Thursday, June 23, 2005

Kelo v. New London: Mob Rule and Might-Makes-Right

In what will go down in history as perhaps one of the most significant nails in the coffin of American Liberty, the U. S. Supreme Court today, by a 5-4 vote, expanded the right of a city (New London, CT) to take any private property it wants so that ‘private’ development which has some ‘public good’ (such as increased tax revenues) may proceed.

In this case, the private property consists of people's homes. Never mind that one family lived in the same house for 60 years. Never mind that one man sold sandwiches for 21 years to buy his house.

The City Planners decided that they would prefer an upscale, tourist-and-shopper retail experience, and decided to take these homes by eminent domain – and in the process, enrich favored city developers. And they decided that "the people" – acting through their elected officials – have the right to run roughshod over the property rights of the minority simply because they were (1) numerous or (2) powerful. Oh, and yeah, (3) Because They Wanted It. (I weaned my children of the notion that they can take something simply because they want it when they were about three years old...)

Might Makes Right. The Mob Rule (and Reign of Terror) of the French Revolution is here.

Frederic Bastiat explained this over 150 years ago in his treatise, “The Law:”

“… the fatal tendency that exists in the heart of man to satisfy his wants with the least possible effort, explains the almost universal perversion of the law. Thus it is easy to understand how law, instead of checking injustice, becomes the invincible weapon of injustice. It is easy to understand why the law is used by the legislator to destroy in varying degrees among the rest of the people, their personal independence by slavery, their liberty by oppression, and their property by plunder. This is done for the benefit of the person who makes the law, and in proportion to the power that he holds….”

…imagine that this fatal principle has been introduced: Under the pretense of organization, regulation, protection, or encouragement, the law takes property from one person and gives it to another; the law takes the wealth of all and gives it to a few — whether farmers, manufacturers, ship owners, artists, or comedians. Under these circumstances, then certainly every class will aspire to grasp the law, and logically so.

…As long as it is admitted that the law may be diverted from its true purpose — that it may violate property instead of protecting it — then everyone will want to participate in making the law, either to protect himself against plunder or to use it for plunder. Political questions will always be prejudicial, dominant, and all-absorbing. There will be fighting at the door of the Legislative Palace, and the struggle within will be no less furious. To know this, it is hardly necessary to examine what transpires in the French and English legislatures; merely to understand the issue is to know the answer.

….how is… plunder to be identified? Quite simply. See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them, and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong. See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime.

Then abolish this law without delay, for it is not only an evil itself, but also it is a fertile source for further evils because it invites reprisals. If such a law — which may be an isolated case — is not abolished immediately, it will spread, multiply, and develop into a system.

….Do not listen to….sophistry by vested interests. The acceptance of these arguments will build legal plunder into a whole system. In fact, this has already occurred. The present-day delusion is an attempt to enrich everyone at the expense of everyone else; to make plunder universal under the pretense of organizing it. “

Would that we would listen to this man.....In the meantime, perhaps a boycott of New London might be a response for those who still believe in Liberty...

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Calling Interference on Congress....

OK, easy quiz: Which of the following words or phrases does not belong:

“Ground Rule Double, Pitcher, Yankees, Shortstop, World Series, Dugout, Congress.”

Hmmmm….that was hard, wasn’t it? Actually, for the self-appointed Inquisitors looking into the steroid ‘crisis’ in Baseball, that is a hard question. Somehow our friendly politicians have decided that only they can determine the rules and penalties under which baseball is played, thus saving the sport from itself.

God help us. Next they’ll be dictating the temperature at which Apple Pies must be baked.

The Congressional Breast-Beaters believe that they are the only solution to whatever perceived problem there is concerning ‘roids. What they have never understood, and still don’t understand, and I guess never will, is that Free Markets are always a more effective and efficient arbiter of ‘problems’ than Congress is.

Long before Congress started holding committee meetings to decide what to do about the Enron scandal, the Market had already reacted. Shareholders and investors pummeled Enron in a matter of days, punishing the company for its transgressions. While Congress talked and argued, the Market decided that Enron should die for its shenanigans. We really didn’t need Congress to say, do , or legislate *anything.*

In an effort to be ‘tough on drugs” and appear in a glamorous setting with sports superstars, the McCarthyesque drama began with an attempt to tear down Mark McGwire. Congress insisted that there was Trouble, Big Trouble, and that starts with T and that rhymes with P…..ooooops, sorry, wrong demagogue…...They insisted that the American Public needed protection from the druggies, demanded honesty from the players, and were outraged at the prospect of steroid use in professional sports.

But how did “we” the public actually feel? How did the Market react? Quite frankly, the McGwire-Sosa rivalry is credited with bringing Major league Baseball back into popularity after fans became disgusted with MLB after the players strike. In fact, the Market has sent the message that it likes Baseball. While Congress may see some Phantom of disgust, the fact is that fans are attending MLB games in increasing numbers.

If the Fans, or the Players Unions, or the Players themselves, or anyone else thought there was a problem, or unfairness, surely all of them have mechanisms to already to address those issues. Since when does Congress need to poke its nose in?

“Ah, but those are America’s heroes! Children are watching them!,” counter our politicians, those Paragons of Virtue and Heroism. “Since children watch them, they need to be held to a higher level!” they say.

Well, when I was a kid, statesmen were my heroes. I read about Lincoln and Jefferson and Washington and a host of politicians. If Congress is so intent on setting a good example, why not concentrate on their own house?

Ah yes, the makeup of the Steroid Scandal Committee is quite interesting.

There’s Tom Davis, who introduced legislation to prohibit government auditors from examining contractors billing records (I’ve never quite figured out how you conduct a fair audit under those conditions.) Or Tom Lantos, the hit-and-run driver who ran over a kid in Massachusetts and sped away in spite of the pleas and shouts of the crowd. Or Jim Bunning, who refused to recuse himself from considering his sons appointment to an appellate judgeship (the American Bar Association expressed “serious doubts” over his appointment). Or Henry Waxman, who strenuously opposes tort reform (for the public good, of course), but whose #1 contributor is the membership of the Association of Trial Lawyers.

Ah, yes, upstanding committee members who set an example for today’s youth, huh? These fine men have suggested that a Baseball player should be forced to sit out 50 games in the event of a ‘steroid’ use, since the youth of America is looking up to them.
Do they think the youth of America does not see what its elected officials do as well? Perhaps each time a Congressman does something that sets a poor example for America’s youth, we should make them sit out the next 50 votes. Or the next 50 elections……

Sitting on my shelf is a bottle of ProLab ThermaPro, a thermogenic designed to raise metabolism and help burn fat. I used this (same basic ingredients as the old Hydroxycut and Xenadrine) several summers ago, while running in the hot Dakota sun every morning while trying to lose weight and tone up (mission: successful!). Ah, but this product contains ephedrine!!! [crowd gasps in horror in the background.] When I used it in 2002, I was using a sports supplement. When the FDA banned it last year, I became the possessor of an illegal substance. When the Court overturned the FDA ban, I was an upstanding citizen again. Then the FDA declared that my 20 mg ephedrine was greater than the amount in the court case, and was illegal, and presto-chango, I’m a criminal again.

And this has been the history of steroids and sports supplements. The non-steroidal Androstendione which was available in every health and vitamin store a few years ago, all of a sudden disappeared because the FDA arbitrarily decided that since it was only “one step away” from a steroid, it is now illegal. However, DHEA, which is two steps away from a steroid, is still OK (for now…stock up while supplies last….)

The steroids that Jose Canseco mentions being used in MLB were by and large completely legal in 1980. Many of them are still legal in much of the world, including industrialized nations such as Germany and Holland. Some (Fina) can be made of 100% legal substances in your kitchen. Others are legal as veterinary substances.

The history of Sports is the history of going the extra mile and being slightly better than anyone and everyone else. Athletes give up much of their personal lives and incur a great personal cost in training. They regulate what they eat. They take vitamin supplements such as Calcium. They take Glutamine to prevent muscle breakdown. They take Milk Thistle and ALA to keep their livers healthy. They take Glucosomine to help repair their stressed joints, and if they’re in trouble, they get shots from their doctors. Some take “stacks” to raise metabolism and speed weight-loss (like my illegal aspirin-caffeine-ephedrine stack). They use Creatine as a muscle volumizer and NO2 to increase muscle pump, while downing extra-heavy whey-protein isolate shakes to increase food to muscle cells. Somewhere along the line Congress is going to find out that many use insulin to increase food nutrition entering the muscle cells as well. Some use 2-step-away prohormones like DHEA, others used 1-step-away-prohormones.’

And yes, some use steroids. Yes, the bar is constantly raised. In the effort to be bigger, better, stronger, greater. And if anyone thinks that taking steroids means you take a pill and you’re suddenly Hulk, they are sadly misinformed. Guys who take steroid injections and just ‘wait’ for the effects find themselves fat and tired. An athlete who has chosen to use steroids will be working his butt off 5-6 days a week in grueling workouts. There is no ‘free ride’ by using steroids.

It is amazing, isn’t it? If someone goes to Beverly Hills and forks over $10,000 to a surgeon to have 40 pounds of lard sucked out of their gut in a two-hour operation, that is not only legal, it’s indicative of being One of the Beautiful People. But if you work your tail off during a 12-week steroid cycle to reduce your body fat from 15% to 6% through arduous workouts, well…..”that’s illegal! That’s immoral! That’s just not right!!!! We must punish baseball players!”

Actually, it seems a hell of a lot more honest to me.

Of course, why stop at baseball players? Do they really think that that high school kids are dealing in ‘roids because of Baseball? Have they considered WWF? Do they think the models on the cover of Mens Fitness go that way from situps and spinach? Have they asked the Governor of California how he got that big? Wake up, gentlemen: when you outlaw a substance, you don’t make it go away….you make it go underground. Anyone remember Prohibition?

What’s more important, is that no one has been able to tell me just who is so harmed by an individual athlete’s choice to juice that it requires federal robocops. Let us *assume* for the sake of argument that Mark McGwire used steroids.

Has he killed anyone? Assaulted anyone? Robbed anyone? Maimed anyone? Can you point to any damage he has caused? (Of course, Congress is probably collectively guilty of all these things). So why the witch-hunt?

There are those who will say that when young people emulate these guys, they are hurt. But that’s like saying that NASCAR should be responsible for kids who drive fast , that McDonalds should be responsible for obese slobs who sit and eat Big Macs every day, and that Clint Eastwood should be responsible for a kid who shoots someone.

If the Players are upset, or the union, or the fans, or the owners, they have immediate remedies and avenues. If they have chosen not to pursue them, perhaps Congress should realize they’re barking up the wrong tree.

We don’t need Congress to decide who should be and shouldn’t be our sports heroes. We’ll do that for ourselves, thank you.