January 2012 In Review

January was a busy month as I began to blog more frequently for The Objective Standard. I also coauthored two columns for Grand Junction Free Press, wrote several substantial blog posts, uploaded five videos to YouTube, maintained my social media work, and moderated the DenverLiberty In the Books.

See also my December review.

If you find my work to be a value, please consider making a contribution!

Grand Junction Free Press

My dad Linn and I wrote our usual two columns for the Western Slope newspaper:

• Take Responsibility When Carrying a Gun

• Natelson Brings Original Constitution to Colorado Activists

Major Blog Posts

I wrote the following substantial blog posts uniquely for my own web page:

• Mises’ Lessons for Gentlemanly Disputes

• CO Cake Bill 1027: Let Them Eat Cake (No, Seriously)

• Common Cause Joins Pro-Censorship Rally

This story was Tweeted by MelissaTweets!

• The Book of Tebow

Notably, Westword picked up this story about the football player’s statistics in the context of numerological interpretations.

This story was also Tweeted by arch-skeptic Michael Shermer!

• John David Lewis Fought for the Future

YouTube Videos

Here are the videos I posted for the month:

Free Speech: Braunlich Testifies Against CO Campaign Laws

Why I Support the Colorado “Cake Bill”

First Look at the Independence Institute’s New Building

Anders Ingemarson: Friends and Foes of Ayn Rand’s ‘Atlas Shrugged

Stephen Bailey: The Individualism of Ayn Rand’s ‘Anthem’

Objective Standard

I’m pleased to be writing more for the Objective Standard blog. (Of the work listed in this post, these posts and my work with Liberty In the Books is the only work for which I am directly paid.)

• Santorum Stands for Big Government because He Stands for Collectivism

• Who Deserves Credit for Tebow’s 316 Yards?

• Even with Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party Undermines Liberty

• Did God Help the Patriots Beat the Broncos?

• Romney Should Call for Property Rights and Lower Taxes for Everyone

• To Give Americans a “Fair Shot,” Obama Should Stop Violating Our Rights

• Double-Taxation Means Double Injustice for Romney

• Great Producers Deserve Our Gratitude, Not Obama’s Tax Hikes

• Warren Buffett Immorally Calls for Tax Hikes on Top Producers

• Obama Should Help End All Energy Subsidies, Not Play Favorites

• Gingrich Seeks to Violate Rights of Women and Doctors to Engage in Fertility Care

• Texas Anti-Abortion Law Violates Rights to Liberty and Freedom of Speech

Some Back-Patting

Wayne Laugesen, editorial page editor for the Colorado Springs Gazette,wrote the following comments on his Facebook page:

My very good friend—famous feminist-liberal Pamela White (author name “Pamela Clare”)—has become a full-fledged gun nut. … Pamela, as you will see by following the first link, used to be anti gun. Two vicious criminals broke into her Boulder home, and she was saved only by the timely and unlikely arrival of cops with guns. She remained anti gun until I and Ari Armstrong, a friend and great American, taught her about gun rights and guns. Ari sent her to the Western Slopes for firearms re-education camp.

Today, 10 years later, Pamela leaves this on my wall: “So, it’s official. I may be a gun nut. Yesterday’s shooting spree included my Mossberg, a Navy SEAL edition SIG Sauer P226, a Beretta, a Henry lever-action .22, an AR-15, a Winchester 3030, a SIG Mosquito, a Marlin .22 rifle, some kind of .45 (can’t remember). It was a lot of fun… The SIG is just sexy.”

And this, for which I am very proud: “I blame you and Ari Armstrong. ;-)”

Read Pam’s Boulder Weekly article on the matter.

And, if you’re into that sort of thing, check out Pam’s romance novels!

I was also touched by this letter by Gladys Woynowskie published by Grand Junction Free Press:

I read an online article by Ari Armstrong relating his confrontation of a Denver Post journalist. I am impressed by his willingness to simply ask for verification of data. It seems like a simple and innocuous act, yet accuracy is powerful and significant.

I want to express my appreciation for Mr. Armstrong’s regard for accuracy (especially valuable in a journalist), and his patient tenacity in expecting other journalists to value the same. Mr. Armstrong reflects well on the reputation of Grand Junction Free Press.

Thanks, Gladys!

And check out that article if you haven’t already seen it.

If you find my work to be a value, please consider making a contribution!

Mises’ Lessons for Gentlemanly Disputes

Many years after Nobel economist Friedrich Hayek visited Professor John Van Sickle in Boulder, I sat in the same living room where the two men had conversed.

Both Hayek and Van Sickle were friends and students of the great Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises. Van Sickle had saved many letters to and from Hayek, Mises, and other free-market economists of their day. I got the chance to look through these letters and reproduce them. They now reside in the archives of the Foundation for Economic Education. (I’ve told this story before; I’ve received permission from Jerry Van Sickle and FEE to reproduce those letters at my discretion.)

I was glancing through those letters for possible use in an upcoming presentation, and I happened upon a letter for Mises that I think admirably illustrates the gentleman’s way of handling a dispute. (I read the letter during a time when a friend of mine was coming under some mean-spirited and frankly ridiculous attacks.) The letter is dated March 2, 1955.

Mises stuck to his principles and did not shy away from criticizing perceived errors and slights sharply and directly:

[M]y formulations are to be taken on the one side and should be opposed to the middle-of-the-road formulations of [Milton] Friedman… and others on the other side. To proceed in a different way is tantamount to the adoption of the official position of the New Deal philosophy. Then one does not discuss the economic meaning and function of inequality, but takes it for granted that inequality is bad and discusses whether it should be abolished altogether or whether some “loopholes” should be left. There is nothing that I could contribute to such a debate. … If you assign my formulations a lower rank than to those of other participants, then please forget about them, set aside the letters I wrote you and do not expect me to attend the meeting.

Several things here are noteworthy. Mises did not refrain from blasting Friedman over fundamental disagreements. Yet he did not refrain from debating the matter with Friedman, so long as he could debate on equal footing.

Mises closed with an equally interesting paragraph:

I want to emphasize that my attitude on this question in no way reflects upon our long established friendly relations and does not at all affect the high esteem in which I hold you personally.

In other words, even though Mises thought Van Sickle was setting up a conference in such a way that slighted Mises in favor of the “middle-of-the-roaders,” Mises maintained a remarkably cordial tone, even as he pointedly explained the reasons for his irritation. (Of course, that doesn’t imply one must always deliver roses to one’s ideological opponents.)

I think Mises’s approach goes a long way in explaining why he was so widely loved, and why he remains so influential.

From Van Sickle Documents

Braunlich: CO Campaign Laws Chill Speech of New Activists, Small Groups

Last month Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler hosted a hearing about proposed rules for Colorado’s byzantine campaign finance laws. I supported (most of) his proposed rule changes, even while condemning the campaign laws as a violation of free speech. Please see the videos of testimony by Diana Hsieh, Paul Hsieh, Matt Arnold, and me.

I’ve decided that the issue is important enough to merit the release of additional video from that event. Here Mark Braunlich argues that the campaign laws chill the speech of new activists and small groups. He did praise Gessler for trying to make the related rules as comprehensible as possible.

CO Cake Bill 1027: Let Them Eat Cake (No, Seriously)

If the Colorado legislature passes a “cake bill” (1027) to legalize cottage bakers, Mande Gabelson of Ava Sweet Cakes can bake me a cake, just as fast as she can.

Otherwise, she’ll get a $1,500 fine for it.

My dad and I are working up a column for Grand Junction Free Press on the story. However, according to Mande, the bill may be heard as early as next week (it already passed through its first committee), and our column doesn’t pop until Friday. Thus, I asked Mande if I could release her interview early here, and she said I could. (She also said I can release the images seen here, two of which were distributed in a Republican media release.)

Mande said she used to rent space at a commercial kitchen for $100 deposit, $135 monthly rental, and $12 per hour for usage. “I had to leave the commercial kitchen due to the cost.”

But, she said, “I knew the law, I knew I could not sell out of my home, but I knew that other states would allow it with a cottage food law. I wanted to figure out a way to get it done.”

And so she contacted her local legislators. “Rep [Laura] Bradford gave me a call over the summer, and we talked about cottage food bills in other states… and here we are.”

Mande said that, while professional kitchens work great for large-scale caterers, “If you’re someone like me, who just wants to make a cake every once or a while… it just doesn’t work.”

Right now, you “can’t bake a cake and sell it to your neighbor. If the money goes to a school [at a bake sale], that’s okay, but they [bakers] can’t put the money in their back pocket. I couldn’t even sell a cake to my mom. That would be against the law.”

The bill, Mande said, “would let me sell from my home. So I could take orders, and people could pick it up at my home… I could sell at farmers markets and roadside stands.”

I asked whether she could deliver cakes under the bill. “Yes, you can.” But you “cannot sell to say a restaurant, it has to be sold directly to the consumer.”

Under the bill, she said, counties can set up a registration process and charge a fee: “It’s up to each county as to whether they want to enforce licensing. I’m suspecting that each county is going to go ahead and do that, because they get income from it.” However, counties “cannot prohibit individuals from participating in this bill.”

Mande said that the bill applies only to “nonhazardous foods” (as defined federally) “that can be left out at room temperature for several days without harboring any harmful microorganisms.”

Mande opposes attempts to restrict the revenues of cottage bakers: “The reason there is no cap on that, if I make a wedding cake every weekend, a wedding cake typically sells for $2,000. Not that I would bake a wedding cake every weekend, but that’s just an example. You have to think about the man hours that go into something like that. I’m an artist. The typical wedding cake takes between 15 and 20 hours, and I should be paid for my skills. People come to me because of my abilities, and they want to pay me that much, and I should be able to take that. If they put a cap on that, I’d be able to bake only one cake a year? Only two cakes a year? That doesn’t make sense to me.”

Why did she name her business “Ava Sweet Cakes?” “That’s my daughter. When I was 7 months pregnant with her my husband got laid off from Halliburton.” Mande took baking classes, and “that’s when I discovered I have this talent. When Ava was six months old I decided to name it after her.”

From Ava Sweet Cakes
From Ava Sweet Cakes

Update: Check out my 22-second video on the theme, in which I adapt “Patty Cake.”

Update: Westword posted something about this and embedded a nice segment from 11News on it.

Update 8:23 pm: Grand Junction Daily Sentinel explains that there are two “cottage foods” bills in the works. The alternate bill would allow more types of foods but cap sales to $5,000 per year. In other news, Representative Laura Bradford has lost her position as committee chair after getting pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving, reports Fox31.

Ideas of the Tea Party Survey

Self-identified Tea Partiers are welcome to reply to this survey. Readers are also encouraged to alert their Tea Party friends about it.

Ideas of the Tea Party Survey

The goal of this survey is to better understand where Tea Partiers get their ideas. If you are a self-identified Tea Partier, you are welcome to respond to this survey by February 10, 2012. By responding to this survey, you grant Ari Armstrong the right to publish your responses, in full or in part, without restrictions. However, you may request that your replies remain anonymous for publication purposes. Please email replies to ari (atsign) freecolorado (dot) com.

1. What is your name? Do you grant permission to publish your name with your survey responses, or do you prefer to remain anonymous for publication purposes?

2. What city and state do you live in?

3. What is your primary occupation?

4. If you have a Bachelor’s degree or higher, please list your major(s) and degree(s).

5. Did you become politically active through the Tea Party movement? How long have you been active in politics?

6. Besides the Tea Party label, how do you usually describe yourself in terms of your political commitments? If any of the following apply, please list them: conservative, Republican, independent, Christian conservative, fiscal conservative, free-market activist, libertarian, classical liberal, Objectivist.

7. Through what channels do you share your ideas with others? If you use any of the following means, please briefly explain how: social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), electronic email list, radio show, podcast, blog, regular newspaper column, occasional letters to newspapers, organize or participate in politically-oriented meetings or discussion groups.

8. What (if any) ideological or political organizations do you contribute to financially or volunteer to support?

9. Were you exposed to free-market ideas in college? If so, please briefly explain how.

10. What are your main, regular sources of politically-related ideas and information? Please list the most significant radio shows, TV shows, publications, blogs, organizations, or writers that you turn to on a regular basis.

11. Have you read any books since the rise of the modern Tea Party movement that have strongly influenced your political ideas? If so, which ones?

12. For each of the following figures, please briefly explain whether you have heard of the figure, whether he or she has influenced you, and, if so, how:
a) Milton Friedman
b) Friedrich Hayek
c) Ayn Rand
d) Henry Hazlitt
e) Ludwig von Mises
f) Thomas Sowell

13. Besides the figures already listed, have any scholars, intellectuals, or religious leaders strongly influenced your political ideas? If so, please name them and briefly explain how they influenced you.

Thank you for your replies! Please feel free to forward this survey to others in the Tea Party movement.

Ari Armstrong

Natelson Brings Original Constitution to Colorado Activists

The following article by Linn and Ari Armstrong originally was published January 20 by Grand Junction Free Press.

As Americans we live under the greatest Constitution ever devised. Unfortunately, few Americans know much about what our foundational legal document means or how it properly applies to modern life. And those who do study the Constitution often abuse (or artfully ignore) its text to advance a narrow political agenda.

Rob Natelson aims to remedy those problems. Natelson, one of the world’s foremost scholars on the original meaning of the Constitution, taught law at the University of Montana for over two decades. Now he has returned to Colorado, where he once practiced law, to serve with the Independence Institute. In recent months Natelson has lectured on the Constitution in Denver and Colorado Springs, most recently attending a meeting of Liberty In the Books (which Ari moderates).

Recently Natelson’s book “The Original Constitution” came out in a second edition. We encourage you to buy a copy and read it (search at Amazon), then share it with your friends. We are among the most fortunate people ever to walk the planet, because we have inherited the intellectual and legal traditions embodied in the Constitution. It is up to us to keep that heritage alive. We know of no better place to start than with Natelson’s book.

“The Original Constitution” embodies Natelson’s findings from years of research into stacks of documents, many in Latin, that informed the Founders. Yet the book is widely accessible and beautifully written. Natelson also offers a few hundred well-placed footnotes, as well as a descriptive bibliography, for those who wish to study further. The Constitution is a document for “We the People,” and so is Natelson’s book.

We especially admire the book’s integrity: “Among other academics, law professors are notorious for writing works of special pleading and calling them ‘scholarship’ — a practice I actively resisted during my long career in legal academia. I can assure the reader that this book is not a work of special pleading, but a depiction of a slice of history: the legal force of a particular legal document at a particular time.”

Natelson dismisses the notion, as expressed by Barack Obama, that it is “unrealistic” to “somehow discern the original intent of the Founders or ratifiers.” Instead, Natelson writes, “Competent Founding-Era scholars largely agree on what most of the original Constitution’s provisions mean. Much of the disagreement among constitutional writers results from unfamiliarity with the historical record or with eighteenth-century law.”

To offer an example of how Constitutional clarity can resolve today’s debates, consider what one writer claimed in the Washington Times: “Mr. [Herman] Cain’s 9 percent national sales tax simply isn’t constitutional.” Wrong. While we think a national sales tax is a really bad idea, it passes Constitutional muster. The Constitution grants Congress the power to impose “indirect” taxes such as a sales tax, as Natelson makes clear. In aninterview he confirmed, “A national sales tax is clearly constitutional, so long as uniform throughout the country.”

During the Liberty In the Books meeting, Natelson debunked another view of the Constitution that we have expressed. The idea is that the “commerce clause” grants Congress the authority only to “make regular” (regulate) interstate commerce, not restrict commerce. Not so, says Natelson. Instead, that clause gives Congress power to restrict commerce. However, Natelson explains, the “commerce clause” was intended to grant much less power than is commonly assumed today. For example, properly interpreted it would not allow Congress to force people to buy insurance, as ObamaCare proposes.

We are not convinced, however, that original intent always should dictate Constitutional interpretation. The literal meaning of the text also matters, as do the logical implications of the text.

Natelson offers an example in his book that we think supports this line of reasoning. Originally, Article III established that the “judicial power of the United States” extended to “controversies… between a state and citizens of another state.” Natelson convincingly argues that the Federalists thought this would not overturn “sovereign immunity,” or the power of states not to be sued by individuals. But the Supreme Court decided to read the text literally and allowed a man from South Carolina to sue Georgia. This unpopular decision quickly led to the passage of the Eleventh Amendment, which affirmed that a state cannot be sued by “citizens of another state.”

As Natelson pointed out, Chief Justice John Jay helped decide the Georgia decision. Jay, you’ll recall, was an author of the Federalist Papers. If even Jay looked to literal meaning over original intent, might that justify us doing the same?

It matters very much whether we look strictly to original intent, or whether we also examine literal meaning and logical implications, in evaluating the significance of the First Amendment, “due process of law,” and other key Constitutional provisions.

Yet, regardless of where we may ultimately end up in that debate, we acknowledge that it is critically important to understand the original intent of the Constitution. We thank Natelson for helping us do that.

Common Cause Joins Pro-Censorship Rally

The bigotry follows a common pattern: dehumanize your opponents, then strip them of their rights.

Tomorrow, various leftist organizations will rally in Denver to advocate censorship to forcibly silence select individuals, on the pretext that “corporations aren’t people.” And never mind the fact that corporations are composed of people, as are all groups.

In the good ol’ days, the left would denounce economic liberty but defend freedom of speech. Today the left’s inner contradictions have led it to endorse censorship outright (though many leftists are too cowardly to openly name their goal).

Colorado Common Cause has openly endorsed the pro-censorship rally and will participate in it. Yesterday the organization Tweeted, “#SCOTUS got it wrong, only people are people. Join @Amend2012 to take back your democracy: twibbon.com/amend2012.”

The link Tweeted by Common Cause takes us to a web page for “Amend 2012,” which states: “Corporations Are Not People. In 2010 the U.S. Supreme Court decision Citizens United v. FEC gave corporations the same constitutional rights as everyday Americans, and said corporations could use their massive riches as free speech. Corporations have been doing just that, pouring money into our elections and drowning out the voices of real people.”

Of course, Common Cause is itself a corporation, as Colorado recordsshow. For the fiscal year ending June 30, 2011, Common Cause showed revenues of $6,318,706.

So does Common Cause think it should be censored, on the grounds that it is a corporation that “pours money” into the political process? Of course not. Because, you see, some corporations are more equal than others. The members of some groups are more equal than others. The members of some groups are “real people,” who therefore retain their First Amendment rights, while the members of others groups are apparently subhumans, undeserving of the same legal protections. That is precisely the logic of Colorado Common Cause’s position.

Ironically, Colorado Common Cause and others are simultaneously advocating free speech by opposing the SOPA internet restriction bill, and advocating censorship of corporate speech. For example, in a Tweet today Common Cause promoted a “Musical Attack on #SOPA & #CitizensUnited.” See also the linked video.

And yet the voices against SOPA included many of America’s most prominent corporations. Wikipedia led the charge — you know, the free online encyclopedia owned by Wikimedia Foundation, Incorporated. The for-profit corporations Facebook and Google also came out strongly against SOPA. Even the Vibram shoe company came out against SOPA.

Does the American left really want to get in the businesses of imposing government censorship on corporations? As Eugene Volokh sensibly reasons: “Say that Congress concludes that it’s unfair for Google to be able to speak so broadly, in a way that ordinary Americans (including ordinary Congressmen) generally can’t. Congress therefore enacts a statute banning all corporations from spending their money — and therefore banning them from speaking — in support of or opposition to any statute. What would you say about such a statute?”

If censorship is “what democracy looks like,” then I for one will fight for the preservation of the First Amendment and our Constitutional republic.

Image: Picasa via Wikipedia

Read also: Citizens United and the Battle for Free Speech in America, by Steve Simpson

Save Internet Freedom

No, I’m not blacking out my web page today, but I certainly support those who do. As Diana Hsieh explains, bills recently considered by Congress threaten to subject the internet to pervasive government controls.

Yes, I support intellectual property rights. But the bills in question threaten intellectual property rights in the name of protecting them. Censorship is never the answer to any problem, real or imagined.

For more, see SOPAStrike.com.

True to their word, the folks at Wikipedia blacked out their site to protest the bills in question.

Gary Johnson Can’t Save the Libertarian Party

The Objective Standard has released my latest article, “Even with Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party Undermines Liberty.” My main argument is that the libertarian movement is overrun with moral subjectivism and anarchism, and Johnson will not be able to escape that association. My fear is that, to the extent Johnson gets any traction, that will only serve to link free markets with libertarian kookiness in public debate.

As I have argued before, while the ideology of the LP is the main problem, strictly on grounds of electoral strategy supporting Johnson makes little sense. See my previous two articles about that:

Paul-Johnson 2012: The Libertarians’ Best-Case Scenario

The Delusional Gary Johnson

The Book of Tebow

Quite obviously — and we know it’s true because it was published by Fox News — Tim Tebow’s 316 passing yards in yesterday’s spectacular victory against the Steelers “Invokes Key Bible Verse,” that being John 3:16. (See also my comments about this elsewhere.)

But what sports writers have not yet figured out is that God was sending us a message through all of Tebow’s games, not just yesterday’s game. If we look carefully enough at the numbers, we can divine God’s complete message for us. Just take a look at Tebow’s stats for the entire season.

What is not commonly understood is that the reference to John comes from the number of passes completed. That number is 10. What is the tenth letter of the alphabet? It’s “J,” as in “John.” Coincidence? I think not.

Clearly God was using Tim Tebow, in the course of a glorious football game, to communicate with mankind. (Clever technique, that, as opposed to, say, a burning bush.)

So let’s look at God’s complete message, using the stats from Tebow’s entire season.

Game 5: Tebow completed 4 passes for 79 yards. Obviously, then, that refers to Daniel 7:9:

“As I looked, thrones were placed and one that was ancient of days took his seat; his raiment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames, its wheels were burning fire.”

Prepare to have your mind blown. That week the Chargers beat the Broncos. Their “throne” a “fiery flame?” Well, it’s the Chargers, and just look at the logo of their helmets! It’s a flame! And the white hair? Check out the mane of Chargers general manager A. J. Smith.

Game 7: 13 completions for 161 yards. Obviously the 13 can’t refer to “Malachi,” because that book doesn’t contain enough chapters or versus. So the next logical book is Matthew, 16:1:

“And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show a sign from heaven.”

Was Tebow tested? Did he show a sign? Well, the outcome speaks for itself: “Tebow answers critics, rallies Denver to win vs. Miami.”

Game 8: Tebow completed 18 passes for 172 yards. That can’t be “Ruth” or “Romans,” because they aren’t not long enough. That takes us to Revelation 17:2. That starts off mid-sentence, so I’ll include the first verse as well:

“Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, ‘Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harolot who is seated upon many waters, with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and with the wine of whose fornication the dwellers on earth have become drunk.”

Let me just point out that the Lions crushed the Broncos that game 45-10. How many “bowls?” 7. How many sacks? Again, 7. I’m not sure what the “fornication” bit means — perhaps it’s metaphorical — but the Broncos sure played like they were drunk.

I could continue, but this is the sort of thing the reader can ably do for himself. I think the point is made well enough by now.

Image: NYC Wanderer (Kevin Eng) Hosted by Picasa

January 12 Update: Westword has outdone me. After reviewing the findings of this post, Michael Roberts predicts that, in his next game, Tebow will complete twelve passes for 263 yards, invoking Leviticus 26:3:

If you walk in My statutes and keep My commandments, and perform them…. you shall eat your bread to the full, and dwell in your land safely. I will give peace in the land, and you shall lie down, and none will make you afraid; I will rid the land of evil beasts, and the sword will not go through your land. You will chase your enemies, and they shall fall by the sword before you. Five of you shall chase a hundred, and a hundred of you shall put ten thousand to flight; your enemies shall fall by the sword before you.

Let us pray it comes to pass.