State Senator Shawn Mitchell sent in the following comments on March 3, which I am happy to post. (In general, if readers have trouble posting comments, please send them to me directly in e-mail, and I’ll add them as I deem appropriate.)
I meant to thank you for your spectacular puncturing of the bogus accusations stemming from that flapdoodle in the Senate with Gordon and Groff. Thanks!
Now, about this post, let me mount half a defense: Guilty, but the charges are overstated. It surely was not a libertarian vote to retain the blue laws. I’ve told you before I’m kind of a schizophrenic, libertarian leaning conservative. The vote on Sunday closing came from conservative, not libertarian, thinking. Rather than argue that thinking here, which has less to do with religion than the belief that quite enough alcohol is already bought and sold, and the merchants weren’t exactly clamoring for the practical necessity to work seven days, I’ll just challenge your conclusions.
A bad market vote doesn’t make it a lie for many Republicans, including this one, to claim the mantle of market supporter. We may be imperfect. It would be a lie to claim otherwise. But for willingness to embrace, defend, and advocate the functioning of free markets, Republicans are the only team in town. In bill after bill, the Democrats have grown government control over peoples’ free choice, often against united Republican opposition. To suggest some kind of rough party parity, well, I won’t call it a lie because I know something of your intellect and character, but it’s foolishness.
Before I get started with my reply, I want to note that I have a great deal of respect for Senator Mitchell, and very often he gets things right. That’s why it pains me so much when he gets things wrong.
First I reply to Mitchell’s claims about the blue laws. The legislature’s proper job is to protect people’s rights, not decide how much alcohol is “quite enough” to buy and sell. The correct amount can be defined only by what willing buyers and sellers decide on a free market. And the case for repealing the blue laws has nothing to do with how many merchants enjoy the protectionist legislation. Merchants who do not wish to work on Sundays (or any other day) are free to abstain from doing so, and merchants who wish to work on Sundays have that right. The blue laws violate the rights of both sellers and buyers who wish to trade on Sundays.
While Mitchell can claim to balance his “libertarian” and “conservative” streaks, the choice is in any such case one of protecting or violating individual rights. In this case, Mitchell has voted to violate them.
Moreover, any legislator who votes to violate free markets in such an obvious case has surrendered the very principle of free markets. After casting such a vote, how is Mitchell to respond to Democrats who claim to balance their “libertarian” and “liberal” streaks? “People keep quite enough of their money already, and most taxpayers aren’t exactly clamoring to keep the extra X Percent of their income.” “People own quite enough guns already, and gun merchants weren’t exactly clamoring for the practical necessity of selling more than one per customer.” “People have quite enough health-insurance options already, and insurers weren’t exactly clamoring for the practical necessity of selling policies on a truly competitive market.” Mitchell has turned the entire debate over to pragmatists and compromisers, which can foster only steadily increasing government controls across the board.
Regarding Mitchell’s claim that Colorado Republicans generally support free markets:
Who was is that most strongly pressed for the Referendum C net tax hike? Who was it that signed the bill creating the “208” Healthcare Commission? Who was it that pushed for more gun restrictions? It was Republican Governor Bill Owens.
Who was it that supported “faith-based” welfare and (later) health-insurance mandates? It was the Republican gubernatorial candidate for 2006, Bob Beauprez.
Which party funded corporate welfare through all of its years in the majority? The Republicans. (The Democrats are perfectly happy to maintain this tradition.)
Who sponsored the smoking ban? Republican Mike May. And who signed it into law? Republican Bill Owens. (To his credit, Mitchell did vote against this one.)
These are only the local examples that quickly jumped to mind. And a list that included the abuses of George W. Bush and other national Republicans could fill a book.
Obviously, Republicans are at best fickle friends of free markets. I readily grant that Republicans are much more likely than Democrats to oppose tax hikes, oppose gun restrictions, and mitigate environmentalist interventions. On the issue of health policy, many Colorado Republicans have been surprisingly supportive of individual rights in medicine.
However, when I wrote “that the Republican Party is the Other Party of Big Government,” I also had in mind more personal matters over which Republicans are much more likely than Democrats to impose restrictions. (Such matters also involve market exchanges, but the emphasis is on private decisions.)
Mitchell cosponsored Bill 125 regarding pornography, which the Rocky Mountain News blasted in a February 22 editorial. (Tony Bubb alerted me to Mitchell’s support of this bill.) I criticized similar legislation in 2004. I have not analyzed the amended bill, but it seems that the best that can be said for it is that it is unnecessary, given that using children for pornography and child abuse generally are already illegal. More broadly, Republicans seem only too happy to impose censorship where naughty images of consenting adults are concerned.
Most Republicans aggressively push for the drug war and often oppose even modest efforts to reduce criminal penalties for marijuana, even for medical use. (To his credit, Mitchell played a major role in limiting abuses of the asset forfeiture laws, which often are used in drug cases. See my articles from June and April, 2002.)
This year Republicans also tried to impose senseless restrictions on abortions; we’ll see whether Republican legislators express their support for the measure that would define a fertilized egg as a person.
It remains the case that, while Democrats tend to push harder to restrict our economic liberties, Republicans tend to push harder to restrict our personal liberties. But both parties are quite happy to do both in many circumstances. (That’s called “bipartisanship.”)
So do not forget that the Democratic Party is the Party of Big Government, but “remember that the Republican Party is the Other Party of Big Government.”