Farm Bill changes needed.

The Farm Bill should not pass until the following changes are made:

Separate the food stamp program (the SNAP program) from the rest of the farm bill.  The huge size of the food stamp program dwarfs the farm subsidies and, in effect, hides them.  Farm subsidies need to be exposed to a more open process.  It would also help make the food stamp program more transparent.

Stop subsidizing crop insurance.  Make farmers pay 100% of the cost.  If that raises the price of food, so be it.  If it reduces farmers’ incomes, so be it.  Subsidizing crop insurance is not a proper role for our government.  Today’s federally subsidized crop insurance not only covers losses due to unforeseen disasters, it also covers drops in revenues!   If farmers had to pay the full price for their coverage, they might prefer higher deductibles and lower levels of coverage.  But to add insult to injury,many farmer who receive subsidies are also very wealthy.  There is no good reason why wealthy farmers should be subsidized, even for crop insurance.  If our goal is to help poor farmers, then surely the subsidy should be phased out as a farmer’s wealth and income increase.

Establish a maximum amount of subsidy that can be received by any individual or commonly owned group of farms under all farm subsidy programs combined.  Again, we shouldn’t be subsidizing big farmers or farm organizations.

Don’t place tariffs on imports unless the country of origin first places tariffs on our exports to that country.  Free trade is beneficial to all.  It is voluntary!  It requires no intervention by government other than to resolve disputes.  Free people should not be forced exchange or be prevented from voluntarily exchanging with another party.  Amazingly, under the current Farm Bill, we pay Brazilian cotton farmers almost $150 million per year as compensation for the damage done to them by the subsidies we provide to our U.S. cotton farmers!  Is that not insane trade policy?

Separate the “rural development” programs from farm subsidies.  Again, the tens to hundreds of millions of dollars spent in this area are hidden within the much larger primary subsidy programs.  It is questionable whether or not rural economic development is even a proper  role of government.  In any event, consideration of spending for rural economic development should not be mixed with farm subsidies.

Tie environmental practices to any subsidies granted.  We shouldn’t expect perfectly clean water in our lakes and rivers.  Wild animals have defecated in them forever.  But, it reasonable to expect farmers to not fowl the water down stream from them, and to pay for damages when they can be reasonably determined.  The idea of requiring minimum buffer strips between farms and rivers and lakes is reasonable.

Don’t expand Medicaid in Iowa

Health insurance should not be considered a “human right” as the Register advocated on 1/31/2013 (Health insurance for poor is a human right).  When the term “human right” is used in conjunction with a product or service, such as health insurance, (or food, or shelter, or clothing), it implies that government should use its force to take property from some people to make sure that everyone is provided with that product or service regardless of cost.  Rights that require the use of force by government to take  from some to give to others are called “positive rights.”  Positive rights are only possible if some of the people work, create, and save their property – so that it may be taken and distributed to others.
The kind of rights that are guaranteed by the Bill of Rights of our U.S. Constitution, are called “negative rights.”  Negative rights do not require any action by anyone else and do not infringe on the rights or the property of anyone else.  For example, I have a right to speak , but you don’t have to listen.  I can practice my religion but you don’t have to believe.  I can form a union but you don’t have to join.  I can open a business but you don’t have to patronize it or work for me.  Negative rights are are based on the idea that we are each free individuals who own whatever property we create or acquire honestly and peacefully through voluntary social interaction and cooperation with other people.
The current question is whether or not to expand Medicaid in Iowa.  The fact that most, if not all, of the funding comes from the federal government does not make it free for Iowans.  Money from the federal government is not “free money.”  The more fundamental question is how far do we expand Medicaid.  The number of people in Iowa on Medicaid increased by 23% from 2006 to 2010.  Today, more than one out of five Iowans are on Medicaid.  Of course, many more people would like to be covered by Medicaid.  Who wouldn’t like to have someone else pay for their health care?  Governor Branstad is correct to not expand Medicaid.  Instead, we should make sure that we our current spending is being used as effectively as we can.
Register article: http://www.desmoinesregister.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2013301310087
Source: http://www.medicaid.gov/Medicaid-CHIP-Program-Information/By-State/iowa.html

Right To Work – amendment proposal is bad.

Both current Iowa law and the proposed “right to work” amendment to the Iowa Constitution prohibit a private business owner from voluntarily agreeing to hire only union members.

In a free society that respects private property rights and freedom of association, business owners should be free to choose whether or not to bargain with anyone or group about any terms of employment.  Government should not get involved either for or against the employer or the employees except to stop either party from using force or fraud against the other.  If an employer wants to hire only union members and bargain with a single group, then government should not prohibit it.  In that case, individuals who don’t want to join the union can simply refuse to work for that employer.

Just as an employer should be free to agree to hire only people who are members of a union, an employer should also be free to not bargain with any individual or group, including unions, regardless of what employees or union members might vote for.  Unless the parties agree by voluntary contract to the contrary, employees should be free to strike, quit, protest, organize boycotts, etc., and employers should be free to fire, lock-out, hire replacements, etc. – as long as neither party uses force.

The whole issue of whether “union certification votes” should be by secret ballot or by a written card check method should not exist.  There should be no law to force employers to bargain with unions, even if 100% of the employees vote for it.  All employment relationships and contracts should be entered into voluntarily by both parties.  The only proper role for government in private business relationships is to stop the use force or fraud against, and to resolve disputes.

In the special case of government as the employer, there should be no requirement that employees join a union, and there should be no requirement that a government bargain with any union.  Government is paid for by all taxpayers under threat of force.  Therefore, government, as an employer, should not discriminate in its employment practices except on the basis of job requirements or job performance.

The proposed amendment to the Iowa Constitution should die, and current Iowa law should be changed to reflect the voluntary nature of any employment relationship.

Dentist’s actions were properly allowed.

In a free society, individuals should be allowed to voluntarily choose who they wish to associate with, or not associate with.   In an employment relationship, both the employer and employee should be free to terminate the employment relationship with or without notice, and for any reason or no reason – unless they contractually agree to something else.

In the recent case of the dentist who fired his dental assistant, the Iowa Supreme Court was correct in its decision to not  penalize the dentist.  The dental practice was the private property of the dentist.  There was no employment contract between the parties, so the employment relationship could properly be terminated by either party.

People who disagree with what the dentist did are free to peacefully protest against the dentist, and they can try to peacefully organize a boycott of his practice.  Remaining employees of the dentist are free to quit or to organize a peaceful strike against him if they wish.  But, no one should be able to use force, even a majority through government, to dictate the terms of the employment relationship or penalize either party for terminating the relationship.

If a government had been the employer, it would have been a completely different situation. Governments are created by all of the people to serve all of the people.  Government employers should only be allowed to discriminate based on factors related to job requirements and job performance.  But peaceful people acting voluntarily should be left alone by government to decide for themselves whether or not to enter into any relationships with one another and to set the terms of those relationships.

We are united!… in loyalty to our Country.

In the Dec. 12, 2012 issue of Cityview, in the “Your View” column, the Rev. Vernon Naffier bemoaned that we are no longer a united nation.  The Pledge of Allegiance, from which several parts of Rev. Naffier letter were taken, is a pledge of loyalty to the United States, not a pledge to agree on collective goals.  I believe that we, the people of the United States, are united in our loyalty to the United States, and against any person or group who would try to harm our country.  But, we are not united on domestic social goals, and there is no reason that we should be.
“Liberty and justice for all” means that our government should treat all of us equally, (no special political privileges for anyone), and that our government should mostly not interfere with the activities of honest and peaceful adults.  The primary and proper role of our government is to protect our pre-existing natural rights and liberties against those who would use force or fraud against us.  “Equal opportunity for all” means that our government should not do anything to prevent or disadvantage any individual or group from exercising their rights and liberties to their own best advantage.
On the other hand, our government should not give special favors or preferences to politically favored groups or individuals.  Unfortunately, throughout a large part of the history of our country, our government has used its force to provide political advantages to self-serving crony capitalists, (as opposed to free market capitalists), and well intentioned collectivists, all under the guise of “providing for the common good or promoting the general welfare.”  We are facing the “fiscal cliff” and can’t agree how to fix it because so many people and groups are recipients of government largess and no one wants to give up their benefits.
We need to dramatically reduce the size and scope of our government.  There are many proper roles for our government.  But, what is considered immoral for an individual to do does not, somehow, become moral simply because it is done by our government and approved by a majority of the people.  Taxes, which are taken by force, should be used only for things that truly are for the common good and promote the general welfare, not those things which benefit politically favored groups.  Unfortunately, I think it will require a major financial crisis, like that being currently experienced by Greece, for us to make the changes necessary for us to have a stable, sustainable government.
Link to Cityview article: http://www.dmcityview.com/your-view/

Vote YES to retain Wiggins!

Vote YES to retain Iowa Supreme Court Justice David Wiggins.  His retention is being opposed by people who don’t like that he voted to overturn the Iowa law which had prohibited gay couples from getting married.  He voted to overturn the law because it violated Iowan’s Constitutional right to be treated equally under the law.  He correctly judged the case based on Iowa law.  Those who oppose his retention don’t like the result, and they want to “shoot the messenger.”  
 
The Iowa Constitution, in Article 1, Section 6 states: “All laws of a general nature shall have a uniform operation; the general assembly shall not grant to any citizen, or class of citizens, privileges or immunities, which, upon the same terms shall not equally belong to all citizens.”
 
Individuals and private organizations, such as churches, should be free to decide who they recognize as married and who they will associate with.  But government, which by its nature uses force to make all people comply with the law, should treat people equally unless there is a rational and overwhelming public purpose to treat some people differently. It should not be easy for a majority to prevent the equal treatment of minorities by government.    If there are enough Iowans who Iowa want to prohibit gay marriage, then they should work to amend our Constitution, not vote to oust a judge who properly followed our Iowa Constitution.

Gay marriage is good.

Even if it is a fact that traditional marriage, between one woman and one man, is best for children, and is good for the state, it does not logically follow that gay marriage is bad.  Is it better for children to live in an orphanage or with a loving family, even if they are a gay couple?  Is it better for gay couples to live together in uncommitted or committed relationships?  When no one is harmed by the voluntary peaceful actions of adults, what is “good for the state” is a poor reason to use the force of government to prohibit those actions.

This blog post was prompted by a blog, “Marriage isn’t about love”, on Tom Quiner’s site: http://quinersdiner.com/2012/10/09/marriage-isnt-about-love/#comment-5260

Vander Plaats panders to his base.

Bob Vander Plaats does not want to understand those who disagree with his religious dogma regarding the source of our rights (See Des Moines Register, “A Tale OF Two Conventions” 9/16/2012).  The vast majority of both Republicans and Democrats believe in God.  So belief in God not a distinguishing characteristic between the parties.  Vander Plaats wants it to appear that the Republicans are the Party of God in order to cater to his base.
A person doesn’t have to believe in a God in order to believe there are moral absolutes.  There are natural laws that are understood by all, without the necessity of being commanded by a God or religion:  Don’t initiate force against others, don’t use force or fraud to take other people’s property, don’t do to others what you don’t want them to do to you, peaceful and honest people who do no harm to others should be left alone by government, government should treat people equally.
Our Founding Fathers were wise to embed freedom of religion in our founding documents..They made clear that no religious test should be required in order to hold public office.  They wrote that our government, “… shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…”  The belief that a deity has commanded or prohibited any particular actions should not be the reason why any law gets passed.  (Many Christians believed that the Bible allowed slavery.)
I agree with Vander Plaats on most economic issues.  I agree with him that our rights preceded and are superior to government.  I just don’t think they came from God, and I know they didn’t come from government.

Patents gone wild!

Patents are government enforced monopolies that are granted to encourage innovation.   There is no natural property right in “intellectual property” (IP).  Natural property rights exist in physical things.  If you create or obtain property by peaceful and honest means, then you have a natural right to keep and defend that property against those who would use force or fraud to take your property from you.  Governments are created to help protect those rights.

Throughout most of human history there has been no recognition of  patents.    Anyone could copy a good idea from anyone else.  Only Kings or other dictators bestowed monopolies to favored groups and used force to stop those who infringed on the monopoly.  The inventor of the first wheel had a natural property right in that specific wheel.  Other people who made similar copies for themselves did not take anything away from the original creator.  Why should force be allowed to stop someone from copying from someone else?  Do the ends justify the mean?  Isn’t it immoral to use force to stop a peaceful person from doing something that does no harm to others?

It is wrong to assume that people would not be inventive if they had no patent protection.  They might be more inventive and more creative.  Do a thought experiment:  What would happen if there were no patents?  Might there not be more and faster invention?  As much as possible, inventors would try to keep their manufacturing processes secret.  But keeping such secrets would be very difficult, if not impossible in many cases.  Inventors would also try to use contracts to prevent people from copying their inventions.  Contracts would give them some protection, but only against those who are party to the contracts.

Patents are supposed to be granted only for original inventions that are not obvious.  In the recent case between Apple and Samsung, one of the patents which Apple successfully defended was the “look and feel” of the IPhone, including the rounded corners and the “bounce-back” screen.  Mercedes Benz has a new TV ad where they tout that they have over 80,000 patents.  (See: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yc6CejduPP0)  Is that a good thing?  Today, it is becoming very difficult to create anything technical without infringing on someone else’s patent.  What government gives, government can take away.  Until we get rid of patents, our government should get much more conservative about what types of inventions get patent protection and about how much time the patent is granted for.

In the case of drugs and medical devices, I would feel much better about our government providing for our “general welfare” by funding medical research if no patents were allowed if taxpayer money is used in anyway to fund the development.  Inventions based on taxpayer funded medical and technological research, or based on research done at public universities should not be patentable, either by the States or the universities.  They should be left in the public domain for the benefit of all citizens.

AFL-CIO president is wrong.

The letter to the editor in the Des Moines Register on July 4, 2012 by Mark Cooper, president of the South Central Iowa AFL-CIO,  makes clear that he refuses to recognize the laws of economics and want government to tip the balance in his favor.  He bemoaned, “The closure of more than 50,000 manufacturing facilities, the loss of nearly 6 million manufacturing jobs, and chronic trade deficits are all signs of our diminished industrial and innovative capability.”  In fact, over the past 30 years manufacturing output has more than doubled after adjusting for inflation.  U.S. manufacturers are very innovative and have increased capability.  Innovation and improvements in technology have allowed higher output with fewer jobs – especially fewer unskilled jobs.  It used to be that an honest, hard working person with few skills could get a job in a factory that paid well.  Over time, machines have been developed to do the strenuous, repetitive and dangerous tasks.  It is specifically innovation, not international trade and low wages in foreign countries, that has caused most of the job losses in manufacturing.

International free trade does put downward pressure on wages, but it also has the benefit or lowering the prices we pay for many products and services.  There have been real losses in jobs and manufacturing since the recession started in 2008, but the recession was caused by a government abetted speculative bubble in the housing market, not international trade.  Minimum wage laws price out of the market those with the least skills, and at the same time tends to keep prices high when they otherwise might fall.  What exactly would be wrong if wages fell 25% but prices fell by 50%.  Unfortunately, our government has a vested interest in making sure that we have inflation in our economy.  They are working very hard to push up the prices of houses, which probably has the biggest negative effect on relative poor people who don’t have a home but would like to buy one.

Philosophically, people should be free to peacefully and voluntarily exchange their labor and their property without interference by government.  When government gets started in regulating trade, those with the most political power will get protection and everyone else will pay higher prices.