Sketching a Free-Market Response to Climate Change

As Florida faces Hurricane Irma and Houston continues its recovery efforts from the intense flooding there, a lot of people are turning more of their attention to the matter of climate change, and with good reason.

Summarized briefly, my position on human-caused climate change has evolved over the years roughly from “it isn’t happening” to “it’s happening but it isn’t that big of a deal” to “it’s happening and it’s probably a big deal.” These notes represent my quick attempt to help bridge the communication gap between scientists and activists who think that climate change represents an existential threat to people on the planet and free-market advocates typically less inclined to take the problem seriously. Continue reading “Sketching a Free-Market Response to Climate Change”

On the Right to Petition Public Officials on Social Media

Public officials have the same rights to freedom of speech and freedom of association that the rest of us have. The do not lose their rights simply because they win elected office. Public officials are not above the law, but they are not beneath the law, either. They have a right to maintain their private lives, including their personal social media feeds (per the relevant terms of service), and interact with people (or not) as they see fit, just like the rest of us.

At the same time, insofar as public officials act as agents of government, they assume certain legal responsibilities that the rest of us do not have. If public officials open official forums of public commentary, they may not discriminate on the basis of ideology or point of view (among other things), and they must treat everyone equally under the law. Continue reading “On the Right to Petition Public Officials on Social Media”

Why Public Officials Have a Right to Block People on Social Media

August 21 Update: I made some important mistakes in the article below, and I have since drafted a new article dealing with the same issues. Please see the new article for my developed views. I am leaving up the text below, despite its problems, as an archive. Please do not quote from it as though it reflected my developed view. My basic mistake was to assume that, because social media companies block people, therefore government may not use social media for official forums of public commentary. But government may do so, I now conclude, so long as they also provide a means to comment outside of social media. I apologize for the confusion caused by the release of the draft below. However, I wouldn’t have made the advances in my thinking that I did without publishing the initial draft, so I have a hard time regretting it. —Ari Armstrong Continue reading “Why Public Officials Have a Right to Block People on Social Media”

Why Taxing Bicycles in Colorado Is a Dumb Idea

Stunningly, some Colorado Democrats have finally found a tax they don’t like. After Republican State Senator Ray Scott suggested he might propose a bicycle tax similar to one Oregon just imposed, Democratic Senator Andy Kerr slammed the idea as an “anti-business, anti-freedom policy,” Colorado Politics reports. If only Colorado Democrats were always so skeptical of taking people’s money.

And yet the case for taxing bicycles seems compelling, at least on the surface. Continue reading “Why Taxing Bicycles in Colorado Is a Dumb Idea”

Jared Polis’s Fantasy that Aspen Runs on 100 Percent Renewable Energy

Let’s talk about a little place called Aassspen. Jared Polis, member of Congress from Boulder and a Democratic candidate for governor of Colorado, touts a “bold goal of 100% renewable energy” in the state by 2040. Surely Colorado can do it, he suggests on his campaign page, given that Colorado’s own Aspen “became the third city in the country to already achieve 100% renewable.”

But Polis’s claim about Aspen is pure fantasy, and, insofar as Aspen does run on renewable energy, various aspects of its power program are unique to the wealthy ski town and cannot be scaled statewide. Continue reading “Jared Polis’s Fantasy that Aspen Runs on 100 Percent Renewable Energy”

Why Vouchers Subsidize Religion

When government helps to finance the operations of a religious organization, it violates the rights of the people whose wealth it forcibly takes for the purpose. Such funding violates not only people’s right to control their resources, but their right to follow their conscience, insofar as they are forced to propagate ideas with which they disagree. I’ve argued these points in a first, second, and third article responding to the Supreme Court’s decision that a playground operated by Trinity Lutheran Church must be considered for government grants available to others.

But when exactly does government funding constitute a subsidy to a given party, when does a subsidy promote a religious purpose, and what are the ethical implications of various government programs, such as tax-funded vouchers that parents can spend at religious schools? Continue reading “Why Vouchers Subsidize Religion”

Conservatives Play the Bigotry Card to Support Tax Funds for Religious Groups

Tax subsidies to religious organizations are not justified just because laws that ban such subsidies arose from anti-Catholic sentiment.

We expect people on the left to argue that government should counter bigotry by forcing private parties to do things they otherwise would not do, such as, in the case of a Christian baker who opposes homosexuality, bake a cake for a gay wedding.

We do not usually expect conservatives to make comparable arguments, but, when it comes to tax funding for religious groups, many conservatives do just that. Continue reading “Conservatives Play the Bigotry Card to Support Tax Funds for Religious Groups”

Cakes, Playgrounds, and Conservative Hypocrisy on Religious Liberty

Many conservatives back freedom for religious business owners but not for taxpayers when it comes to matters of conscience.

Many conservatives are logically inconsistent when it comes to religious liberty, as their positions on two prominent legal cases illustrate. Continue reading “Cakes, Playgrounds, and Conservative Hypocrisy on Religious Liberty”

The Religious Liberty to Spend Other People’s Money

The forgotten person, whose freedom of conscience and right to direct his wealth are ignored, is the one forced to help finance a project a government agency deems best.

Religious organizations have the same right as nonreligious ones to use wealth taken from others by force, according to the Supreme Court and its conservative cheerleaders. Continue reading “The Religious Liberty to Spend Other People’s Money”