Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Affordable Medical Insurance

Now that the Affordable [sic] Care Act has been revealed as a legislative scam and may shortly be facing its legal and political comeuppance, let’s think about what real reform might look like. Once again, I claim no special expertise, nor do I think that I have all the answers, but there has to be a better solution than another legalistic monstrosity like the ACA or some bureaucratic nationalized monopoly. Here are a few ideas that I’ve gleaned from my observations.

Provide a tax credit for medical insurance and divorce said insurance from employment. The income tax isn’t going away anytime soon, but we can protect the employees while ending the dysfunctional relationship between employment and medical insurance and bring the ultimate consumers back into the decision-making role. (Using my present employer as an example, that would mean a $5,000 to $10,000 raise per year for every employee.) The market will provide a range of options from costly, comprehensive health-management plans to inexpensive, catastrophic insurance policies.

Eliminate statutory barriers in the interstate insurance marketplace. Laws and regulations that hinder insurance providers from operating across state lines artificially reduce competition and drive up costs in disadvantaged markets. We sign onto international free-trade agreements, but we don’t even have free trade within our own country.

Establish a non-profit public insurance corporation as a moral equalizer. If an agency operating at cost can provide better service at lower prices than can “greedy,” profit-driven insurance companies, then the market will force down overall prices. A public option can also guarantee access to insurance for customers with pre-existing conditions and for other uninsurable individuals.

Finally, you’ll notice that I’ve been talking about medical insurance. Health care is a more holistic concept and can’t be properly insured, because insurance is a means of mitigating unpredictable financial risk. Health care involves routine, predictable expenses, so trying to allay such costs through third-party agency is less efficient and thus more costly overall. That, of course, is exactly what we have been doing, which explains why health insurance is so ridiculously expensive.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

A Right-to-Carry Victory in the District of Columbia

The seal of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.

Nearly five years ago, the case of Palmer v. D.C. was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Following the landmark victory in D.C. v. Heller, which overturned D.C.’s ban on handguns in the home, this matter challenged the District’s total prohibition on carrying firearms for self-defense outside the home. Various motions were submitted over the course of the next year, but then the case languished, waiting for a decision on summary judgment. Meanwhile, a variety of other right-to-carry challenges made their way through the courts to their ultimate, conflicting resolutions.

Peruta v. San Diego and its brethren in the Ninth Circuit were the only other major right-to-carry cases that hadn’t been fully resolved, but even they were simply waiting for the final judicial shenanigans to be completed at the appellate level. Palmer was still pending at district court, seemingly consigned to eternal judicial delay. Until today … that is.

Ruling that “the District of Columbia’s complete ban on the carrying of handguns in public is unconstitutional” under any level of judicial scrutiny, the court struck down that ban and enjoined the enforcement of the applicable sections of D.C.’s penal code. The right to bear arms in our nation’s capital has been secured. For today … that is.

Monday may bring appeals and/or new legislation, so the struggle is still far from over.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

On the Unequal Distribution of Wealth

Lately, economic discussions (and arguments) have often focused on the inequality in the distribution of wealth. While much of the concern is directed at the extreme ends of the distribution range—the desperately poor contrasted against the tremendously wealthy—there is also a vocal set who decry any unequal distribution of the economic pie. To them, any economic inequality is an artificial construct of nefarious human intentions and therefore unfair and unjust.

While I would argue that wealth and income inequality isn’t as much of a social problem as some make it out to be, I won’t dispute that some of the unequal distribution is the result of ongoing political corruption and cronyism or of historical exploitation and other injustices. However, the assertion that any unequal distribution of wealth is necessarily bad and should be eliminated is patently false.

Industry and trade are the engines that create and distribute wealth. However, like all dynamic systems, an economy is fundamentally about the organization and flow of energy. These forces are driven by differences in potential, moving and consolidating energy here and there about the system. Of course, some energy is also lost to entropy—and we see economic waste as well.

To describe a situation where there is no unequal distribution would require an appeal for total consolidation or for total entropy. Neither scenario is physically possible within a dynamic system nor desirable for human economies. The artificial controls and constraints that we impose on economic activities often do little more than introduce more inefficiency into the system, especially when such are built upon previous flawed attempts at interference. In other words, instead of applying a few careful drops of lubrication to our economic engine, we tend to throw random handfuls of sand into its moving parts. When that fails to produce the desired results, we throw in more sand.

On top of this legislative and regulatory blundering—and here I’ll set my usual cynicism aside—the mistake that too many “liberals” make is to equate all industry with exploitation and all trade with theft. While problems do exist, they are confined to a small segment of economic actors. Our response should be appropriately narrow and measured. Instead, as always, the impulse is to punish everyone for the crimes of a few. That impulse is as foolish in the statehouse as it was in middle school.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Drake Declined

"No justice, no peace."

The wave has broken far from shore. Today, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review Drake v. Jerejian, continuing its avoidance of right-to-carry cases. This tacit choice for potential violence is still astonishing even after similar dereliction in the matters of Kachalsky and Woollard, but there is yet hope.

The floodwaters of unrest may inundate the northeast, but if the Peruta decision stands in California, the potential damage may be minimized. The abuses are so longstanding and the geographies so small that the high court’s ersatz federalism might suffice to release enough pressure in the region. Once the people of the West are freed, only somewhat less than 20 percent of Americans will remain under fully prohibitionist regimes.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Right-to-Carry Litigation Update

Photo credit: Associated Press.

While I was in the process of extracting myself from California, important progress was made on the litigation front for the the right to bear arms outside the home. After more than a year of waiting, three decision were rendered out of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, affirming that governments in this circuit must recognize a right to carry functional handguns for self-defense under the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Specifically, the court ordered that self-defense must be accepted as meeting the various “good cause” requirements for the issuance of concealed-carry licenses in California and Hawaii.

Drake v. Jerejian New Jersey Lost on appeal at USCA3.
Kachalsky v. Cacace New York Lost on appeal at USCA2.
Moore v. Madigan Illinois Won on appeal at USCA7.
Palmer v. D.C. D.C. Won at U.S. District Court.
Peruta v. San Diego California Petitioned to U.S. Supreme Court.
Richards v. Prieto California Lost on rehearing at USCA9.
Woollard v. Gallagher Maryland Lost on appeal at USCA4.

Naturally, the legal battles aren’t over yet. The controlling decision in Peruta v. San Diego has been challenged by a number of actors (including the attorney general of California) and may yet face a rehearing by a larger panel on the overwhelmingly “liberal” circuit. Petitions to the U.S. Supreme Court are the next option for whichever side ultimately loses at the Ninth Circuit. Meanwhile, Drake v. Jerejian, out of the Third Circuit, is already at that step.

The question remains whether the Supreme Court will actually step in to settle the matter.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Retreat from California

It's time for me to hit the eject button.

The time has come for me to surrender my ancestral homeland and to retreat to friendlier political territory.

As someone who loves freedom but lives in the state currently ranked 49th overall in this respect, I have realized for some time that I would eventually become a political and/or economic refugee from California. In my small way, I have fought for many years to hold back the tide rising to swallow the state that has been my family’s home for at least five generations, but after all the time, money, and pointless votes spent in that effort, the precious few victories have proven fleeting or largely inconsequential thus far.

Professionally, the situation hasn’t been much better for me, which isn’t terribly surprising given that state service and politics are inextricably linked. The rising hypocrisy and venality of the ivory towers of academia have simply become too much for my continued sanity to bear. Otherwise, I might have retired graciously after 25 years in higher education, but I lack the time to dither over my own future any longer.

My only daughter will be a teenager all too soon. While I might have contented myself to follow the long tradition of righteous outlawry in the face of well-meaning tyranny, it would be undeniably selfish to let her grow up in an environment increasingly toxic to her rights as a free citizen, when I could give her a fighting chance for liberty and prosperity somewhere else. By removing her to more defensible ground, I can at least give her the choices that I felt were so long unavailable to me, but this must happen before she loses her way in the emotional wilderness of adolescence and such life-changing events are perceived as the enemy of her own happiness.

Therefore, I have resigned my post at the California State University and am heading north to Washington, where I will continue my career and begin building a new home for my family. If thereby I can somehow reverse the tide through the anthropic virtue of my own sacrifice, then so much the better. God has certainly enjoyed a chuckle at my expense before. Indeed, after months and years of delays and denials, one such effect began to manifest itself scarcely two weeks from the day I committed to relocating.

While the Evergreen State is no libertarian paradise, Washington does seem to be the right place at the right time, especially if I must follow the path of traditional employment for some years to come. It is also not so far gone as California, so it might yet be saved from a similar fate. Even if the political kinesthesis now operating throughout the United Stated can’t be avoided there either, perhaps the local balance can be tipped in the right direction within the national scheme. If the Gadsden flag flying in one prospective neighborhood that I visited was any indication, there is some hope for this.

Of course, predicting the future is impossible from within this historical inflection point. I feel like I am running before a storm. That storm may happily break and pass us harmlessly by—and the sun does seem to be breaking through the clouds just now—or it may not. The Pacific Northwest with its forests, mountains, and rivers has always beckoned to me, and my mind’s eye has long seen it as a place of refuge, so that is where I have chosen to shelter and where I might reset the clock long enough to peacefully watch my daughter’s generation grow to maturity … before possibly facing the dreadful choice between fight or flight once again.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Peruta v. San Diego


Though it was eventually adopted by the National Rifle Association’s litigation team, the case of Peruta v. San Diego was widely seen as something of a dark horse compared to other right-to-carry challenges, such as the matter of Richards v. Prieto. In fact, both cases were argued before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit back in Dec. 2012. Today, the appeals court finally issued its decision, concluding that “the right to bear arms includes the right to carry an operable firearm outside the home for the lawful purpose of self-defense” and held that requiring “good cause” for the issuance of a license to carry a handgun “impermissibly infringes on the Second Amendment right to bear arms.…”

This decision represents a pleasing and unexpected victory—if a late one—for the right-to-carry movement in California. However, as history has shown, the fight may be far from over. Various judicial maneuvers may still be used to delay or reverse the order. Therefore and perhaps probably, Peruta may yet find itself petitioned for review to the U.S. Supreme Court, which has repeatedly demonstrated its reluctance to hear a right-to-carry challenge.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Libertarian Middle Way

Professor Randy E. Barnett

At its heart, modern libertarianism is about the morality of force. A libertarian holds that force is justified only to prevent wrongful conduct against persons and their property. In this respect, libertarianism differs drastically from the philosophies of the two predominant American political factions and specifically from the demands for “social justice” on the political left and of “legal moralism” on the political right. Both of these factions must rely upon the coercive power of the state to force compliance with their respective philosophical goals.

Professor Randy E. Barnett expands on this idea in the paper linked below. It’s only 19 pages and well worth reading, if you wish to understand libertarianism.