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    Published in Teller County Mountain Jackpot 20061031 .

    A Libertarian Take on the Ballot Proposals

    This will be my first election day voting out here in Teller County since leaving Michael Bloomberg's nanny police city-state. I've been more than a little disappointed that the politicians here have gotten on the global bandwagon following NYC's ground breaking extension of the war on drugs to nicotine, but, still, I think it will be a while till the pols here muster the chutzpah to extend substance prohibitions to frying with Crisco as is about to happen there.

    One advantage Colorado citizens have is a much more accessible ballot initiative process -- one of those First Amendment things about the right to petition -- which is almost non-existent at the New York State level, and heavily biased in the professional politician's favor in New York City. Here, the ballot proposals are perhaps more important than the vote for the particular Republicrat or Demolican who are running. Both will work to expand their powers over your choices.

    So, your only real control you have over what gets done to you is the ballot initiative. And there are 14 of them this election. ( It's interesting that these initiatives are required to be about a single issue in contrast to the Congress which routinely does such things as outlaw internet gambling with in a "port security" bill. )


    The first, Amendment 38, appropriately enough, is about improving the abilities and procedures for ballot petitions. It seems thoughtful and well constructed. I think one of its provisions which makes a lot of sense is that ballot initiatives will only be presented on regular November elections. Thus some connected special interest can't sneak some initiative into some offbeat local vote where only those people specially interested show up.

    I think the first sentence in the "con" arguments sums up why Amendment 38 is a good idea. "Amendment 38 weakens representative government." That is, it takes power away from the professional pols and gives it directly to each of us in our votes. The professional politicians argue that the population is too un-informed to make decisions directly -- rather contradictory if they feel their own election was deserved. But with the information sources universally available today, the argument for indirect representation on consequential matters lessens. Citizens may make some stupid choices, But then they can correct them the next time around. Overall the process of feedback and learning of the population will be more direct and swift. And prosperity comes to the free and the swift.

    My one nit is that the authors of the petition petition should have exemplified their own proposed limit of ballot titles to 75 words rather than miss that target by 35 words.

    Amendment 39 , and also Referendum J , are really rather silly notions to micro-manage school district spending patterns. They require at least 65% of a school district's funds to be used for those purposes the authors calculate require that percentage to be so absolutely necessary as to embed in the State Constitution or as a statute. And the two measures agree on the percentage but can't even agree with each other on what should be in it. For Liberty's sake, leave these decisions to the districts and the parents themselves. This is a great illustration of global one-size-fits-all mandates being far dumber than letting the individuals on the scene and directly involved make their own decisions.

    Amendment 40 would limit terms for Appeals and Supreme Court judges to essentially two four year terms. I'm generally grateful for term limits where they exist, but I think the judiciary is somewhat different than the other branchs. I think the proposed limits are just too short. The opponents point out that all judges get performance reviews and stand for retention elections as it is. There are five Court of Appeals and six District Court judges up for retention in Teller County. Their performance reviews, not surprisingly, tend to be bias toward the high end. Given the number of 10-0 scores on the reviews, I see no reason to vote for anyone who fails that grade. On that basis Jose Marquez ought to get another job.

    Amendment 41, Standards of Conduct in Government, sounds good but is a mess. It's a hodgepodge which would just increase committees and costs and likely just murk the political pond more than it is as is.

    Amendment 42, $6.85 Minimum Wage. Ah, the minimum wage issue. Always sounds so noble. But whenever you outlaw transactions between consenting adults you are not doing them a favor. Minimum wage laws are only viable to the extent that they affect almost nobody. The idea, again, that Karnak the State can come up with a magic number that fits all personal situations -- is hubris.

    An excellent illustration of this is contained right in the State's "Estimate of Fiscal Impact".

    "Students employed in work-study positions at state universities and colleges are often paid less than $6.85 per hour. The actual state cost will depend on the options providing more state money to the schools, increasing fees and tuition ( one hand giveth -- the other taketh ), or reducing the number of work study hours available to students. All other state employees are currently paid above $6.85 per hour. "

    Such trade-offs always exist and no legislation can defy the laws of economics. Minimum wage laws, as with other restrictions of free exchange, can only do harm.

    Amendment 43 and Referendum I relate to the State's definition of marriage and "domestic partnerships". Libertarians wonder what the State has to do with the definition of marriage anyway. It's a religious matter. It has been noted that it used to be that gays wanted the State to stay out of their affairs; now they want it back in to sanction them. Unfortunately tax code and other matters do entangle the state in these, what are historically and effectively contracts. All the issues I see raised in the "domestic partnership" referendum can, in fact, be handled by contract, powers of attorney, etc. I'm inclined to just abstain on the marriage amendment, it just doesn't matter to me, and vote against the Domestic Partnership measure because it is redundant and just another involvement of the State in personal affairs.

    Referendum E, A property tax reduction of a few hundred dollars for totally disabled veterans. This is another feel-very-good proposal. My major specific objection is that it benefits only those particular veterans who own their own homes. I would imagine that is only a fraction of them, and in fact, the most prosperous fraction. Therefore I vote NO.

    Referendum F, Recall petition deadlines. This was written by and for politicians fearing recall. NO.

    Referendum G, Remove Obsolete Constitutional Provisions. OK.

    Referendum H, Limiting Business Tax Deductions for wages paid to illegals. I think income taxes and particularly business income taxes are a needlessly costly complex way to generate revenue, and agree with the objections that its not likely to be very effective, but logically a business should not be able to deduct illegally paid wages. A thumb up, with reservations.

    Referendum K, Sue the Feds for failure to control immigration. Lawyer's Paradise.
    Pointless money wasting ( except for the lawyers ) idea. Big thumb down.

    Amendment 44, Legalizing an Ounce. It's ironic the same year smoking tobacco is criminalized, smoking another plant may be legalized. It should go without saying that Libertarians think ALL prohibitions of what one ingests are immoral. Laws should be about behaviors which cause harm to others, not what substances a person may consume. No prohibitions, but ALSO no excuses.

    But my main observation, which may be relevant to those undecided, comes from my having visited Holland for about a week this August. Basically, if the drug war against marijuana is ended, it will be no big deal. I spent most of my time, not in Amsterdam, but in the ancient town ( with not one, but two moats ) of Middelburg in Zeeland where some friends live. I visited the "coffee shop" there, I'm not sure the town had more than one. It was "mellow". But beyond that, there was no detectable effect around the town. The town was pretty mellow. I did get up to Amsterdam one Sunday afternoon, and while it was mobbed, and there were public concerts going on, and tens of thousands of bicycles, I'd describe it as pretty mellow. Certainly there was no evidence that there was any increase in social evils or criminality. On the contrary, the whole country seemed to have less of a war between the police and the population than we have here. My friends in Middelburg are old enough to remember the near starvation in the cities under the Nazis, and quite "straight". But Marijka in particular expressed a lack of comprehension as to why anybody would care what another was consuming.

    Cars cross borders in Europe without needing to slow down. The borders only exist for trucks. So having even one free country, means effectively prohibition is unsupportable for most of north-west Europe. And the major effect seems to be mainly much smaller prison populations.

    The US is now ranked below at least 30 other countries in personal freedom by ( even before loss of habeas corpus ) . This is one vote Coloradans can take to start reversing that trend.

    Bob Armstrong' website is .

    See for a revealing image of the Flower Market in Amsterdam .

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    Contact : Bob Armstrong ; About this page : Feedback ; 719-337-2733
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