We’re excited to announce the selection of our new policy analyst here at Libertas Institute: Josh Daniels!
In looking to hire for this position, we sought out candidates with educational backgrounds in economics, political science, or law. Josh’s broad educational experience is in all three! Needless to say, we were immediately impressed.
Josh began his studies at BYU in pursuit of an economics degree. As he proceeded through the technical upper-level coursework his interest became more focused on economic theory and policy. He decided to switch to political science where he took courses in American politics and statistical research. During that time he served on the student team for the Utah Colleges Exit Poll where he participated in a large-scale statewide study of voter opinion and analyzed large data sets to prepare a major policy research paper. For another of his papers, he argued that the colonial-era emphasis on property rights was due to the belief that individual liberty was inextricably linked to private property, and that liberty could not exist in a government that did not respect the primacy of property rights.
Yesterday’s public opinion poll (and by extension, all of the ones we’ve done) has met with some professional criticism, to which I feel it’s important to respond. (Perhaps unsurprisingly, the only ones I’ve seen spiking political touchdowns with the response have been those who support the proposed anti-discrimination law.)
First, it was claimed that the questions we used were “unbalanced and inaccurate.” Specifically, the objection was made that we referenced “jail time” in our questions about anti-discrimination law, and that this punishment is “non-existent” in regards to anti-discrimination law. The purpose of this question was not to gauge reaction to any specific proposal or bill language, but to test the degree to which voters would be willing to use the violence of the state against a peaceful business owner. Further, a business owner who would be fined under the proposed law, and who objected to paying that fine, could easily find himself in a legal battle that escalates to the point of jail time. Thus, we felt it was not inaccurate to raise this as a possibility when discussing the state’s prohibition on peaceful behavior.
Service is one of those ubiquitous, loosely defined words used to describe all sorts of exchanges. It can involve delivery of a material good for money, such as in restaurants, or it can represent the value of labor expended on behalf of another with no remuneration, such as spending time at a rest home caring for the elderly. At its core though, all service involves a giver and receiver.
On a daily basis we come across dozens of examples of service. On a regular basis, I attend a church meeting, or service, where a sacrament is served to a congregation, followed by a sermon delivered by a speaker, followed by a lesson given by an instructor. When I get home, my wife and I serve our children a meal. These are common everyday examples of service.
The etymological roots of the word service stretch back to antiquity and refer to servus, the Latin word for slave. A slave provides service to a master at the threat of his life. He is the purported property of the master and as such has no legal recourse for improper treatment. Over time, slavery became indentured servitude with a preset term of service in exchange for expenses paid up front for debts uncollected. Thankfully, slavery in the developed world has dwindled to a minute, illegal, underground industry with no general public support (although Tax Freedom Day might be considered an annual celebration of the end of annual indentured servitude).
Derek Monson, Director of Public Policy at Sutherland Institute, recently had an op-ed published in which he advocated for a policy proposal his organization will be pushing in Utah’s next legislative session, which begins in January 2014. Sutherland is hoping to reduce the legal blood alcohol content level from 0.08% to 0.05%.
Back in May, I wrote an article comparing the proposal to that of gun control—that if the sole quest to “save lives” then we must, to be consistent, support other restrictions on personal property and behavior. Derek commented on that article, indicating that the comparison was in his view invalid, since, “Alcohol, by its chemical nature, impairs human reasoning and judgment, slows reaction time, etc. in ways that guns do not.”
Despite clear differences between the two, I believe that the comparison remains apt, as you’ll see below.
Last night, the Controlled Substances Adivsory Committee met in a packed room full of Utah parents, legislators, activists, and media. Created just a few years ago by the legislature, this group exists “to serve as a consultative and advisory body to the Utah Legislature” regarding the classification of “controlled substances”—a legal term for banned drugs.
Rep. Froerer has committed to sponsor legislation to facilitate the legalization of this medicine, and was present at the meeting to introduce the subject. Also present were a few individuals from the Realm of Caring—the Colorado-based non-profit organization that produces the strain of cannabis that is high in CBD (the beneficial component) and extremely low in THC (the psychoactive component). They provided anecdotal stories, medical reports, and clinical analysis of their medicinal product for the committee’s review.
Jennifer May, whose story we shared in August, offered the perspective of a parent who needs this medicine for her child. Joined by many other parents of children who suffer from the same epileptic syndrome, she stressed the urgency with which this decision needs to be made. Existing medical treatments don’t work, are costly, and actually cause harm to the children using them. These kids are short on time.
Conversely, cannabis offers hope to these parents who see other children like theirs being almost completely healed of their constant seizures. The thought of their children having a restored quality of life is not a far-fetched desire in light of the profoundly positive response epileptic children are having to the medicinal extract in Colorado.
During Q&A, the Realm of Caring representatives stressed the nature of the testing and caution used with their product for children. Treatments are properly dosed and administered under the direction of a consenting pediatric doctor.
Importantly, doctors in Utah are lending their voice to the discussion. Three of them, including the University of Utah’s top pediatric neurologist, support the legalization of this medicine. “I would like to express my strong belief that [cannabidiol]-based oils (referred to here in Utah as Alepsia) should be available as soon as possible to Utah children with severe epilepsy,” wrote Francis Filloux, chief of the University’s Division of Pediatric Neurology. “The substance is not psychoactíve or hallucinogenic, it contains less THC than do other materials that can be legally purchased in Utah, and it has absolutely no abuse potential.”
Politically moderate power brokers in Utah did not like the rise of the Tea Party in 2010, the constitutional intransigence it produced, and the first “scalp” it took here in Utah: Senator Bob Bennett’s defeat at the GOP state convention. A three-term sitting Senator was denied, through the caucus/convention system, the opportunity to make his case to voters at large. Two challengers, Mike Lee and Tim Bridgewater, advanced to the primary.
These power brokers are eagerly working on an effort to reverse course by going for the jugular: abolishing the caucus/convention system completely in favor of a direct primary. And of course, there’s an opposition movement.
I’ve been asked by reporters and citizens alike whether Libertas will dive into the trenches in this battle. My answer is no, and this is why: our focus is policy, not politics. We’re interested in the law more than the people who change it and the process by which they acquire their power.
That’s not to say we’re disinterested—clearly, our desired policies won’t be implemented without the right kind of people supporting and defending them. But while we feel the caucus/convention system is better than a direct primary, for various reasons, it is not a guarantee that our goals will be realized.
The political philosophy of liberty is often criticized by others, whether they be conservative, liberal, or somewhere in-between. While fair criticisms are welcome and important to further dialogue and understanding, those riddled with logical fallacies are unproductive and harmful to that dialogue and understanding.
And while we are usually reticent to post articles such as these, they are at times beneficial to help the reader better recognize and reject these fallacies. Readers who lack the ability to detect such flawed arguments may fall prey to believing them.
Thus we present “Libertarian Delusions”—a supposed takedown of libertarianism by the Alliance for a Better Utah. For those who are unfamiliar with this group, ABU takes a progressive, left-leaning stance on political issues.
As you read the article, try to see how many strawman fallacies you can find. Here’s our list of the 12 straw men built up and taken down by this group—all of them logical fallacies that do not accurately reflect the libertarian view.
A new survey of registered voters commissioned by FreedomWorks points to the surging popularity of libertarian principles within the Republican party. According to the results, 78% of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents self-identify as fiscally conservative and socially moderate.
While the Republican party of yesteryear was most vocal on social conservative issues and a militaristic foreign policy, the voter base has shifted. When Republican voters were asked what they were most interested in, only 18% said a “strong national defense” and 27% chose “traditional values.” Showing the rise of the libertarian trend, 40% of respondents stated that “individual freedom through lower taxes and reducing the size and scope of government” captured their primary political interest.
The story of Matthew David Stewart is now well known to most Utahns. Based on the tip of an informant (Matthew’s angry ex-girlfriend), police dressed in street clothes entered Matthew’s home in the dark of night to serve a search warrant for several marijuana plants officers believed he had been growing. Matthew and the officers engaged in a firefight, leading to the injury of several officers and death of Officer Francom. Matthew later allegedly hung himself in jail. None of this was necessary.
This unfortunate incident catalyzes the need for warrant reform. The lives of police officers should not be risked unnecessarily. Officers should be used to neutralize a dangerous situation, rather than creating one as was the case in the execution of this warrant. Reform is needed to provide legislative direction regarding when it is and is not appropriate to forcibly enter a person’s home. Cannabis plants do not justify the escalation of risk to life and property.
Our second annual essay contest generated around 40 submissions, many of which were very creative and persuasive. The theme of this year’s contest was “The Proper Role of Local Government.” We chose this theme because many people feel they understand the federal government’s proper role, but lack any similar understanding of the proper role of municipal government. Given how directly we are all affected by laws and taxes at the local level, we believe this subject deserved increased scrutiny.
The $500 “people’s choice” award, given for the most Facebook likes received, went to “How to Not Be a Tool” by Patrick Powers. This essay encourages the reader to not steal from or force certain behavior on the part of other individuals, whether directly or indirectly through government.
The $1,500 grand prize was a difficult determination to make, as several of the essays stood out as being worthy of mention. In the end, we felt compelled to select “Giving Liberty a Try” by Chris Jones.
This winning essay is very well written and conveys an important point: local government should operate based on a standard of liberty rather than central planning. This summary does the essay profound injustice, of course; read the essay here.
Congratulations to this year’s winners, and a big thanks to everybody who took the time to articulate their thoughts on this important subject!