Category Archives: Economy

TNP Podcast 6: Cliven Bundy, Public Lands, and Militia

Jackson and I discuss the issues surrounding Nevada Rancher Cliven Bundy and his dispute with the Bureau of Land Management. We see this as bigger than a rancher who doesn’t want to pay grazing fees. Does the federal government have a legitimate claim to an ownership of huge portions of land west of the Mississippi? Why would militia members from out of state feel the need to come to Bundy’s defense? Have a listen and tell us what you think.

[audio https://ia902304.us.archive.org/9/items/06TNPPodcast6ClivenBundyPubl/06%20TNP%20Podcast%206_%20Cliven%20Bundy%2C%20Public%20Lands%2C%20and%20Militia.mp3]

Music Credit: Chance McCoy and the Appalachian String Band

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Filed under Food Production, Podcast

Micron, Money, and Morals

Earlier this month, a federal court approved a $311 million dollar settlement against DRAM manufacturers on behalf of consumers. Boise-based Micron Technology, one of the firms involved, will pay an exorbitant $66.7 million to the “victims.” The crime? “[E]ngaging in unlawful anti-competitive practices to inflate prices,” according to The Associated Press. Sounds simple enough; the companies conspired to rip-off the public and will be forced to pay it back. Who could argue with that?

As with most things in an age where so much is beyond the scope of what can be perceived and understood locally, there is more to the story. From the AP report we learn not that a settlement was reached, but that the court ruling means “consumers can start filing claims” – the actual settlement took place in 2007. That means it took the court seven years just to figure out how consumers could get the money Micron (and others) already agreed to pay. The answer? Anyone can simply ask for free money! Really – it took them seven years to come up with that; the settlement site explains:

You don’t need any documentation to file your claim. So don’t let that stop you… You can still get paid even if you don’t have any documentation.

The likelihood of any actual justice being served under these conditions is slimmer than Idaho’s starving wolves.

Attorney General Lawrence Wasden

But it gets sillier. The AP story doesn’t mention that the antitrust violations took place between 1998 and 2002, and the minimum “recovery” amount is $10. So the government agents who brought the suit – Idaho’s Attorney General Lawrence Wasden was one of them – have dedicated countless hours and millions of dollars in lawyers fees to returning $10 taken from consumers fifteen years ago. Of course, no one was forced to buy any DRAM and certainly most had no idea they were paying too much at the time. But even granting that illegal activity took place, have Americans really become so petty and childish that fifteen years isn’t long enough to get over losing a few bucks?

Antitrust laws are a lot like invasions of Iraq – a great idea until you examine the results.

The cost to Micron is nearly $67 million, but the actual impact to Idaho will be much greater. How many Treasure Valley jobs could have been saved or created by Micron with all that money? When Micron agreed to the settlement in 2007, Idaho’s unemployment rate was below 3%. (After housing went bust, it nearly tripled.) Perhaps at the time Attorney General Wasden thought little harm could be done.

And perhaps this is another lesson in communities paying the price for a government too expansive to be genuinely representative.

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Filed under Economy, Fiscal Responsibility, Idaho

Does Voting Equal Empowerment?

I spotted the above bumper sticker while cycling through Boise’s North End. On its face, it seems rather straightforward: one should be able to vote regarding one’s own health. Well, certainly we should all be able to make our own health decisions if we are mentally capable; that only seems right. But while the message of this sticker might seem to be one of personal empowerment, I would argue that it is exactly the opposite.

“How can this be?” one might ask. Surely a woman is more empowered when she is allowed to vote on her health than when she is not. Would I sooner have some bureaucrat or politician or insurance company make her decisions for her?

But the idea that she is either allowed to vote on her health or else she is not in control of it is a false dichotomy with a rather nefarious assumption: the State ought to be the one fundamentally making the decisions about her health, whether or not she is able to give her opinion on it through the ballot. Ultimately, by advocating her right to vote on it, she is acknowledging the State as the final decision maker, not herself.

This fallacy that “voting = empowerment” is not uncommon. We are taught that “democracy” is synonymous with freedom, political equality, and good government. But should we really think about democracy in this way?

There really is no magic in majorities. In US history, majorities thought it was perfectly fine to enslave human beings. No sensible person, I imagine, would think that a majority voting for such a thing would justify it.

We must conclude, then, that there ought to be some limits to democratic decision making. Most of us do not want what foods we eat, what books we read, the places we go, or the people we associate with decided for us, regardless if a majority makes the decision. So my question is, “Why would we want our health decisions made for us by anyone but ourselves as individuals?” Continue reading

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Filed under Economy, Government, Idaho

Secession: Survival and Independence

Note: This article is the third of a series on the political concept of secession. The series will explore some historical aspects, and we certainly welcome comments on the historical record. But it will largely focus on contemporary questions of a theoretical and practical nature, striving to shed light on how the principle of secession relates to political life today.

In the first two articles on secession, we tackled some basic myths and took on the Hobbesian theory of political association. Having freed ourselves from these unjustified prejudices against peaceful political separation, the next reasonable question is “When is secession possible?” A seceding polity must be able to demonstrate its viability as an independent, self-governing society, and it is on precisely this question that some commentators scoff at the possibility of increasing the number of countries on the North American continent.

As a disclaimer, I am not concerned now with the legal question of whether any state could secede, only the practical question of viability. The legality of secession is not a trivial question in its own right, and perhaps I will take it up in the future. There is, however, a deep-seated and morally blinding hypocrisy in those who claim secession cannot be considered because it is “unconstitutional.” There are entire departments of the federal government whose very existence is an affront to the constitution. The implicit view of such constitutionalists-by-opportunity is that the constitution may be ignored by the feds but not the states – a legal theory that, fortunately, I’ve never met anyone so insane as to openly defend. Continue reading

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Filed under Economy, Government, Secession

The Forest: Federal, State, or Local Ownership

By Lea Johnson

Utah governor Gary Herbert has signed a bill calling for the return of federal lands to the state. Six other Western states could follow suit, and Idaho has a resolution demanding 32 million acres be returned.

Many dispute the efficacy of federal forest management. This August, California was battling the 4th largest fire in its history in Yosemite National Park.  In Idaho in 2012, it cost the federal government almost $200 million in fire risk and another almost $300 million in management. The federal government has done less than the minimum to restore trails after fires raged through, yet the main purpose of preserved lands are public recreational use. Idaho fireShould Idaho residents commit their trust, best interests and most importantly safety to federal agencies? How can federal agencies manage raging fires and management services in all states? Why not leave this to the states and their people? Continue reading

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Filed under Economy, Government, Idaho

Sovereign Living TV

I wanted to share this video because John Bush of Sovereign Living TV seems to take the The New Polis‘ ideals of liberty and community to heart.

Of course, this kind of lifestyle isn’t for everyone, nor do I believe one must replicate it to embrace localism. Though there are more encompassing ideas of what localism is (such as Christopher Felt’s ideas on it), The New Polis takes a more limited definition: localism is the idea that decision-making should be done at the most local level practical.

Clearly, though, there are certain conditions that are more conducive to localism and John Bush embodies some of them. An important one that he mentions about a minute in is community defense. Indeed, it ought to be obvious that the amount of crime in any neighborhood has much more to do with the character of the community that lives in it than  the quality of public policing. Just ask yourself: what is more effective in protecting your home when you are away: a neighbor who will check in on your house? Or a police officer who randomly patrols in his or her car?

As well, if it ever becomes the case that money creation by the Federal Reserve results in high inflation and the federal government responds by instituting price controls on food, there will likely be food shortages in the stores. This is what typically happens with price ceilings. A community will be better off if it has access to locally grown food and can thereby nullify price controls.

Bush also mentions medical care, which just like every good and service, is produced more efficiently when it is decentralized and open to competition. Central planning has had some disastrous results, especially in medical care, and Bush’s dedication to take control of his and his family’s medical decisions is another application of localism.

Personally, I am very excited about their endeavor and have great hope for their success. If you share this interest here are links to their website and YouTube channel.

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Filed under Food Production, Individualism, Localism

Guest Post: The Social Aspect of Localism

By Chris Felt

small is beautifulIn their post Why Localism?, Archer and Fegley argue that the size of the United States government has grown to such an extent that it has now become too large. The government is too large because it cannot adequately represent and serve the 300 million citizens that reside within its jurisdiction. Archer and Fegley suggest that the government inadequacies are readily apparent in two key areas: education and environmental conservation. In education, the federal government attempts to satisfy the unique educational needs of localities by enacting a general education policy that produces only frustration and inefficiencies. The EPA also seeks to solve the local environmental issues which would be better handled by local departments such as the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality. Local departments have greater insight into what is necessary for environmental protection for their local areas. Archer and Fegley claim that centralization of power in the federal government is not only ineffective but also potentially dangerous. Archer and Fegley state that atrocities such as those that occurred during the regimes of Nazism, Fascism, and Communism are logical outcomes of the centralization of power.

The views expressed by Archer and Fegley are those that are easily accepted by the other well known localism movement which is built upon the works of E.F. Schumacher. However, Archer and Fegley have only expressed agreement with the political aspect of this movement. This movement also emphasizes a social aspect. The social aspect includes many ideas but the basic ones are buying local, human scale technology, and simple living. Archer asserted in the June 19 podcast that in order for personal relationships and a sense of community to flourish, the proper size for a political unit needs to be the city. I argue that not only is a city-size political unit important for personal relationships and community, the acceptance of the social aspect is also necessary. Continue reading

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Filed under Community, Economy, Food Production, Localism, Reader Contributions