Races for Governor, U.S. Senate Getting Heated

The following article originally was published March 5 by Grand Junction’sFree Press.

Races for governor, U.S. Senate getting heated

by Linn and Ari Armstrong

While most of us celebrated Valentine’s Day last month, the motto in Colorado’s political races seemed to be “make war, not love.” With the general election still eight months away, campaign season is already in full swing, complete with bitter attack ads.

The big news in the governor’s race involves the net tax increases signed by Bill Ritter. Tim Hoover of the Denver Post summarizes the measures at http://tinyurl.com/rittertax.

We are particularly concerned about the tax hikes on industrial energy, software, and internet sales. While the economy is showing some signs of recovery, it remains a mess, and this is an especially lousy time to punish businesses. Democrats are all but begging certain businesses and entrepreneurs to fire people, flee the state, or refrain from moving here.

While Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper (the Democrat trying to replace Ritter) sat on his hands, Republican Scott McInnis admirably fought against the tax insanity. He said in a media release, “By signing these bills, Governor Ritter is essentially signing the pink slips of thousands of Colorado workers.” The Democrats have handed their challengers plenty of ammunition heading into November.

Taxes have also become a big issue in the U.S. Senate race. While Jane Norton remains the clear Republican frontrunner, her opponents have stepped up criticism. Challenger Tom Wiens ran a radio ad stating, “Right here in Colorado, some Republican leaders backed Referendum C, the biggest tax increase in our state’s history. I opposed it.” Norton was among those “Republican leaders.”

Yet at least Referendum C asked for voter approval, unlike Ritter’s hikes, as Norton has countered. (Check out ClearTheBenchColorado.com, which is urging non-retention of four Supreme Court justices in part because of their betrayal of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.

Last month we were also blessed by a visit from His Chosenness Barack Obama. The reason for his visit is apparent: Democratic Senator Michael “The Pretender” Bennet is in deep trouble. (Perhaps Obama will provide the same benefit to Bennet that he gave to Martha Coakley out in Massachusetts.

To review, back in 2004 Ken Salazar trounced Pete Coors in the U.S. Senate race. In 2008, Obama asked Salazar to become Secretary of the Interior. It fell to Governor Ritter to fill the vacancy. Ritter stupidly snubbed experienced legislator Andrew Romanoff and instead picked Bennet. So, presumably, Obama feels partly responsible for turning a solidly Democratic Senate seat into a likely GOP victory.

Bennet, while a good fundraiser, is otherwise a terrible candidate. Democratic leaders who want a shot at winning had better hope that Romanoff wins the primary. Not only has Romanoff beat Bennet in the polls, but he has picked up major endorsements from state legislators and various unions. (Bennet has also been touting his union support, which is a good indication of why Democrats risk losing the seat.)

On the Republican side, Wiens’s ad may actually help Norton. We had always thought of Norton’s strongest challenger as Ken Buck, but he has not run a very exciting campaign, and he has some baggage as Weld County’s District Attorney for raiding a business on a records fishing expedition and for invoking “hate crime” laws, which remain unpopular with Republicans.

By running relatively strong campaigns, Wiens and Cleve Tidwell may split the opposition to Norton, leaving her an even stronger frontrunner.

When Obama came to Colorado, Norton made headlines by running a television ad in which she said, “Mr. President, you should pledge to balance the budget, or else decline to seek reelection. That’d be change we can believe in.”

However, when discussing the ad on Fox, Norton also said the recent Congressional jobs bill “was too small.” Norton’s spokesperson Nate Strauch said that what Norton meant was that “the impact was too small, not the price-tag was too small,” but that leaves us wondering what sort of bill she thinks would have a bigger impact. Strauch mentioned the possibility of “suspending the payroll tax for small businesses,” but absent spending cuts we don’t see what good that would do.

At least Tidwell answered our survey at http://tinyurl.com/cosurvey10. On the plus side, he opposes so-called “stimulus” spending and corporate welfare. He calls for “dramatically lower” federal spending. He wants to reduce the jobs-killing minimum wage, and he said the anti-business Sarbanes-Oxley law should be repealed. He also wants to repeal campaign censorship laws and rescind FTC blogger controls.

We worry about some of Tidwell’s views. He wants to restrict legal immigration as a protectionist measure. On matters of abortion, he punted to state control. We worry about that, because we believe the federal government has a legitimate role to play in protecting the individual rights of citizens, such as a woman’s right to take the birth control pill even though it may prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus.

We respect Tidwell’s efforts to articulate his views, and we hope voters will press every candidate to answer the tough questions in this pivotal election year.

Seeking Substance in the Energy Debate

The following article originally was published February 15 by Grand Junction’s Free Press.

Seeking substance in the energy debate

by Linn and Ari Armstrong

Scott McInnis, the presumptive Republican candidate for governor, blasted his Democratic opponent John Hickenlooper over energy policy in a February 9 speech to the Colorado Mining Association.

Hickenlooper, McInnis said, “sat on his hands” as the state’s Democrats imposed “rules and regulations” that took “Colorado from number one to rock bottom on states that are friendly to do natural gas and energy business in” (as reported by the Denver Daily News).

The next day, ColoradoPols.com, a partisan left-wing group, accused McInnis of lying. Citing a story in the Daily Sentinel, Colorado Pols claimed, “Colorado in fact issued more drilling permits than surrounding states last year.” Moreover, as the AP reported, “1,487 new wells were drilled in Colorado last year.”

So who’s telling the truth? Did the Democrats’ controls drive energy-related jobs out of the state, or did Colorado’s energy industry continue to perform relatively well despite the recession? Both sides are exaggerating their claims and ignoring important nuances of the discussion.

We know that going through energy policy takes some hard work. We urge readers to stick with us — especially if you intend to vote this November. If you don’t want politics to be controlled by big money and hyperventilating attack ads, you have to vote based on ideas and facts. That means you have to research the debates and seriously question candidates on both sides.

Energy is important. As the AP reported earlier this month, Grand Junction “led the nation with job losses last year,” suffering particularly from “job losses in the energy field. Its unemployment rate nearly doubled in the same period last year, from 4.7 percent to 9 percent.”

We’ve been advocating the Politics of Substance with our columns and with our candidate survey. McInnis, by the way, has promised to answer our survey, and we hope Hickenlooper does as well. We will publish their complete comments at FreeColorado.com, and we look forward to evaluating their remarks. See http://tinyurl.com/cosurvey10.

Regarding the energy debate, the first thing to notice is that the guy painting the rosy picture of Colorado’s energy industry is David Neslin, the director of the state’s Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. Neslin favored the rules that McInnis wants to change.

Any direct comparison between Colorado and its neighbors is worthless. It’s sort of like saying the Denver Nuggets are doing great because they can outplay the local high school team. What matters is not how Colorado compares to its neighbors, but whether Colorado is performing to its potential.

Walk over to your computer and search the internet for “Piceance Basin.” You will find a Geological Survey map showing a large region of Western Colorado encompassing Grand Junction. What’s important about this area is that it is a major reserve of natural gas (as Gary Harmon described in a great article over at the Sentinel last December).

What about the claim of new wells drilled in Colorado last year? The number of wells drilled tells us little about trends of overall production. Plus, what matters is the change in new wells from year to year.

We talked with Neslin on the phone, and he said “production was up a little bit in Colorado last year from 2008.” But would production have been even higher with improved rules?

Morever, the comparison to 2008 is misleading, because companies were already changing their behavior in 2008 in anticipation of the rules. Last year the Denver Business Journal reported that, when Encana Oil & Gas had $500 million to spend, “None of it went to Colorado; all of it went to operations in Wyoming, Texas and elsewhere, according to the company, which cited ‘uncertainty’ about the proposed regulations for its decisions.”

The upshot is that the article by Colorado Pols calling McInnis a liar is a partisan hack job that twists the facts to support its political agenda.

But McInnis is also stretching the facts. The political rules may be one factor hampering Colorado’s energy industry, but it probably isn’t the most important one.

In a media release, McInnis claims that Colorado is losing energy jobs to Pennsylvania because of the relatively better political rules there. But, as Harmon wrote, extracting the natural gas from our region can be difficult. Harmon wrote that “the Marcellus Shale formation in the eastern United States has become more attractive” due to drilling advances. (It’s also close to eastern customers.) That formation happens to run through Pennsylvania.

Energy policy is far too important to be dumbed down for partisan advantage. People’s jobs and livelihoods depend on energy production. As consumers we depend on natural gas to heat our homes and provide additional energy.

We think McInnis can make a good case that overbearing rules have softened Colorado’s energy industry relative to where it could be. But it is a complex field influenced by technological advances, federal rules, geology, prices, and costs. McInnis will be more persuasive when he offers the relevant context and nuance.

Linn Armstrong is a local political activist and firearms instructor with the Grand Valley Training Club. His son, Ari, edits FreeColorado.com from the Denver area.

At Least Dan Maes Answered the Questions

The following article originally was published February 1 by Grand Junction’s Free Press.

At least Dan Maes answered the questions

by Linn and Ari Armstrong

Recently the Supreme Court struck down part of the McCain-Feingold censorship law in the case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The decision is tragic because the Court only partially restored the First Amendment, and apparently four of the justices cannot comprehend the simple phrase, “Congress shall make no law…”

Leftist critics of the ruling argue that, while a lone individual might have some rights to free speech, individuals do not have the right to freely associate to express themselves. Further, these critics claim, you have no firm right to spend your own money on expression.

To grasp the left’s hypocrisy on finances, just ask a critic of the ruling whether the right to get an abortion would be preserved if women and clinics were forbidden from spending money on abortions. (Eugene Volokh raised this point.)

Regarding this case the left is perfectly consistent with its Marxist roots. Marx wrote, “The mode of production of material life conditions the general process of social, political and intellectual life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness.”

In simpler terms, you are just too stupid to independently evaluate a film or ad funded by a corporation. You need the benevolent nannies of the left to help you think straight.

Unfortunately, some people do everything they can to prove Marx right. They thoughtlessly buy junk just because the idiot box or their friends tell them to. They never read great books or otherwise develop their reasoning skills. They vote for candidates based on appearance, smooth talk, and hysterical smear campaigns against the other guy.

However, trying to save people from their own stupidity only entrenches stupidity. People cannot choose wisely if they lack the capacity to choose badly. In terms of free speech, people must be free to say and believe stupid things, if we wish to preserve the right and ability to say and believe profundities.

The law properly guards against fraudulent speech. You can’t legally tell someone a used car has only ten thousand miles on it when it actually has a hundred thousand. Nor can you make up lies about a candidate. Established law already addresses such matters.

Aside from libel, however, people should be free to say whatever they want about candidates (using their own resources), whenever they want, and with whomever they want. That is precisely what the First Amendment is all about.

We can’t blame bad government on advertisements. After all, smear campaigns work only if voters fail to critically judge them. It is you, the individual voter, who must carefully evaluate claims, do some background research, and seek the broader context. If you fail to do so, censorship laws will not save the republic but will only further erode its foundation.

Let us make 2010 the year when candidates articulate their views on the issues and voters decide accordingly. Let us make this election about ideas, principles, and policies, not hair dye, cowboy hats, and vocal timbre.

It is in this spirit that we introduced our Candidate Survey, found at http://tinyurl.com/cosurvey10. Unfortunately, as of our deadline, we had heard from only two candidates running for governor or U.S. Senate. Dan Maes, the Republican challenger to Scott McInnis, said he’d answer the survey and followed through on his word. We also heard from independent candidate Rich Hand. You can find their responses linked from the original survey.

Though we originally contacted all the major-party candidates (or their representatives) for those offices by January 13, our initial correspondence did not make it to the right parties in the case of McInnis and Democratic top gun John Hickenlooper. While representatives of both candidates have now confirmed receipt of the survey, they have not committed to answering it. We encourage readers to ask these candidates to answer the survey.

Maes is the underdog, and we disagree with a number of his views. Generally, though, we are impressed by his responsiveness, straight talk, sincerity, and hard work.

Maes is a pretty solid fiscal conservative. He thinks the state should cut taxes and permit the traditional energy industry to thrive (thereby also increasing the tax flow from energy). He is too unfriendly to immigrants in our view. Disappointingly, he said campaign censorship laws should be “maintained,” and he thinks flag desecration should be Constitutionally outlawed.

Most disturbing is Maes endorsement of the “personhood” measure, which if fully implemented would outlaw nearly all abortions, outlaw common forms of birth control, restrict fertility treatments, and subject women to severe legal interference.

Maes also punted on several questions. For example, we asked, “Should abortion be legal in cases of rape or incest?” Maes answered, “It already is.” Cute. Perhaps Maes would care to answer the question next time: what does he think the law should say?

At least Maes answered (most of) the questions. That’s a start.

What Are Conservatives Trying to Conserve?

The following article originally was published on January 4 by Grand Junction’s Free Press.

What are conservatives trying to conserve?

by Linn and Ari Armstrong

Conservatives are a strange bunch. They support free trade, except when they want to outlaw or restrict select medicinal plants or forcibly stop employers from hiring willing workers of their choice.

Conservatives support freedom of conscience, except when they want to censor what they declare to be obscene works, punish the mishandling of the flag, or force people to fund religious programs with which they disagree.

Conservatives advocate strong national defense, except when they support a war the president declares unwinnable, along with years of “nation building” at the expense of American lives.

Conservatives endorse federalism, except when they want the national government to tell states how to handle marriage.

Conservatives uphold independence, except when they call on politicians to imprison women for getting an abortion.

Conservatives tout the dignity of the individual, unless that individual happens to be gay or a brown-skinned laborer from Mexico.

Conservatives declare to stand for time-honored principles, except when they “compromise” to raise taxes, pass smoking bans in violation of property rights, expand health welfare, endorse corporate welfare, and use the invasive tax code to crack down on the “crime” of productive work.

We have to wonder just what it is that conservatives are trying to conserve. How can we make sense out of the hash of modern conservatism?

A common explanation is that conservatism is a “fusion” of faith-based tradition and libertarian free-market leanings. There’s something to that. The problem is that faith often clashes with tradition, while libertarian government-bashing often clashes with individual rights.

The libertarian anti-government strain is a minor part of the conservative movement. Many libertarians join their own party, avoid politics, or loudly distance themselves from conservatives. Down-with-government conservatism, illustrated by Grover Norquist’s infamous and unfortunate line about drowning government in a bathtub, alienates the general public and tends toward the reactionary, in the sense of reacting against anything to do with government rather than championing some positive value.

That leaves three major conservative traditions: tradition, faith, and liberty.

Tradition explains why so many conservatives oppose gay marriage and immigration. They want things to stay just the way they are. The problem is knowing which traditions to conserve and which to change. Slavery was a tradition for many centuries, overturned by liberal-minded abolitionists who wanted to fundamentally change society. Rule by king was a tradition.

For too many conservatives, tradition is just a rationalization for advocating policies and cultural trends without the bother of having to justify them on moral grounds. Tradition is the fall-back of the thoughtless.

Sensing the weakness of a strictly traditional approach, many conservatives turn to religious faith. Christians may lay aside Old Testament calls to murder people for homosexuality, witchcraft, adultery, and parent-cursing.

Christians cannot avoid the fact that the New Testament “contains scores of commandments demanding the redistribution of wealth and property from those who created it to those who did not,” as Craig Biddle points out in The Objective Standard. The Marxist injunction, “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs,” finds its “origin in the Bible,” Biddle notes.

Many Christians openly apply Biblical principles to the welfare state; for example, the Colorado Catholic Conference advocated tax-funded “health care coverage for all people from conception until natural death.”

Conservative Christians do a lot of comical dancing trying to pass through the eye of a needle with their riches intact. Yet, in terms of Biblical principles, the best such conservatives can do is say that, yes, people have a moral duty to redistribute their wealth, only they should be free to do it or not. The fact remains that the Bible says precious little in defense of political and economic liberty, individual rights, or the value of economic prosperity.

As Sarah Palin writes in her biography, her brand of conservatism rests on the alleged truth “that man is fallen.” The presumption is that people just aren’t good enough to live in a socialist order. Instead, such conservatives argue, politics must cope with vicious humanity. Then faith-based conservatives who appeal to our “fallen” nature wonder why they can’t capture the moral high ground.

We are conservatives only in the final sense of the term: we want to conserve liberty and indeed radically expand it. We hold that liberty is not a gift from men or the gods, but a necessity for thriving human life. To live successfully, we need the freedom to act on our own judgment regarding ourselves and our property. Government must protect our rights, but it must be restrained by a written constitution that limits political power. Unlike the libertarians, we are not against government; we are for a government that robustly protects individual rights.

The interesting thing about this brand of conservatism is that it sounds a lot like what liberalism was always supposed to be, until its purported defenders twisted that movement to the opposite purpose. The best conservatives, it turns out, are also the only true liberals.

Ralph Carr Shows Politicians Can Stand for Liberty

The following article originally was published December 21 by Grand Junction’s Free Press.

Ralph Carr shows politicians can stand for liberty

by Linn and Ari Armstrong

If you still have last-minute Christmas shopping to do, we have a suggestion. Adam Schrager, the thoughtful 9News reporter, wrote a book called The Principled Politician: Governor Ralph Carr and the Fight Against Japanese American Internment. This delightful account of important Colorado history came out in paperback earlier this month.

Carr served as governor from 1939 to 1943, an era spanning parts of two of the nation’s greatest challenges: the Great Depression and World War II. Carr responded to both these crises by defending liberty and individual rights.

As Carr entered office, Colorado government faced a $1.8 million deficit. Unlike many of today’s politicians, whose answer to deficits is to raise taxes and “fees” or increase government spending, Carr called for fiscal responsibility.

Schrager writes that Carr “announced plans to abolish many of the state bureaus and boards established by the last administration.” He also “proposed shifting the net income tax benefiting schools into the state’s general fund.” During a speech he “told the crowd that anyone who joined the civil service to have an easy job financed by taxpayers… could expect to be fired.”

We wish we could hear Carr’s common-sense wisdom reflected in today’s political debates. (All quotations are from Schrager’s book.) “The way to save money is to stop spending it.” “Spending and lending is unsound and… thrift and the full payment of debts… is simple and common honesty.”

While seconding the nomination of Wendell Willkie, who lost the presidential contest of 1940, Carr said, “If we are ever to save this country, we must first save business. Every one of you is in business — big business and little business, farmers, stockmen, laboring men, industrialists.”

Carr turned down a chance of running with Willkie (a wise move in retrospect) to continue his work in Colorado. Carr said, “What have we done to justify your returning us to office? We have taken the income of the state of Colorado. We have lived within it. We added not a dime of new taxes. We cut the levy for state purposes… and we balanced your blooming budget.”

Carr opposed Roosevelt’s expansive political controls: “The New Deal has usurped the powers of the state [and] undermined personal liberty.”

Carr added, “It is not disloyal to oppose and to question the policy of one who has not yet proved himself omnipotent and to require that he too be limited and circumscribed by those same ideals and standards governing others. We insist that the president recognize and follow the Constitution which created him.”

Carr summarized his basic political philosophy with an eloquence rare in politics: “The individual is supreme and government is established only to protect and foster his rights.” He later added, “Every time the individual submits to a central government for a solution of another problem of business or life, there is a consequent surrender of individuality, of privilege, of right.”

Carr argued that the term “liberal” had been stolen by the left. He said, “The true liberals are those who consistently follow the proposition that liberty means freedom to exercise individual rights unaffected by external restraint or compulsion… The underlying theory of the Constitution is found in the proposition that every man may use the talents which God has given him, may reach any goal toward which he sets his eyes, and may enjoy the fruits of his ambition, his study and his toil, provided only that he does not use his powers to injure his fellows.”

The fate of the nation changed on December 7, 1941, when Japanese bombers attacked the U.S. base at Pearl Harbor. Carr rose to the challenge, setting up “an emergency meeting of the Colorado Council of Defense for the next morning,” Schrager writes.

While most Coloradans responded to the crisis admirably, some turned to paranoia and racist threats. Some called Japanese Americans “vipers” and “yellow rats.” Various politicians and media personalities wanted to put them into concentration camps. The Denver Post wrote, “To hell with the Japs!” Nels Smith, governor of Wyoming, said “there would be Japs hanging from every pine tree” if sent to that state.

Carr rejected racism. He said, “We have among us many of a new generation of Japanese people born in the United States — sincere, earnest, and loyal.” He offered a “hand of friendship” to immigrants. He urged protection of the Bill of Rights and the “security, freedom, and opportunity” it offers.

In a public address, Carr granted the existence of enemy “fifth columnists” and assented to federal relocation policies. Yet he also spoke for “loyal German, Italian, and Japanese citizens who must not suffer for the activities and animosities of others.” He warned against “the danger of inflammatory statements and threats against these unwelcome guests” forcibly sent to Colorado.

Though we may not approve every detail of Carr’s career, he has richly earned his place in history as a man who defended liberty. We thank Schrager for telling his inspiring story.

People Vote for Freedom with Their Feet and Effort

The following article originally was published November 23 by Grand Junction’s Free Press.

People vote for freedom with their feet and effort

by Linn and Ari Armstrong

“Why are they all running to Colorado? What have they got down there that we haven’t got?” So asks a villain in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. He complains about Colorado’s primitive, lazy government that “does nothing outside of keeping law courts and a police department.”

A young worker answers, “Maybe it’s something you’ve got that they haven’t got.”

High taxes, economic controls, and intrusive politicians and bureaucrats kill production. Unfortunately, fearing Colorado’s economic stagnation, the politically connected call not for more economic freedom but for more taxes. They act like doctors who prescribe bloodletting for anemia.

A recent Qwest-funded report from the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation bears the title, “Toward a More Competitive Colorado.” But some of the report’s recommendations would lead to higher taxes, less competitiveness, and a weaker economy.

The report notes that Colorado ranks well in areas of health, education, and investments. Yet, rather than promote more of the Western liberty that made Colorado prosperous, the report worries that politicians aren’t spending enough of other people’s money on college, preschool, infrastructure (however that’s defined), and welfare.

“A Gordian Knot exists in Colorado’s Constitution that makes governing a challenge,” the report complains. That seems to be code for “gut the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.”

Though especially concerned about education, the report declines to discuss freeing colleges from state controls, expanding competition for K-12, and cutting taxes so families can better afford college and philanthropists can donate more.

The only constitutional change we need is to repeal Amendment 23, which sets education spending on auto-pilot regardless of economic conditions.

Meanwhile, as the Daily Sentinel reported Nov. 17, the Pew Center declared Colorado in “fiscal peril” because, darn it all, people get to vote on tax hikes.

Either people restrain the politicians or the opposite becomes true. The more the political class oppresses the people, the more people move away or reduce their production.

Rand’s novel is about the nation’s top producers going on strike against oppressive politics, some moving to Galt’s Gulch where they can live in freedom. In Free to Choose, Milton Friedman warns that people vote with their feet, moving where they can enjoy the fruits of their labor.

This is true between states. Regarding last year’s U.S. Economic Freedom Index, lead author Lawrence McQuillan summarizes, “People are moving to the freest states and fleeing the least free states.”

Earlier this year, the Wall Street Journal declared New York the “tax capital of the world.” The paper noted, “According to Census Bureau data, over the past decade 1.97 million New Yorkers left the state for greener pastures — the biggest exodus of any state.”

The same is true around the world: people tend to leave more repressive countries and move to freer ones. Recently we celebrated the fall of the Berlin Wall, built by tyrants to keep an oppressed people from moving away.

Britain suffered a “brain drain” as their doctors sought to escape socialized medicine. When introducing the National Health Service, Aneurin Bevan bought off doctors for their political support, reportedly saying, “I stuffed their mouths with gold.” Upon implementing the new system, he declared, “We now have the moral leadership of the world.”

Yet many doctors suffered indigestion. Some found that this gold tasted a lot more like thirty pieces of silver. Others rebelled against the new political controls. They wanted no part of the “moral leadership” that put bureaucrats in charge of health. Some of these doctors moved to the United States.

If we go further down England’s path, some doctors will move out of our country and cater to medical tourists. Others will retire early.

We’ve seen examples large and small of people giving up. Higher car fees have convinced some to sell the extra car or put off purchasing a new one. Some work less for taxable income and trade more goods and services (though such exchanges are supposed to be taxed, too).

Chris Edwards recently published disturbing figures at Cato. He writes, “While consumption, exports, and the government sector were up, private investment has fallen through the floor.” Fearing more federal political controls, Edwards calls this “the death of private investment in America.”

Meanwhile, unemployment nationally has crept over the double-digit marker, despite (or partly because of) President Obama’s “shovel ready” stimulus projects. No need to look very far to figure out what it is that Obama is shoveling. An ABC headline illustrates part of the problem: “Jobs ‘Saved or Created’ in Congressional Districts That Don’t Exist.”

As one of our friends wondered, “You mean taking money out of the private sector, creating money out of thin air, and indebting future generations actually doesn’t make us more prosperous?”

If we want to return to prosperity in Colorado and in our nation, we need less political interference and more economic liberty.

Linn Armstrong is a local political activist and firearms instructor with the Grand Valley Training Club. His son, Ari, edits FreeColorado.com from the Denver area.

Low-Cost Tech Could Cool Planet

The following article originally was published November 9 by Grand Junction’s Free Press.

If planet did warm, low-cost tech could cool it

by Linn and Ari Armstrong

In our last column we expressed skepticism that human-caused global warming will ever amount to much. We have little trust in the politically subsidized computer simulations responsible for most of the fuss. Obviously, natural causes play a major role in climate change, and historically carbon dioxide levels have followed — not caused — warmer temperatures.

The “precautionary principle” counsels us to act even if the risk is uncertain. Unfortunately, few environmentalists practice much caution regarding the economy. While the harms of climate change are speculative, the harms of widespread political economic controls are certain and severe.

But what if? What if the earth did warm from man-made (or entirely natural) causes, and what if this caused significant problems for people? If that were the case, then low-cost technology could quickly solve the problem, argue Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner in SuperFreakonomics.

Levitt and Dubner have been accused of claiming a consensus for global cooling in the 1970s, misrepresenting other people’s work, and other failings. We’ve read a number of these criticisms, and we’ve read the book. We conclude that various detractors are smearing SuperFreakonomics to suppress its information. Read the book and reach your own conclusions.

The book devotes the last of five chapters to climate change. However, Chapter 4 sets the stage by describing “cheap and simple” solutions to various problems. For example, better hand cleansing in hospitals dramatically decreased deaths. Forceps have saved the lives of babies and mothers. Fertilizing crops with ammonium nitrate has dramatically increased yields. The polio vaccine wiped out that disease. Seat belts curbed auto deaths.

The final example of the chapter is a proposal to control hurricanes. Nathan Myhrvold of Intellectual Ventures developed the idea based on a plan of British engineer Stephen Salter. The proposal is to employ a bunch of “large, floating” rings in troubled spots of the ocean. Waves of warm water lap into the rings, pushing the warm water down a tube and bringing cooler water to the surface. Goodbye hurricanes.

The chapter on climate change focuses on two other ideas floating around Intellectual Ventures for cooling the earth. One plan involves pumping sulfur dioxide through a long hose into the upper atmosphere, mimicking the cooling effects of natural volcanic eruptions. This would quickly cool the earth, yet the effects would rapidly disappear if pumping stopped. The other plan is to seed more clouds over the ocean.*

Cooling the earth with sulfur dioxide would cost an estimated $100 million per year, less than what environmentalists spend fear mongering. Dramatically cutting carbon dioxide emissions would cost an estimated trillion dollars per year, or 10,000 times as much.

Moreover, cutting carbon emissions wouldn’t accomplish much. Beyond the problem of getting developing nations such as China to curb emissions — fat chance — “the existing carbon dioxide would remain in the atmosphere for several generations,” Levitt and Dubner point out.

So, given that the sulfur dioxide pump is radically cheaper, safer, and more feasible, many environmentalists conclude that we should only limit carbon emissions instead. Al Gore thinks it’s “nuts” to explore geoengineering solutions like the pump.

Environmentalists don’t worry that volcanos emit sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere, naturally cooling the earth. But many are dead set against humans doing the same thing. Why? Because, to the radical environmentalist, anything “natural” is good, and anything human is bad. Such environmentalists really don’t care about the earth’s temperature. What they care about is limiting human activity.

While geoengineering is the big take-home point, Levitt and Dubner challenge a number of environmentalist dogmas along the way. For example, “buying locally produced food actually increases greenhouse-gas emissions” because “big farms are far more efficient than small farms.”

Myhrvold believes that wind and other alternative energies — touted by our “New Energy Economy” governor as a pretext for corporate welfare — “don’t scale to a sufficient degree” to replace traditional energy. He adds that solar cells are not perfect: “only about 12 percent [of light] gets turned into electricity, and the rest is reradiated as heat — which contributes to global warming.”

Meanwhile, the authors suggest, we should not forget the benefits of modern energy. Before the gas-powered automobile, people used horses, and this generated a great deal of manure. Imagine vacant lots with manure “piled as high as sixty feet.” Imagine manure “lining city streets like banks of snow.” Thank human ingenuity for automobiles and the oil that powers them.

In the 1800s, American lights relied on harvesting thousands of whales each year. Our authors write, “The new oil industry… functioned as the original Endangered Species Act, saving the whale from near-certain extinction.”

We worry a bit about the book’s treatment of a few topics such as altruism. Yet, while SuperFreakonomics may be a fancy title for plain old economics mixed with clever research, it offers a wealth of fascinating insights.

* November 13 update: Here’s something not mentioned in the book: one young scientist thinks CO2-eating rocks might help.

True Tolerance, Or Else

Via 5280 magazine I found the Focus on the Family “true tolerance” web page, the point of which is to promote tolerance of anti-homosexual views. In other words, we are to tolerate intolerance.

And I quite agree that we do need to tolerate intolerance, even as we speak out against nasty sorts of intolerance. That is, the view that homosexuality is somehow inherently sinful is wrong. However, people properly have the right to express (with their own resources) whatever viewpoint they wish.

The matter is complicated by the tax funding of schools. Taking people’s money by force to finance either a pro-homosexual or anti-homosexual agenda is wrong and a violation of free speech. Tax funded institutions invite governmental oversight, including protections of speech.

While tax-funded schools cannot properly promote religious views, neither can they properly suppress such views by students in the appropriate context.

And Focus on the Family wants to make darn sure that schools recognize that. The document “What School Officials Should Know About Addressing Homosexuality in Public Schools” helpfully warns schools about adopting policies that “could very easily result in litigation.”

Of course, some traditionalists might argue that the proper purpose of school is to teach students about the world and skills for dealing with it, rather than to push for or against some cultural or political agenda.

Time to Speak Out for Free Speech

The following article originally was published on October 27, 2008, in Grand Junction’s Free Press. Links have been added here. See also “Eric Daniels Defends Free Speech.”

Time to speak out for free speech

by Linn and Ari Armstrong

Free speech is under assault in America by state and federal governments, despite constitutional protections.

Both major presidential candidates are enemies of free speech. In 2002, John McCain rode the McCain-Feingold campaign censorship law through Congress. Among other things, the law prohibited select groups from running certain political ads before elections, though the Supreme Court struck down some of the worst parts of the law. Barack Obama wants federal controls on media ownership, his spokesperson told Broadcasting & Cable.

Some conservatives want more censorship over pornography. Many on the left call for censorship of the radio by forcing broadcasters to air certain views; supporters laughably call their scheme the “Fairness Doctrine.”

Here in Colorado, various activists have faced legal threats for daring to exercise their rights of free speech. For example, in 2006 Becky Clark Cornwell put up yard signs and protested a plan to annex her community of Parker North into the city of Parker in Douglas County.

A supporter of annexation filed a legal complaint against Cornwell and others, claiming they had engaged in “illegal activities” under Colorado’s campaign censorship laws.

Lisa Knepper of the Institute for Justice (IJ), a civil rights group that defended Cornwell and her neighbors, said that, while the U.S. District Court ruled the group could not be penalized, the court “failed to change the law to prevent such abuses of campaign finance law in the future, so we’re appealing to the 10th Circuit.”

ABC’s 20/20 featured Cornwell in an October 17 story about the campaign finance laws. Cornwell said “the lawsuit was used in an effort to shut us up about the annexation, to scare us enough and clobber us with these laws so that we wouldn’t talk about it any more.”

20/20 paid people to try to fill out Colorado’s campaign forms. Nobody did so successfully. One subject said, “A regular citizen cannot read this legalese.” Another said, “I’d rather just not get involved in the political process if I have to go through the nonsense that I had to go through today.”

Steve Simpson, the IJ lawyer defending the Parker North residents, said he’s also defending the Independence Institute, which was sued over its criticisms of Referenda C and D in 2005. Simpson is awaiting a decision from the Colorado Court of Appeals. He said “it would be impossible” for the Independence Institute, a think tank, to comply with the reporting requirements as an issue committee, because the group gets funds for general purposes and spends them on a wide variety of issues.

Even though we’ve condemned Amendment 48, which would absurdly define a fertilized egg as a person in the state constitution, we were displeased to see that a fellow named John Erhardt sued the Amendment 48 campaign for petty violations of the campaign censorship laws. Erhardt gloats on his blog, “So, while the fine of $150 won’t break their campaign, they did have to spin their wheels to defend this.”

Diana Hsieh, co-author of the paper “Amendment 48 Is Anti-Life” at SecularGovernment.us, said the advocates of 48 “should be free to advocate their views — not bogged down in opportunistic legal action by opponents… I want opponents of Amendment 48 to be spending their time arguing against the substance and philosophy of it, not playing campaign finance dirty tricks.”

Finally, Douglas Bruce has taken flak in the media [one and two] for mailing a flyer against Amendment 59 and Referendum O through a nonprofit group, Active Citizens Together, without filing the legal paperwork that some think applies.

It’s past time to rethink the validity of the campaign censorship laws, along with all the other restrictions on free speech. We checked in with Eric Daniels of the Clemson Institute for the Study of Capitalism, and he offered a refreshingly consistent defense of our rights.

Daniels said, “Free speech means the right (not privilege) of individuals to express their opinions without government censorship of any kind, whether by hindering speech through regulation or through restricting it through prosecutions after the fact.”

We don’t even like requirements to report contributions. People have a right to speak anonymously. There’s no clear way to distinguish between advocacy and education. And, the voters can demand disclosure with their votes.

Daniels agrees: “If politicians wish to disclose the source of their financing to the public, they are free to do so… The electorate can indeed decide through voting whether to support candidates who do or do not disclose their financing. Contributing money to a political candidate or to supporters or opponents of a ballot measure should properly be a matter between the private parties themselves.”

Government should not abridge “the freedom of speech, or of the press.” Politicians have gotten away with doing just that for far too long. If we wish to retain and restore our other liberties, we must above all fight for our rights of free speech.

How Obama Lost Another Vote

The following article originally was published by Grand Junction’s Free Press on July 21, 2008.

How Obama lost another vote

by Linn and Ari Armstrong

We write as a father-son team. We almost always agree about fundamental issues, yet sometimes we look askew at each others’ strategies.

For example, last month Ari wrote on his blog (FreeColorado.com for June 6), “I deem that McCain is the worst evil in the race, and therefore I’ve decided to mark my ballot for Obama as the strongest possible vote against McCain.” Such a position is sacrilege to much of the family.

What’s so bad about McCain? Ari’s post reviews three main flaws. McCain snubbed the First Amendment with his campaign censorship law, saying he wants to violate our “quote, First Amendment rights” for his version of “clean government.” We wouldn’t want politics mucked up with all that liberty.

He pushes for faith-based politics and declares his support for “ending abortion.” And he humbly requests that you “sacrifice your life” to the state. (Where this involves military conflict, we’re reminded of Patton’s advice about which side we should get to sacrifice their lives.)

We agree about McCain’s flaws. We may disagree about what to do about them, but we now agree that voting for Obama is not the answer. Why the change? In brief, Obama proposes new political controls over our lives and the economy at an astounding pace.

Obama wants socialized medicine, more wage controls, more corporate and personal welfare, higher taxes, and more energy restrictions, to mention just a few highlights. How does he compare with McCain on the issues of speech, faith-based politics, and sacrifice to the nation?

Obama didn’t vote on the McCain-Feingold campaign censorship law, because the law passed in 2002, while Obama didn’t take his Senate seat till 2005. We were hopeful about a headline from Broadcasting & Cable claiming that Obama “does not support” the Fairness Doctrine, which is a euphemism for censoring radio.

However, Obama did not take a principled stand for free speech; instead, his spokesperson said that the proposal was a “distraction” from imposing other controls such as “media-ownership caps.” In other words, Obama believes the national government should be able to forcibly prohibit some people from owning certain media outlets.

Both McCain and Obama believe that the phrase “Congress shall make no law” actually means “Congress shall make a law” imposing speech controls.

Obama had nothing but praise for President Bush’s national faith-based welfare, which forces you to hand over some of your money to religious groups.

Obama promised that “federal dollars that go directly to churches, temples, and mosques can only be used on secular programs.” However, not only is it immoral to force people who disagree with a particular religion to fund practitioners of that religion, but it is impossible for explicitly religious groups to spend tax dollars in a strictly secular way. The national government has no business forcibly redistributing people’s money to any religious outfit.

The First Amendment also states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…” While faith-based welfare does not sanction a single creed, it forcibly transfers funds to particular religious groups in violation of religious liberty and freedom of conscience.

If you’re a Christian, you shouldn’t be forced to fund a Muslim organization, and vice versa. If you’re an atheist or “other,” you shouldn’t be forced to fund either. And churches shouldn’t bow to Caesar to stick their noses into the government trough.

What about the issue of sacrificial service? When Obama came through Colorado earlier this month, he outlined his plan for forcing students to serve politician-approved goals. The Rocky Mountain News reports that Obama wants to make “federal assistance conditional on school districts developing service programs.” In other words, Obama first wants to take your money by force, then blackmail your local school district with your money to force students to take time away from their studies, work, and other interests to “serve” whatever it is Obama deems appropriate.

And we always thought the Thirteenth Amendment prohibited involuntary servitude. True enough, people can pull their children out of government schools in protest, which means that they merely have to perform involuntary servitude to fund the school they’re not using.

McCain and Obama are not merely bad candidates. Their policies are profoundly evil, and they violate the principles of liberty on which this nation was founded. They also violate at least the spirit, and we believe the letter, of the Constitution.

So whom are we voting for this year? We doubt that any of our regular readers need some newspaper columnists to tell them how to vote. We’ll probably vote differently, anyway.

However, Ari feels free to mention that he’s seriously considering writing in John Galt for president. With so many political “leaders” blaming liberty for the problems caused by political controls, and promising as the answer more severe controls, this election is starting to feel a lot like the world of Atlas Shrugged.