The health care debate has catalyzed a wonderful national clash of cultures centering on freedom versus control. Here's one example that's both complex and delightful.
Progressive site TalkingPointsMemo ran a story yesterday about a man named "Chris" who carried a rifle outside an event in Phoenix at which President Obama appeared. "We will forcefully resist people imposing their will on us through the strength of the majority with a vote," Chris said.
To many TPM readers, this kind of thing is self-evidently shocking and wrong: Carrying a weapon is inherently threatening, Second Amendment notwithstanding. And vowing to resist the properly expressed will of the majority---isn't that an outrageous denial of our democratic values?
Well, . . . No. Our constitution specifically denies force to democratic outcomes that impinge on freedom of speech and religion, on bearing arms, and on the security of our persons, houses, papers, and effects, to name a few. Our constitution also tightly circumscribed the powers of the federal government. Those restrictions were breached without abiding the supermajority requirements of Article V, alas.
There are many nuances in this clash of cultures, and it's fascinating to watch the battle for credibility. One ugly issue is preempted rather handily by the fact that Chris is African-American.
Next question, taken up by CNN: Was the interview staged? Hell, yeah! says Chris' interviewer. And they know each other---big deal.
Finally, they were laughing and having a good time. Isn't this serious? Yes, it is serious, says Chris' interviewer, but "If you're not having fun advocating for freedom, you're doing it wrong!"
It's a great line---friendly, in-your-face advocacy that might just succeed in familiarizing more Americans with the idea of living as truly free people.
Today Talking Points Memo is charging that the man who interviewed Chris was a prominent defender of a militia group in the 90s, some members of which were convicted of crimes. I know nothing of the truth or falsity of this charge, and I had never heard of the militia group, the interviewer, or his organization before today.
This struggle over credibility is all part of the battle between freedom and control that is playing itself out right now. It's an exciting time, and a chance for many more Americans to learn about liberty and the people who live it.
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The First Amendment guarantees our freedom to petition the government, which is one of the reasons why the statists who wants to restrict or even ban lobbying hopefully will not succeed. But that does not mean all lobbying is created equal. If a bunch of small business owners get together to lobby against higher taxes, that is a noble endeavor. If the same group of people get together and lobby for special handouts, by contrast, they are being despicable. And if they get a bailout from the government and use that money to mooch for more handouts, they deserve a reserved seat in a very hot place.
This is not just a hypothetical exercise. The Hill reports on the combined $20 million lobbying budget of some of the companies that stuck their snouts in the public trough:
Auto companies and eight of the country’s biggest banks that received tens of billions of dollars in federal bailout money spent more than $20 million on lobbying Washington lawmakers in the first half of this year. General Motors, Chrysler and GMAC, the finance arm of GM, cut back significantly on lobbying expenses in the period, spending about one-third less in total than they had in the first half of 2008. But the eight banks, the earliest recipients of billions of dollars from the federal government, continued to rely heavily on their Washington lobbying arms, spending more than $12.4 million in the first half of 2009. That is slightly more than they spent during the same period a year ago, according to a review of congressional records.
...big banks traditionally are among the most active Washington lobbying interests in the financial industry, and the recession has done little to dent their spending. ...Since last fall, companies receiving government funds have argued that none of the taxpayer money they were receiving was being spent on lobbying.
...American International Group, the insurance firm crippled by trades in financial derivatives that received roughly $180 billion in bailout commitments, closed its Washington lobbying shop earlier this year. AIG continues to spend money on counsel to answer requests for information from the federal government, but the firm said it does not lobby on federal legislation.
The most absurd part of the story was the companies claiming that they did not use tax dollar for lobbying. I guess the corporate bureaucrats skipped the classes where their teachers explained that money is fungible.
The best part of the story was learning that AIG closed its lobbying operation, though that does not mean much since AIG basically now exists as a subsidiary of the federal government. The most important message (which is absent from the story, of course) is that the real problem is that government is too big and that it intervenes in private markets. Companies would not need to lobby if government left them alone and/or did not offer them special favors. Indeed, that was the key point of my video entitled, "Want Less Corruption: Shrink the Size of Government."
Sally C. Pipes understands Canadian health care. As the former assistant director of the free-market Fraser Institute, she lived under Canada's national health care system and has researched it extensively.
The Canadian experience with national health care has produced waiting lines, rationed care and has not produced the preventive and patient-focused care that it has promised, says Pipes, who is now president of the Pacific Research Institute and author of the new book, The Top Ten Myths of American Health Care.
She spoke at the Cato Institute July 15, 2009.
For market-based solutions to health care reform, visit Healthcare.Cato.org.
Appearing on the "Glenn Beck Program" with ABC's John Stossel, Cato H.L. Mencken research fellow Penn Jillete discusses his views on health care reform, the nanny state, Canada and more.
Appearing on Fox News on Monday, Cato's Daniel J. Mitchell explained why taxing the rich to pay for big government programs may make for a good sound bite on the campaign trail, but when there aren't enough wealthy people to tax, the middle class ends up footing the bill.
"When politicians are aiming at the rich, it's the middle class that winds up getting hit in the crossfire," Mitchell said. "They use 'tax the rich' as the rhetoric, but they always go after the ordinary people to get more money to fund their big government schemes."
Watch the whole thing:
President Obama's new drug czar, Gil Kerlikowske, says he wants to banish the idea of a "war on drugs" because the federal government should not be "at war with the people of this country."
At a Cato policy briefing on Capitol Hill on July 7, former Republican congressman Bob Barr, once a leading drug warrior in the House, explained why carrying out an end to the "war on drugs" will require a bipartisan solution.