a function of votes cast but also of the seats available in the race. They were the constraint that would provide us the outcome in a democratic contest.

The votes measured the popularity of candidates for a seat and Mr. Freeborn simply came up shy. In the end, he was edged out by another candidate, Bill Russell, and the seats were filled. Had there been an additional seat open, Freeborn would have taken it by dint of a formal participatory public process.

A great number of voters, at least 5,505, -- and plenty more besides, can probably guess by now how Mr. Freeborn would respond in the questionnaire that council intends to distribute to the general public. And there is plenty of footage one can review to get a sense of his "contribution."

But why should the runners-up be placed into the general cue. Mr. Freeborn has already applied for the council seat in question and has received a substantial endorsement from the community in his pursuit of it. An endorsement that should at least curry some favor with the sitting council charged with filling a vacant seat in a volatile political season.

Mr. Freeborn achieved his electoral ranking by submitting to a fair and open process in the public arena. And the people have demonstrated their preferences in all recent candidates put before them (And Butner should be considered should Freeborn decline).

Council should reclaim leadership and, in as much as possible, respect the will of the people just this one more time and forgo this tedious and empty exercise that they taunt us with.


Application To Be On Asheville City Council
By Gordon Smith | Scrutiny Hooligans | November 5th, 2008
I’m listening to Matt Mittan getting frothy over City Council’s plan to choose a replacement for a vacated City Council seat by employing an application and interview process rather than using the fourth-highest-vote-getter precedent. Mittan’s objection is that the process is not democratic and that there ought to be an election instead.

Why Council should give Freeborn the open slot
Ashevegas | November 9, 2008
There's been a lot of discussion lately about Asheville City Council's decision to have local residents apply to be appointed to the seat that will be left open when Councilwoman Holly Jones moves over to the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners in December.

Election 2008 left potentially contentious loose ends
Editor | Asheville Citizen-Times | November 9, 2008
The 2008 General Election left two important seats in limbo, one on Buncombe County Board of Education and another on Asheville City Council.

Candidate: Bryan Freeborn
Staff report | Mountain Xpress | 10/03/2007
Political party: Democrat. Political experience: Asheville Regional Airport Authority; Young Democrats of Buncombe County; French Broad Metropolitan Planning Organization. Endorsements: Asheville Fire Fighters Association; Asheville Democracy for America; Sierra Club; Council member Robin Cape.

Freeborn requests recount of election results
Clarke Morrison | Asheville Citizen-Times | November 15, 2007
City Councilman Bryan Freeborn has requested a recount of the Nov. 6 election results, saying he doesn’t think it will change the outcome of the race, but he wants to make sure.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Spreading Wealth

The now commonly-held Marxist concept of "spreading wealth" (or "redistribution") advocates manipulating government power to forceably take property (money) from an individual who has earned it so as to give it to someone else who has not.

This places every productive individual in society into involuntary servitude -- something explicitly prohibited by the U.S. Constitution; specifically, the 13th Amendment).

In the private sector this "redistribution" is called theft. In the public sector this is called taxation; which Bastiat called legal plunder. Theft in the public sector is worse because it assumes that all wealth belongs to the government and not the individual who earned it. At least the common thief knows better.

This concept of redistributive taxation has nothing to do with adequately funding the very few legitimate, constitutional functions of government.

The government's proper role is to protect individual rights against violation. Not to run the economy or act as general benefactor.

What we have now is a society of individuals who all seek to live at everyone else's expense.

The illogic is astounding. The sad consequences have already been well documented. Need we, yet again, pursue this folly?


The Goal Is Freedom: Humility or Hubris?
Sheldon Richman | Foundation for Economic Education | November 7, 2008
Because there are economic laws, there are limits to what "we" can do and how we can do it. (By we, of course, Obama doesn't mean the spontaneous social order; he means the state and deliberate planning.)

Taxes are to make government function, not spread wealth around
Ed Blanchfield | Asheville Citizen-Times | November 8, 2008
The purpose of the income tax is to run the government. It is not to spread the wealth. Sen. Obama and his supporters tell us it works better when we spread the wealth around. Spreading the wealth is fine, provided it is spread by those who have it. Forcibly taking someone's wealth is wrong and used to be un-American.

Evil Concealed By Money
Walter E. Williams | November 19, 2008
Evil acts can be given an aura of moral legitimacy by noble-sounding socialistic expressions such as spreading the wealth, income redistribution or caring for the less fortunate.