Monday, February 22, 2010

Georgia's Liberty Act

Here is the text of the press release issued by the Georgian government on October 12, 2009, outlining the Liberty Act:
Following President Saakashvili’s speech at Parliament on October 6, the Georgian Government submitted the drafts of Constitutional Amendments and Constitutional Law on Liberty, Opportunity and Dignity (the Liberty Act) to the President of Georgia to initiate the legal process.

The Liberty Act seeks to constitutionally enshrine the key economic policies Georgia has successfully pursued since the Rose Revolution. Its highlights are as follows:

Fiscal Responsibility
  • Budget expenditure capped at 30% of GDP (FY 2012)
  • Budget deficit capped at 3% of GDP (FY 2012)
  • Public debt capped at 60% of GDP (FY 2012)
  • Extrabudgetary funds are limited
  • Budget earmarks are limited

Freedom from Bureaucratic Discretion and Interference

  • An increase in the overall number of licenses and permits is capped
  • Establishment of new Independent National Regulatory Bodies (in addition to the currently existing regulators in the financial services, utilities and communications sectors) is banned
  • Price controls of any kind (including on the interest rates) are banned
  • The state ownership of banks and other financial intermediation institutions is banned
  • Any restrictions on the full currency convertibility (which Georgia has enjoyed since the mid-1990s) are banned
  • Any kind of control of capital movement are banned, including on the repatriation of profit and capital

Empowering Citizens by Ensuring Choice in Social Programs

  • The Liberty Act advances the long-standing policy of delivering targeted social assistance by funding citizens through vouchers and cash benefits (healthcare coverage, education, poverty benefits, etc) rather than funding directly the institutions engaged in the provision of healthcare, education and other services. It provides for the freedom of choice of the beneficiaries to select the service providers

Returning the Power to Tax to the People

  • No new taxes or increase in the tax rates may be imposed other than following an affirmative vote in a nationwide referendum

“The government is delighted to have worked with President Saakashvili on this ground-breaking initiative. The Liberty Act seeks to limit severely the discretion of the executive branch of government and ensure that the government remains small and limited and taxes (other than through the sovereign will of the people) low and flat. Since 2004, as our economic advancement gained momentum, we have gained many admirers and supporters among the international investor community. However, given that our policies increasingly stand out, even our admirers sometimes could not help but be skeptical about the irreversibility of our reforms in the medium term. The Liberty Act addresses these concerns, by constitutionally enshrining our key policies and thus making them immune to policy drift and reversal”, commented Nika Gilauri, Prime Minister of Georgia.

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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Georgia acts to limit government

Whatever else may be said about Mikheil Saakashvili, President of Georgia, he's got guts. Here's what he announced at a dinner on Wednesday:
However, the main function of the evening was for the President to outline plans for one of the most sensible pieces of legislation enacted since the United States' Constitution: The Liberty Act. This seeks to constitutionally enshrine the economic reforms pursued since the Rose revolution, by imposing a strict cap on the remit and size of any future government. Under the Act, government spending is not permitted to exceed 30% of GDP, while the budget deficit is capped at 3% and public debt at 60%. Price controls and state ownership of financial institutions are banned, and no new taxes or increase in tax rates can be imposed without a referendum.

. . . One question in particular elicited a marvelous response. When asked why he was seeking to bind his successors, the President promptly replied, "I don't trust any government, including my own".

(via Michael Labeit!)

If only more of America's politicians had that kind of back-bone!

Hmmm . . . I may have to forward this to all of my elected officials.

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

No free market for liquor in Oklahoma

The Senate's Committee on Business and Labor voted down a proposed constitutional amendment that would have created a freer market for wine and beer in two Oklahoma counties, according to this story in The Oklahoman.

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Monday, February 15, 2010

The Oklahoman jumps on the Tea Party bandwagon

Well, this is certainly an interesting development:
Palin, Tea Party movement should be taken seriously
It's the lead editorial in this morning's The Oklahoman.

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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Oh, really?

A story in this morning's The Oklahoman discusses reactions from Democrats to bills currently in the Oklahoma legislature to counter any federal takeover of health care.

Here are some quotes from the Democrats. The question I ask myself when reading such things is, do these people expect anyone to actually believe such statements?

Governor Brad Henry: "States don’t have the ability to impact the cost of health care . . . " Really? Since when? "It’s not healthy to create these battles between state and federal government . . . " Uh, excuse me, wasn't it the federal government that created this battle?

Senate Minority Leader Designate Andrew Rice, D-Oklahoma City: "The level of disrespect in those resolutions is troubling to members of our caucus . . . " Oh really? Who's disrespecting who here?

Senator Tom Adelson, D-Tulsa: "Work with us, because I’m sick of it." What exactly is that supposed to mean? So what if you're sick of it. "Work with us" or what, Senator?

Interesting, too that Senator Rice would actually admit publicly that Obama is not popular.

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Saturday, February 13, 2010

Altruism and Rights

Craig Biddle - in his Objective Standard article "The Creed of Sacrifice vs. The Land of Liberty" - quotes from Comte's The Catechism of Positive Religion:
The French philosopher Auguste Comte (who coined the term “altruism”) puts this clearly: Because “to live for others” is “for all of us a constant duty” and “the definitive formula of human morality,” it follows that “[a]ll honest and sensible men, of whatever party, should agree, by a common consent, to eliminate the doctrine of rights.” Altruism, explained Comte, “cannot tolerate the notion of rights, for such notion rests on individualism.” On the premise of altruism, “[rights] are as absurd as they are immoral. . . . The whole notion, then, must be completely put away.”
I strongly recommend reading the entire article.

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Objectivist Round Up

This week's Round Up is hosted by Titanic Deck Chairs - and includes my letter in the Tulsa World!

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Restricting eminent domain

I'm not up to speed on Oklahoma's laws regarding eminent domain, but these bills by Washington state Attorney General Rob McKenna look pretty good to me:
The bills proposed by McKenna would prohibit use of eminent domain for economic development and redefine blight so that it applies only to specific properties rather than broad areas.

The legislation also would reform the state's Community Renewal Law to keep cities from using it as the means for transferring private property from one private party and to another for economic development purposes.
According to this editorial, Washington's cities have succeeded in preventing the bills from being considered by the state's legislature so far.

For the record, my personal position is that eminent domain should be abolished, not simply restricted.

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Eminent domain rears its ugly head in OKC

From The Oklahoman:
The Oklahoma City Council voted 7-1 Tuesday to declare a 692-acre area south of downtown blighted and subject to urban renewal.

The move allows the city to use eminent domain to buy land for MAPS 3 projects, including a $130 million, 70-acre downtown park and a $280 million convention center. The city also could buy land in the area and turn it over for private redevelopment, a controversial urban renewal tool that drew the lone no vote from Ward 5 Councilman Brian Walters.
So, how many individual properties in this area actually fit the description of "blighted"? What is the definition of the word? Urban Renewal Authority attorney Leslie Batchelor told the City Council
" . . . declaring the area blighted isn’t a negative judgment. It allows the city to use new tools to help the area come back to life."
So, "blighted" means whatever the City needs it to mean to "allow" it to use "new tools"? Not what I would call an objective definition.

Kudos to Ward 5 Councilman Brian Walters for voting against this smoke-and-mirrors routine and for publicly saying:
"We’re supposed to have private property rights in this country."
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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The totalitarianism of Christianity

via Politics without God: William Stoddard makes a devastating case against the compatibility of Christianity and freedom.
In sum, Christianity envisioned all the horrors of totalitarianism, millennia before human dictators achieved the technological capability to realize them on Earth. And said that they were desirable; indeed, it called them the Good News.
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Americans Reject Keynesian Economics

This survey seems to indicate that Americans on the whole want the government to cut back on spending. I wonder if the government will listen?
Americans Reject Keynesian Economics
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Saturday, February 6, 2010

Cut government

There is only one truly rational response to a shortfall in tax collections: reduce the size of government. Governor Henry actually proposes something along those lines in response to projected budget cuts of 35% - he suggests that a few of the state's 180 agencies be combined - but it's included with a hodge-podge of ideas that also include the inevitable proposals to raise taxes:
Gov. Brad Henry calls out plan’s critics
Governor Henry and the Oklahoma Legislature need to bite the bullet and get the government out of the economy's way.

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Friday, February 5, 2010

Corporations are made of individuals

Mr. Curry's letter prompts me to mention that corporations are voluntary associations of individuals, who do not give up their rights simply because they chose to join a corporation.

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Corporations come in all sizes

I like this letter about the Citizens United decision in this morning's The Oklahoman:
Not all alike

The left is going bonkers over the recent Supreme Court ruling that reinstated the right of corporations, just as for other groups of organized citizens, to free speech (political speech). Especially vocal has been the media who denounced the ruling, stating that this would allow the deep pockets of these organizations to "drown out the messages of candidates” and unduly influence the voting public. These talking heads from NBC, CBS, ABC, New York Times, etc., seem to ignore the simple fact that they’re all owned by corporations. Apparently they’re OK with corporate influence as long as it’s a "media” corporation doing the influencing!

While most of us think of a Microsoft or a General Electric when someone mentions corporations, thousands of small corporations are owned by individuals and families that will also be able to participate. And it’s foolish to think they’d all be on the same side of every issue, therefore providing competing resources for both sides. Does anyone think Google and Disney would view energy or environmental policies in the same way that Exxon or Chesapeake might?

While there is much angst over this ruling by the left, the Founders’ principled idea that, when it comes to political speech, more speech is far superior to less, has been furthered by this ruling. The left will perhaps now be forced to argue more persuasively than it has in the past, rather than simply resorting to demonizing its opponents.

Steve Curry, Oklahoma City
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Thursday, February 4, 2010

Objectivist Round Up

This week's Round Up is hosted by Reepicheep's Coracle.

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President Obama: Close the Office of Faith-based Initiatives

I've just created a new Facebook group.
Whether giving religious charities better access to government money makes them more effective or not is beside the point. The point is, it involves government in religion, and religion in government, and that is unconstitutional.
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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

My LTE in the Tulsa World

My letter has finally made it into the Tulsa World - but online only.
Letter to the editor: Whence 'can-do'

By Rob Abiera, Oklahoma City

In your Jan. 18 story, "How religious are we?" Bishop Bob Hayes says, "Oklahomans represent a kind of can-do pioneering spirit with its genesis in faith."

He's wrong. The "can-do pioneering spirit" he says Oklahomans represent is the product of reason, not faith. The rediscovery of the pagan philosophy of ancient Greece brought an end to the Dark Ages. Its focus on human reason led to a renewed concern with this life and this world, and the possibilities open to human beings when they are free to think for themselves as opposed to being tyrannized by religious dogma.

This discovery of the possibilities of life inspired an ever-increasing confidence based on the idea that the world is knowable, as opposed to the blind groping of faith. And it opened a new era of exploration, science and technology, leading directly to the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, with its crowning achievement: the discovery of individual rights and the creation of the United States of America.

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