Saturday, May 12, 2012

Licensed to Live: Occupations

Author's Note: Just below the masthead at the top of the page you'll see a new Contents link. The linked page lists all Tireless Agorist columns, arranged loosely as a table of contents or reading list by category. I hope you find it useful for exploring The Tireless Agorist.

In 1787 one could get most any job or open most any business without seeking the government's permission to do so. Today, nearly one in three U.S. workers needs a license to pursue their chosen occupation, and starting a new (legal) business without the involvement of both a state-licensed attorney and a state-licensed accountant is a fool's errand. Two recent studies do much to explain the rapid growth of the underground, apolitical economy that we explored in The Apolitical Economic Superpower and the rest of the Phoenix Society series of columns.

Occupational Hazards

The Institute for Justice recently released Occupational Licensing in 50 States and D.C., a study examining the impact of licensing on 102 low and moderate-income occupations. In 1950, only one in 20 U.S. workers needed a license to pursue their chosen occupation. Today, the ratio approaches one in three.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Tireless Guide to Posts 1-100

Author's Note: As a service to my tireless readers, I've organized the first 100 columns into a table of contents of sorts, organized by loosely-defined categories. I hope this will make it easier for you to explore subjects you may have missed in the past.

Celebrating 100 Tireless Posts

This is the 100th post on The Tireless Agorist, and my 60th birthday, so I'm taking the easy way out, with a little overview and thanks to my readers.

In those posts, we've partially erected a skeletal framework of political and economic philosophy bearing the promise of a society considerably different than that which most people take as a given, but there is much yet to be constructed.

I've shared my somewhat different views on a number of topics, including economics, society, politics, and history. In the Phoenix Society series, we've explored the emergence of a new form of society that functions in spite of, rather than because of, government. We've examined numerous cases of people and communities redefining their interactions through cooperation rather than coercion, and discovered that people are surviving quite nicely by expanding that paradigm. And we've seen that one woman, aware of her rights, managed to beat back serious infringements on the right to self defense in the nation's capital.

Government malfeasance, unfortunately, has also been a common topic, from victimless crimes and a war on civil liberties in the name of safety to cases of economic and regulatory malfeasance. We've enjoyed a few rather light-hearted stories as well, and even spent a little effort on the 2012 presidential race. And through it all, I've been learning from my readers as they learn from me and from the myriad sources from which I draw my inspiration. My thanks to my readers for their input, and my promise that the next 100 posts will be just as educational, thought-provoking, and hopefully, entertaining as these first 100 have been.

As a service to my tireless readers, post 101 will be a table of contents of sorts, organized by loosely defined categories, to make exploring The Tireless Agorist a more enjoyable process.

I'd also like to invite my readers to use the comments section of this post to let me know your favorite topics from the first 100 posts, and offer suggestions for topics that you'd like to see covered in the future.

Thanks for reading.

Agorist Don

P.S. You can support The Tireless Agorist by shopping Amazon through the search box over to the right or any of the Amazon links, and I'd really appreciate it if you'd click the Facebook Like button near the bottom of the sidebar.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

States in Budget Crisis

Map courtesy of The Washington Post.

As the above map shows, more than 40 states are facing a budget shortfall in fiscal 2012. Ten states will fall short of revenue needs by 20% or more; Illinois and Nevada are both projecting shortfalls representing approximately 45% of their budgets. The top five are rounded out by New Jersey, at 37%, Texas at 31%, and California at 28%. Those five states combined project a total shortfall of just under $40 billion.

It appears that even the dismal case projected for California was an understatement. Tax revenue for the fiscal year is currently running $3 billion below projection.

It's also important to note that those figures are only for fiscal 2012. Factor in pension liabilities, estimated at more than 10 times annual budget in California's case, for instance, and the situation is untenable.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Fellow Travelers and Purity Tests

Author's Note: I'm not a big fan of the whole "voting" thing, agreeing in large part with those ideological purists who consider voting a validation of the system. Nor am I seriously convinced that political action will ever reverse the current course of government. As an agorist, I think that replacing the functions of government one piece at a time in our own lives and focusing locally will have more long-term impact.

That said, I'm philosophically a pacifist, too, but in self-defense I'd certainly be willing to pull the trigger. Thus my pragmatic approach to politics, and voting. Read on and you'll understand why this explanation was necessary. I'm simply laying out a game plan for those who are convinced political action can still turn the tide. I consider them fellow travelers too, regardless of what label they self-declare, and I write for the whole "more freedom, less coercion" movement, not just those most closely aligned with my beliefs.

P.S. In this essay, I use the term libertarian in as "big-tent" a context as is possible... excluding Bob Barr, of course.

This weekend, two-time New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson won the Presidential nomination of the Libertarian Party, kicking off quite likely the most successful of Libertarian Presidential runs to date. The Ron Paul Revolution cleaned up in Nevada and Maine, claiming 22 of the 28 national delegate slots in Nevada and 21 of the 24 of the slots in Maine. While 20 of the Nevada delegates must vote for Romney on the first ballot at the convention, the Maine contingent is free to vote their conscience, since the Maine "primary" was nothing more than an unbound beauty contest staged for the press.

In a recent column, The Underground is Surfacing, we discussed The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What's Wrong with America, by Matt Welch and Nick Gillespie. The book's thesis is that "we are in fact living at the cusp of what can only be called the libertarian moment." Independents are now the largest voting block in the country, their 41% share outstripping both Democrats and Republicans, and they hold political positions very similar to those reported for Millennials (18-to-29-year-olds) surveyed in a recent Harvard study.
In general terms, only 20% of Millennials feel the nation is generally headed in the right direction, opposed to 43% who think it's off on the wrong track and 36% who aren't sure. Only 15% disagree with the statement "Politics today are no longer able to meet the challenges our country is facing."

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Criminalizing Dissent

In First Amendment (1791-2012) R.I.P. we discussed H.R. 347, the Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act, that further criminalized the First Amendment. Slate concisely summarized the new law like this.
It is a federal offense, punishable by up to 10 years in prison to protest anywhere the Secret Service might be guarding someone. For another, it’s almost impossible to predict what constitutes “disorderly or disruptive conduct” or what sorts of conduct authorities deem to “impede or disrupt the orderly conduct of Government business or official functions.”

Instead of turning on a designated place, the protest ban turns on what persons and spaces are deemed to warrant Secret Service protection. It’s a perfect circle: The people who believe they are important enough to warrant protest can now shield themselves from protestors. No wonder the Occupy supporters are worried. In the spirit of “free speech zones,” this law creates another space in which protesters are free to be nowhere near the people they are protesting.
Among others, three major upcoming events will test the impact of this new law on First Amendment activities. First comes Chicago's NATO Summit, May 20-21. The Presidential nominating conventions follow this fall, first the Republicans in Tampa, August 27-30, then the Democrats in Charlotte, North Carolina, September 3-6.