Saturday, February 11, 2012

If You Build It, They Will Come

If you drive a car, I'll tax the street, If you try to sit, I'll tax your seat.
If you get too cold I'll tax the heat, If you take a walk, I'll tax your feet.

Don't ask me what I want it for If you don't want to pay some more
'Cause I'm the taxman, yeah, I'm the taxman

- The Beatles -

Seven-year-old Carter King likes to fish with his dad. He likes it so much that he and his dad built a fourteen-foot wooden boat in the garage together so they could go fishing more often. Being good citizens, (or knowing they'd get nabbed by the state if they didn't have a bunch of ugly letters and numbers painted on the side) they properly registered the boat, paying the appropriate fees.

Not long after, Mr. King began receiving letters from the Tennessee Department of Revenue, informing him that because he was a boat dealer and manufacturer, he owed an additional $539 in taxes on the boat.

Of course, Mr. King assumed it was a mistake, so he contacted the auditor assigned to his case. Nope, there was no mistake. The state knew the boat was built by Carter and his dad in their garage, for their own use. Indeed, the state doubled down, warning that the family could face injunctions or misdemeanor charges if they don't pay up.

The Department of Revenue isn't talking. Requests for interviews are rejected, not only for this particular case, but about the issue in general.

When you have the guns and cuffs, own the courts and hold the keys to the jail cells, why be reasonable about $539?

Mr. King, instead of focusing on the piddling $539, should be preparing his operation for an onslaught of other government agencies, now that he's been declared a boat dealer and manufacturer.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics

There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics. - Mark Twain

The official unemployment rate is 8.3%, the official inflation rate is 3% and the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is growing at a rate of 2.8%. So why does it seem like you know more unemployed people than the statistics would call for? Why does it seem that prices are increasing faster than the official inflation rate? And why does it seem that the economy is moribund, when the GDP is on the rise?

Does your personal experience fall more in line with an unemployment rate of 22%, an inflation rate of 11%, and a negative GDP growth rate of -2.5%? Don't be surprised. It's not your perception that's off; it's the official government statistics.

If the figures in the second paragraph seem more realistic to you than the official figures in the first, read on and we'll discover just why those official numbers look so rosy.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Bipartisan Bird of Prey Claims Judge Nap

Judge Andrew Napolitano's Freedom Watch, "the best damned daily libertarian news & argument show in the history of television (name a better one!)," as Reason magazine described it, was cancelled today by Fox Business Network. The Judge will still appear on Fox Business as a legal consultant.

In memorium, this Tireless Agorist will step aside for this column, and let the Judge speak to us through one of his best five-minute editorials ever, Bipartisan Bird of Prey. Video first, followed by a transcript, for those who'd care to follow along or read it later.

More of Judge Nap's Freedom Watch is available here.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

What's Your Candidate Done to Change the World?

"An idea whose time has come cannot be stopped by any army or any government."
-Ron Paul-

Four years ago, Ron Paul was completely marginalized by the political-media establishment. His contrarian views on the increasing centralization of power in the hands of a tiny minority residing in Washington and on Wall Street, endless military intervention abroad and economic intervention at home, the fiat money perpetuated by the Federal Reserve, the ongoing attacks on personal liberty, and the destructive war on drugs were literally mocked by other presidential candidates, debate moderators, political pundits, and the press who reported the stories.

Four years later, those topics are all at the center of the political debate.

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Apolitical Economic Superpower

Christiane Amanpour of ABC News is the latest to grasp the significance of the world's off-the-books, untaxed, unregulated marketplace. This surprising economic superpower was featured in her Around the World segment on February 1st.

This market is most often referred to by government spokesmen everywhere as the "black market," in the hopes that people will equate dodging the taxman and bureaucratic busybodies with slavery, child trafficing for pornography, murder for hire, heroin sales, and other, such unsavory pursuits. But people are waking up to the reality behind the hype. When a market is the second-largest in the world, topping 10 trillion dollars, second only to the United States $14.26 trillion, and currently provides approximately half the world's jobs, it becomes increasingly hard to conceive of it as fundamentally evil.1

The future holds only increased respectibility, as estimates indicate that by 2020, 8 years away, fully two-thirds of the world's workforce will find themselves employed outside of officially-approved channels. This is occurring in an official world-wide economic slump where every new job is considered reason for celebration and pontification. It becomes ever more obvious that the biggest contributor to the growth of the global standard of living is not government programs, but avoiding government involvement in the economic realm to the greatest extent possible.

As Christiane puts it, "far from the canyons of Wall Street, far from the banking capitals of the world, the economy of the streets is booming." The same can hardly be said for the listless, if not moribund, state of the officially-recognized economies. Even in the United States, where avoiding political class meddling in the economy grows more difficult every day, $1.2 trillion, or about 8.3 percent of the economy, is off-the-books -- although the US is among those countries with the smallest percentage of such activity.

House Republicans: Frack Transparency

Let's jump right in with some coverage from the Huffington Post.
"WASHINGTON -- In a stunning break with First Amendment policy, House Republicans directed Capitol Hill police to detain a highly regarded documentary crew that was attempting to film a Wednesday hearing on a controversial natural gas procurement practice [called fracking]."
In my naivety, I had always assumed that these hearings were public. I know they occasionally invoke "National Security," but that's the exception to the rule. It's called "The People's House," after all. Why should our employees have any authority to keep us from watching over their shoulder? That's the whole reason for CSPAN's existence, when you get right down to it.

Who's afraid of a camera, after all? It's not like it throws lumps of lead around the room at deadly and earsplitting velocities, or sends electric shocks through the people in the viewfinder, or causes them to cough and gag as their eyes water. It's a benign and passive device. But that's apparently not the viewpoint of our legislators.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

SOPA/PIPA - A Legislative Litmus Test

The Internet is now the primary tool for the advancement of liberty in the world. Wherever you look, this is glaringly obvious. Here in the US, both the Tea Party and Occupy movements have made extensive use of the Internet. The Arab Spring would not have happened without the Internet. Every day, individuals around the world are using the power of free information exchange over the Internet to escape from, or subvert and replace, coercive factions in their own society.

Those who seek to bring the Internet under the control of government are the enemies of liberty. At worst, they are actively plotting to corral First Amendment freedom of speech through control of the medium. At best, they are useful idiots serving their corporate donors at the expense of basic rights, too ill-informed to be trusted any longer with the reins of power. I wrote of the technique used to promote legislation like this in an earlier essay, and we know that power once abused will be abused again.

The November elections are nine months away. The Internet community came together virtually overnight to defeat SOPA and PIPA. If we fail to do the same to those who supported these bills, we will have only ourselves to blame when they finally sneak equivalent legislation through in the dead of night while our guard is down. A man bitten once by a rabid dog can reasonably blame the dog. If he allows the dog to remain in the House (or Senate) after that, he has only himself to blame for further injuries -- no matter how friendly that mutt seems to be in other circumstances.

With that mission in mind, I suggest those efforts be prioritized for maximum success.