Just Say No to the Local Government Snow Job

RGBStock.comShovelingSnowWhen high school seniors Matt Molinari and Eric Schnepf set out to flier their home town of Bridgewater, New Jersey, they didn’t think of themselves as scofflaws. They thought they were offering a valuable service — shoveling snow from sidewalks and driveways — to likely customers. Then police showed up and told them about the town’s ordinance against solicitation.

The ordinance doesn’t actually outlaw solicitation, of course. It just requires entrepreneurs like Molinari and Schnepf to pay bribes … er, “license fees” … to city bureaucrats before sallying forth in search of business.

These stories are perennial favorites. In winter, it’s teens shoveling sidewalks. In summer, it’s those same teens mowing lawns or their pre-teen siblings setting up unlicensed lemonade stands or selling cookies to support their scout troops.

Usually readers are inclined to side with the young businesspeople, and rightly so. Most of us grew up in an America that encouraged that kind of initiative, in a time before local politicians got it into their heads that they need to regulate, well, pretty much everything.

As a pre-teen in the 1970s, I received a small allowance for doing household chores. At 12, I asked for a raise. My father refused. In fact, he said, the allowance was ending. However, he figured that since we had a lawn mower sitting around anyway, I could use it to make my own money (in return for mowing OUR yard for free, of course).

That summer, I earned more money per week than I’d made per month from the old allowance. I felt positively rich. I spent every summer after making money that way, every fall raking leaves, every winter shoveling sidewalks, until I got my first “real” job at 16. The kid who tries that today will likely get shut down early on.

The continuing trend toward over-regulation by local governments harms both young go-getters and their customers.

Remember, most small towns require lawns to be kept trim, leaves to be raked, driveways and walks to be cleared of ice. Every year a few older Americans die of heart attacks doing those jobs. And every year, more towns make it more difficult to find young workers who’ll do the jobs at reasonable prices.

Local politicians offer several excuses for interfering in these small-time commercial transactions. They’re protecting residents from scam artists. They need to control traffic on their streets and commercial activities increase it. Their governments rely on revenues generated by license fees.

But those really are just excuses. Politics attracts people who like to control others. Established businesses bankroll local campaigns, then lobby for rules that outlaw their competitors, including teenagers who do more work for less money.

Fortunately, local government is more vulnerable to voter dissatisfaction than state and federal government. A few votes really can make a difference. Tired of politicians  turning your town into a miniature Pyongyang? Run for local office yourself! Or at least cast your votes carefully. Hint: Look for the candidates who call themselves “libertarians.”

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.


Rudy Giuliani Loves America. Here’s Why.

Giuliani at a campaign event in Derry, New Ham...
Rudy Giuliani at a campaign event in Derry, New Hampshire, on January 7, 2008, the day before the New Hampshire primary. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“I know this is a horrible thing to say,” former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani told a gathering of Republican business leaders and media flacks on February 18, “but I do not believe that the president loves America.”

When taken to task for the assertion, Giuliani doubled, then tripled, down.  First he bungled his response to claims of a racial angle (responding that since Obama was raised by a white mother, racism couldn’t possibly have anything to do with it). Then he segued into red-baiting: “Logically, think about his background … The ideas that are troubling me and are leading to this come from communists with whom he associated when he was 9 years old.”

Now, we know that even if Barack Obama doesn’t love America,  Rudy Giuliani definitely loves America. Why? Because he tells us so, of course. But which America does Rudy Giuliani love, and why?

On the evidence, he cares little for the America of Thomas Paine or Thomas Jefferson. He’s a veritable poster boy for the “love for big government” mindset often attributed to Obama (and to communism). To put it bluntly, Rudy Giuliani’s entire adult life has been spent 1) living off the taxpayer, 2) trying to live off the taxpayer, and 3) demanding that Americans give up their freedoms because they get in the way of  whatever Rudy Giuliani might happen to want.

“Freedom is about authority,” he said in a 1994 speech. “Freedom is about the willingness of every single human being to cede to lawful authority a great deal of discretion about what you do.” Ceding lawful authority to whom? Why, Rudy Giuliani, of course.

Upon graduation from law school, Giuliani clerked for a federal judge. From there, he joined the US Attorney’s office for the southern district of New York, then ran through a quick change of party affiliations (from Democrat to Independent to Republican) so he could collect government paychecks from the Ford and Reagan administrations.

Starting in 1989, Giuliani went to work for putatively “private” law firms while running for mayor of New York, finally winning election in 1993, shortly after the first terror attack on the World Trade Center.

Over the next eight years he so mismanaged New York’s preparations for another attack that on 9/11 (while Giuliani and his staff cowered in a command center he had inexplicably sited smack in the middle of the city’s most likely terror target, the WTC complex) first responders still lacked a unified radio frequency, resulting in the deaths of more than 100 cops and firefighters who went unwarned of the towers’ impending collapse.

He’s spent his post-mayoral career (when not running for office) representing corporate clients before government agencies, lobbying for Venezuela’s communist oil monopoly, and promoting himself as an “expert” on national security issues.

Yes, Rudy Giuliani loves America — the America whose taxpayers have given him lifelong money and power with a complete absence of anything resembling accountability. He and Obama are peas in a pod.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.


Time to End the Elections Duopoly

RGBStock.com Vote PencilCalifornia’s elections system is making news again (“Top-two primary system survives challenge,” by Thomas Elias, Salinas Californian, February 17). “Top two,” in California and elsewhere, is the latest effort to strengthen the Republican and Democratic parties’ monopoly — “duopoly” — over  American politics.

Supporters’ justifications for “top two” laws are that too much choice on the November ballot “confuses” voters, and that permitting only two candidates avoids run-offs and plurality rather than majority winners. So while those pesky third party (Libertarian, Green, etc.) and independent candidates can run in the earlier primary elections if they jump through enough hoops, in November voters must choose between the “top two” primary vote-getters — almost always  a Republican and a Democrat.

The single largest voter identification in the United States, exceeding any party’s, is “independent.” Polling consistently shows that pluralities or majorities of Americans support the idea of a “third major party” and would consider voting for non-duopoly candidates for political office.

Yet every other November, the vast majority of non-duopoly candidates go down to defeat. A few win local office. Even fewer become state legislators. Bona fide independent or third party governors, US Representatives and US Senators are rarities. And the next US president who isn’t a Republican or Democrat will be the first since those two parties coalesced into their current forms in the mid-19th century.

Why? Well, for one thing, those two major parties control access to election ballots. And they use that control to make it as difficult and expensive as possible for third party and independent candidates to even offer themselves as alternatives.

Prior to 1884, printed ballots were provided to voters by political parties and candidates. Those voters were also free to write out their own ballots by hand if they didn’t vote “straight party ticket.” Between 1884 and 1991, the states adopted the “Australian ballot” — a uniform ballot printed at government expense.

Standardized, one-size-fits all ballots, of course, have to come with rules. And guess who gets to make those rules? The two ruling parties, of course. Over time they have sewn up their “duopoly” with increasingly draconian restrictions.

In most states, Democratic and Republican nominees for office appear on the ballot automatically or nearly automatically. Third party and independent candidates might be allowed to run as well, if they spend lots of money collecting petition signatures — money which then becomes unavailable for their actual campaigns.

“Top two” proponents seek to tighten the screws even further and eliminate any chance whatsoever that a third party or independent candidate without, say, the personal wealth of a Ross Perot, might “spoil” the election of one of the establishment candidates, or even surge to victory.

They refer to their systematic diminution of voter choice, with straight faces, as “democracy.”

The rest of us refer to it as “rigging America’s elections.”

If voters want real political choice, it’s time to start voting for candidates who support free and fair elections … while the duopolists still allow us to.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.