Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Philosophic Foundations of Freedom: A Conference on the Principle of Individual Rights

This conference is going on today and tomorrow in Los Angeles. I really like their summary of the principles upon which a government restricted solely to the protection of individual rights would be founded:
What is liberty? Why is it desirable? How is a free society achieved?

Today, it is relatively uncontroversial that freedom is good, but there is widespread disagreement about what it actually constitutes and how to implement it. Some believe that liberty amounts to the wishes of a democracy being carried out; others believe that it is being faithful to a literal interpretation of the Constitution and the Founding Fathers. But is there an objective basis in philosophy for determining what freedom is in principle and in practice?

Ayn Rand, author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead, laid out such philosophic principles: A free society requires limited government that enacts and enforces objective laws for the sole purpose of protecting individual rights. It is where the government does not interfere, by penalty or reward, in thought, production, or trade. It requires a separation of church and state, science and state, education and state, and economics and state.
Unfortunately, the progressive left and the religious right - among others - believe that there is such a thing as too much freedom, which is why it bears repeating that freedom is required because individual human beings are a value solely because they are individuals, and must be free to act on that value if they are to live as humans.

Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Further reading

Further exploration of the issues involved in making utilities private:
Sylvia Bokor: Water and Health Care: A Parallel

Raymond C. Niles: Property Rights and the Crisis of the Electric Grid

Raymond C. Niles: A Tale of Two Grids

Ayn Rand Institute: California Power Crisis: PG&E Shrugged
Bookmark and Share

Why not private utilities?

Okay, this is something I was planning to blog about in more detail in the coming months, but this story in this morning's Tulsa World makes my motivation for doing so all too vivid. A major winter storm is headed towards Oklahoma - again (hey, this is winter after all) - and the National Weather Service is saying, basically, "duck and cover". They are claiming that sustained winds and ice could knock out power lines and power outages may last several days.

I hope this turns out not to be the case and I can't help but wonder what the electric utilities are thinking about the NWS's proclamations. Unfortunately, it does seem sometimes that every time the wind blows, the power goes out, and I can't help but wonder if the situation would be much better managed by private companies competing with each other on a free market, motivated solely by profit and unfettered by all the government regulations from every direction and every penny-ante power luster who wants a piece of the action. After all, they would have to answer directly to customers, not a plethora of government agencies looking to cover their asses: customers who would be perfectly free to take their business elsewhere if they didn't like the product. And by product, I mean the whole shebang: the electricity, the price, the customer service, the prevention of outages and the handling of emergencies that arise, etc.

For starters, such companies might have buried power lines where the weather can't get to them long ago. Considering the damage caused by prolonged outages due to exposed lines in recent years, the failure of utilities to do so is criminal.

But the blame for that does not rest with the utilities, it rests with the goevernment, which created the utilities in the first place, protecting them by giving them monopoly control of their market and controlling them by regulating their every possible move. That this situation has been allowed to remain is a threat to public safety, at the very least.

Set the utility companies free and let them learn how to stand on their own two feet on a free and open market.

Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

"Cost-free"? In what universe?

I'm not sure even L. Frank Baum would have gone as far in creating a fantasy world as state Rep. Pat Ownbey has in his press release about his bill, HB2835, which states that Ownbey's bill requiring mobile home park owners to provide storm shelters would have "no cost".

Think again, Rep. Ownbey: will there really be no cost involved in setting up an expanded state bureaucracy to enforce this law? Will no tax dollars whatsoever be spent on monitoring mobile home parks to ensure that they have shelters? And in what universe will mobile home park owners be able to build storm shelters without spending any money? And who will define and enforce the standards for those shelters? Who will pay their bills?

Bookmark and Share

Oklahoma's Supreme Court

Two stories in today's The Oklahoman about rulings from Oklahoma's Supreme Court:

Oklahoma Supreme Court rules some court fees unconstitutional

Bravo! to them for stating in their ruling: "The courts may not be a tax collector for the executive branch of government."

Oklahoma Supreme Court referee hears arguments in line-item veto lawsuit
"A state Supreme Court referee will issue a report to the high court on a second lawsuit filed over Gov. Brad Henry's use of the line-item veto."
I hope the report favors keeping the line-item veto, which can serve as a check on the Legislature's profligacy.

Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Mandatory jury duty

One of the basic tenets of Objectivism is that the human mind does not function at the point of a gun.

HOW, THEN, is justice served by pointing a gun at a person's head and telling that person: "YOU WILL decide whether another human being is guilty or innocent. OR ELSE."

Only altruism makes such a thing even imaginable.

Bookmark and Share

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Oh, really?

From "Wind turbines threatening existence of the lesser prairie chicken", January 6, 2010, Oklahoma Gazette:
“We are not a wind power company,” said OG&E CEO Peter Delaney at the wind conference. “We don’t desire to be a wind power company. We’re market driven. We’re not driven by a mandate.”
Dear Peter Delaney,

How can a government-controlled and -protected monopoly - such as OG&E - even remotely begin to consider itself as being anywhere near market driven?

And as to the story's main subject - efforts to mitigate the impact of wind turbines on the lesser prairie chicken - I refer readers to recent postings by Keith Lockitch at the Ayn Rand Center's Voices for Reason blog:
Greens against green energy

Greens against green energy–follow-up
Bookmark and Share