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Small CA City Employees Living Large, Making More Than Governors

in Economic Liberty, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Alice Salles Comments are off

Small CA City Employees Living Large, Making More Than Governors

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Governments lack knowledge. And it’s what that axiom in mind that we can safely say that acting without knowledge is, even in the short run, a waste.

SantaMonicaIn the city of Santa Monica, California, local bureaucrats are making more than $300,000 a year. That’s $187,000 more than current Vice President elect Mike Pence made as Governor of Indiana the past year.

According to a local investigation, at least 105 Santa Monica employees make more than $300,000 a year, including Santa Monica Police Chief Jacqueline Brooks, who makes $480,000 a year while public records show her base salary is at $306,000.

Overseeing 200 officers, Chief Brooks’ salary seems a bit unusual, especially when you compare it with next door’s Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck, who makes $344,000 while overseeing more than 9,000 officers.

Still in Santa Monica, an unnamed police sergeant raked in nearly $500,000 last year while his base pay was only $137,000. With overtime alone, he was paid about $179,000 extra but unused sick and vacation time were also added to the total, bringing the sergeant’s pay to the total of $475,000.

Others in the local force such as lieutenants, other sergeants, fire captains, and even a marshal made up to six figures by working overtime. According to the Santa Monica city manager, the high number of city employees working overtime is due to the fact that several positions are still unfilled. Currently, however, 18 new firefighters are training in the local academy. Other 18 positions are still waiting to be filled within the local Police Department.

As local transparency groups ask officials why they are having such a hard time filling positions while offering such good pay rates, they want more answers. And if public pressure grows, they may even be able to push for an audit.

As the taxpayer is forced to foot the bill, these watchdogs want city officials to be able to explain in detail why so many of its employees are making more than governors and, sometimes, even as much as the president.

Currently, Santa Monica has some of the highest taxes in the region. With the imminent increase in sales taxes projected to pass by popular vote, they will become even higher.

In other local cities such as Long Beach, watchdogs found 13 city employees making more than $300,000. The same number of overpaid employees was found in Newport Beach, but both cities have populations that are about five times that of Santa Monica.

While the figures are exorbitant, the real problem in this case is not only that government officials are clueless about what the labor market looks from outside of their offices. The bottom line is: When the money doesn’t come out of your own pocket, you do not have to be careful about how you spend it.

Seeing taxpayers as a bottomless pit of money, governments have enough incentives to keep on spending without being held accountable for how they are spending this money. In a free market where the price system is in place, the cost of labor is varied and competitive. Without the pricing mechanism, service providers are not aware of the demand, making them incapable of determining real value.

The only solution to this problem is to shrink the government. Even local ones.

What the Village of Tyneham Can Teach Us About Eminent Domain Abuse

in Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty, Property Rights by Alice Salles Comments are off

What the Village of Tyneham Can Teach Us About Eminent Domain Abuse

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Great Britain’s compulsory purchase orders are the equivalent of America’s eminent domain laws. These powers give UK government bodies the ability to retain property even if the property owner is reluctant to give it away.

TynehamMuch like eminent domain laws in America, certain UK bodies are allowed to obtain these properties by claiming that the land should be used for “public betterment.” But whether or not government is allowed to exercise this power if compensation is provided shouldn’t be the crux of the matter because value is subjective.

Ludwig von Mises wrote in Human Action that value “is not intrinsic, it is not in things. It is within us; it is the way in which man reacts to the conditions of his environment.” So if a man finds value in his land, even if he is being compensated for leaving against his will, the action imposed by the governmental body forcing him out is, indeed, immoral. Because value, Mises adds, “is not what a man or groups of men say.” It’s how they act that counts. Even if you agree with the government’s rationale, taking a man’s land against his will is inhumane. After all, Mises adds in The Anti-Capitalist Mentality, “there is no yardstick to measure the aesthetic worth of a poem or of a building,” so who are we to judge what is or isn’t valuable to an individual?

But history is full of anecdotes that teach us that much and yet we ignore it. Allowing generation after generation to place bureaucrats in charge of telling us what our most sacred rights truly mean.

Take the story of a village formerly known as Tiham, but which is now referred to as Tyneham.

In 1943, Tyneham and the neighboring area residents were asked to leave. They were given 28 days to walk away from their homes so Allied forces could use the place as a post where they would train for the D-Day landings.

As villagers left with the belongings they could carry, villager Helen Taylor waited until the very end, posting a note on the door of the limestone church of St Mary that read “We shall return one day and thank you for treating the village kindly.”
As villagers left believing they would one day come back, government later proved them wrong. The 13th Century church endured, but folks like Taylor would never have the pleasure of holding mass there as a community again.

In 1948, the Army resorted to compulsory purchase order laws and put a hold on the village and its standing properties, claiming soldiers needed the place for military training. Up until this day, that’s what the village and its remains are used for. Now, littered with scrap and shells from decades of target shooting, only dead former members of the village are allowed to come back to be buried in the churchyard.

The image of a concerned villager asking soldiers to treat her home well may have vanished from English people’s memories, but the message remains the same. What right does a man have if not to do what he pleases with his own property? Stripping citizens from their belongings under the guise of fighting for peace may sound honorable, but in practice, all that is often left behind is garbage—and heartbreaking memories.

Supposedly Sick Coast Guard Members Took Taxpayer-Funded Trips to Vacation Hot Spots

in Economic Liberty, Issues, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Taxes by Jackson Jones Comments are off

Supposedly Sick Coast Guard Members Took Taxpayer-Funded Trips to Vacation Hot Spots

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Every fall, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) publishes an annual report, known as the Wastebook, highlighting dozens of the worst examples of wasteful spending by federal agencies.

Some of the items in the report may sound unbelievable, but this is the federal government, and one should never underestimate bureaucrats with tax dollars at their disposal. More ridiculous examples from the 2014 version of the report include the $387,000 the National Institutes of Health spent on Swedish massages for rabbits (yes, seriously) and the $200,000 the Department of Agriculture spent to help a New York-based brewer build a beer farm.

Coburn, who earned a reputation as a hardcore fiscal hawk, resigned from Congress last year after a second cancer diagnosis, leaving a need for transparency in federal spending. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is stepping up to fill the void left by Coburn’s departure.

On Wednesday, Paul rolled out a new feature on his official Senate homepage, dubbed The Waste Report. According to a press statement, the periodical report “will identify egregious examples of wasteful spending throughout the U.S. government.”

The inaugural edition of The Waste Report focuses on medical waste, specifically a little-known U.S. Coast Guard program that costs taxpayers $1.2 million each year. The Travel to Obtain Health Care Program pays for Coast Guard members stationed in locations where there are no providers to seek medical care elsewhere. The program is available to members in Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico, though the latter two account for 7 percent of cases.

The Inspector General (IG) of the Department of Homeland Security released an audit in February detailing the inefficiency and lack of oversight in the Travel to Obtain Health Care Program, which costs taxpayers $1.2 million annually.

“[T]he IG uncovered trips from Alaska to Vail, Colorado; Orlando, FL; Scottsdale, AZ; and Savannah, GA,” Paul’s report notes.

“Though a doctor’s referral is supposed to be required before travel is approved, only twelve percent of records had such notes. “

“In total, 94 percent of all records were missing key elements including travel requests, approval forms, cost estimates, and/or doctor’s notes,” the report continues. “This lack of basic documentation prevented the IG from substantiating whistleblower claims that trips – even to Anchorage – were more for shopping than medical care, while also preventing the IG from affirming the need for accompanying spouses (who also traveled at taxpayer expense) to assist patients.”

The Inspector General made three recommendations aimed at improving accountability and oversight in the program, including greater documentation requirements and training. But as The Waste Report explains, “one should not need special training to know that taxpayer funded medical travel should not be approved without a doctor’s note, especially if that travel is for couples’ trips to vacation hot spots.”

A “Devil’s Dictionary” of Washingtonese

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Activist Ammunition section in Volume 20, No. 15 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

WashingtoneseLibertarian journalist James Bovard — author of a dozen outstanding and eye-opening books including Lost RightsThe Bush Betrayal, and most recently Attention Deficit Democracy — has done Americans yet another service.

In an editorial for USA Today Bovard put together a short dictionary of “Washingtonese” — the slippery lingo that politicians, bureaucrats and other such nefarious critters use to hide what they really mean.

Or, as Bovard puts it, the government’s “nebulous nomenclature [that] deters citizens from recognizing exactly how well their elected leaders serve them.”

Here’s a sampling:

  • Historic — different than last week
  • Unprecedented — different than last month
  • Emergency — the gift that keeps giving
  • Truth — whatever people will swallow
  • Legacy — any political boast that survives more than three 24-hour news cycles
  • Handout — a government benefit received primarily by the supporters of the other party
  • Mandate — whatever a winning politician can get away with
  • Honorable — any public figure who has not yet been indicted
  • Bill of Rights — (archaic) political invocation popular in 1790s
  • Fair play — any process in which politicians or bureaucrats pick winners and losers
  • Rule of Law — the latest edicts from a deputy assistant Labor Secretary or deputy assistant HUD Secretary
  • Patriotic — any appeal that keeps people paying and obeying
  • Waste — federal spending that fails to generate laudatory headlines, votes or campaign contributions
  • Freedom — whatever rulers have not yet benevolently prohibited
  • Election — when voters are permitted to freely consent to one of the two aspiring despots offered by the major parties
  • Cynic — anyone who expresses doubt about the latest bipartisan agreement to gradually eliminate the federal budget deficit over the next 117 years
  • Anarchist — anyone who advocates across-the-board spending cuts of more than 3.63%
  • Scurrilous — anyone who mentions previous federal failures when the president proposes glorious new programs

For much more Bovardian wit and wisdom, see his USA Today article.

Should Vaccines Be Mandatory?

in Ask Dr. Ruwart, Liberator Online, Libertarian Answers on Issues by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

(From the Ask Dr. Ruwart section in Volume 20, No. 7 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

QUESTION: Should vaccines be mandatory?Should Vaccines Be Mandatory?

MY SHORT ANSWER: With the new surge of measles cases, many people are calling for mandatory (forced) vaccination. At first glance, their arguments seem reasonable. Measles can kill and the vaccine is reportedly about 95% effective. Side effects are claimed to be minimal, although serious outcomes are reported on pp. 6-8 of the package insert that comes with the vaccine, including measles itself.

Even if the vaccine had zero side effects and 100% effectiveness, forcing it upon children would start us down the slippery slope of allowing bureaucrats and politicians to decide what medications we MUST ingest or be injected with. Today’s pharmaceuticals have the power to alter our thinking, libido, and even our desire to live. Some schools already diagnose boisterous children, bored with the one-size-fits-all curriculum, as having some type of disorder, and demand that they be given medications that have serious side effects.

Ultimately, each of us must weigh the risks and benefits of what we eat and how we medicate. Choose wisely, and good health to you and yours!

LEARN MORE: Suggestions for additional reading, selected by Liberator Online editor James W. Harris:

* “Vaccine Controversy Shows Why We Need Markets, Not Mandates“ by Ron Paul, M.D., February 8, 2015. Excerpt: “If government can mandate that children receive vaccines, then why shouldn’t the government mandate that adults receive certain types of vaccines? And if it is the law that individuals must be vaccinated, then why shouldn’t police officers be empowered to physically force resisters to receive a vaccine? If the fear of infections from the unvaccinated justifies mandatory vaccine laws, then why shouldn’t police officers fine or arrest people who don’t wash their hands or cover their noses or mouths when they cough or sneeze in public? Why not force people to eat right and take vitamins in order to lower their risk of contracting an infectious disease? These proposals may seem outlandish, but they are no different in principle from the proposal that government force children to be vaccinated.”

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Short Answers to the Tough QuestionsGot questions? Dr. Ruwart has answers! If you’d like answers to YOUR tough questions on libertarian issues, email Dr. Ruwart

Due to volume, Dr. Ruwart can’t personally acknowledge all emails. But we’ll run the best questions and answers in upcoming issues.

Dr. Ruwart’s previous Liberator Online answers are archived in searchable form.

Kids and Dangerous Houses: Should the Government Step In?

in Ask Dr. Ruwart, Liberator Online, Libertarian Answers on Issues by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

(From the Ask Dr. Ruwart section in Volume 20, No. 1 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

QUESTION: I favor liberty and minimal government intrusion. But I’m wrestling with the issue of dangerous housesprotection of children within the home. I’m struggling a little to find a happy medium between a total “hands off” approach that would balance my rights, as homeowner, to leave big nasty kitchen knives lying around, electrical sockets exposed with metal objects stuck in them, big holes in the ground, staircases with boards missing, etc. (I know some of those are silly/extreme examples but legislation typically makes no distinction between the sensible and the surreal), with the rights of children in the house.

Obviously an adult could see that such a place was a deathtrap and make an informed decision to visit or not. But what about children? What about my own children, who wouldn’t be able to make an informed decision whether to continue to live in the house because they wouldn’t know any different and wouldn’t have the freedom to leave anyway. And what about my children inviting their friends back to my house? Their friends wouldn’t necessarily understand the dangers or be able to make an informed decision whether to accept the risks.

MY SHORT ANSWER: You’re right: regulators can’t possibly know what a homeowner should do to child-proof a home. Nor would they have enough resources to inspect every place that houses children even if they did.

Keeping a child safe is part of parenting; some parents will do a better job of it than others. No parent can anticipate every safety hazard, but on average, they’ll do better than bureaucrats. Children of parents who are chronically drunk, high, or just plain neglectful will almost always have more accidents than children of attentive, sober ones. Neglectful parents will ignore regulations; attentive parents won’t need them, as they’ll be constantly trying to anticipate potential problems. As hard as it is to accept, we will never have a society where every child lives in an accident-free home; perfection just isn’t an option in human relations.

From a libertarian perspective, we might ask how we can have a society where fewer parents are neglectful, since regulations aren’t going to help much, if at all. In a society with less government interference in the marketplace, jobs would be more plentiful, the average paycheck would buy more, and people wouldn’t be kept from the work they prefer by regulations that shut them out.  People would be less frustrated and have more free time, so “drowning one’s sorrows” in booze or mind-altering drugs would be less attractive. (For details, see my book, Healing Our World; the 1992 edition can be read for free at ruwart.com).

Most of us can get a sense of this by asking our grandparents and great-grandparents how they were raised. Wealth creation was slower back then, times were harder, and children were expected to do dangerous jobs, like working on the farm with animals and machines. Spanking and even frank beating were thought to build character. On average, harsh conditions produce harsh childhoods, although there are exceptions. Long hours in the fields or factories left our elders too tired to be as attentive as they might have otherwise been.

Must we wait for government to subside before children can be protected in their homes? Not at all! If you feel moved to teach others how to child-proof a home, it’s easy to share such information on a personal blog, Facebook, etc.  First-time parents are especially eager to learn such things.

Although government is seldom, if ever, the answer, individual initiative almost always is.

LEARN MORE: Suggestions by Liberator Online editor James W. Harris for further reading on this topic:

* “Wage War on Poverty with Libertarianism“ by Jacob Hornberger. Poverty is not the only reason for unsafe housing. But higher incomes generally mean safer homes, better education, higher standards of living, and so forth. In this article the president of the Future of Freedom Foundation tells how libertarian policies could achieve that.

EXCERPT: “There are five libertarian keys to ending or greatly alleviating poverty. These keys apply not only to the United States but to every other nation in the world. If any nation wants to end poverty or at least to drastically reduce it, what follows is what it should do. Any nation that adopts the following five principles will, in both the short term and long term, achieve rising standards of living, especially for the poor.”

* “The Nanny State“ by Adam Young, Mises Daily, August 6, 2001. This short article explores how markets can provide better, more innovative safety for families than regulation.

EXCERPT: “Many calamities are preventable — not by bureaucratic means, but by simple attentive parenting and common sense — but nothing can take away the inherent risk of calamity that exists every day of our lives. An irrefutable fact of reality is the unpredictability of the future and all the accidents that result. The problem here is to balance risk of harm with the prospects of success, and that is something only the private sector does well. …

“If government regulations did not crowd out private testing and rating services, then rating guides, reports, and private-sector safety consultants would be more available, comprehensive, and affordable than they are now. State regulation breeds irresponsibility and blame shifting. Tangles of regulations impose costs that price competitors out of the market and prevent the invention of new designs and superior and cheaper products which, under the existing regulations, would become technically illegal.

“The free market would encourage entrepreneurs to create rating and safety systems that would perform the dual role so claimed, but never actually delivered on, by the government — namely, providing consumer safety and respecting consumer choice. Only products tested by the market can find the right balance. Anyone who has looked through baby-product catalogs knows that safety is extremely important in this market.

“If safety, as arbitrarily and remotely defined by bureaucrats in Washington, is to be imposed regardless of the cost, then why not take the next step? Parents themselves should be trained and licensed by the government, all in pursuit of the ideal of ‘safety.’ Forget the Nanny State; we need a full-time Parental State. It may sound absurd and dangerous to liberty, but one wonders how many politicians and bureaucrats today could marshal arguments against the idea.”


Short Answers to the Tough QuestionsGot questions?  Dr. Ruwart has answers! If you’d like answers to YOUR tough questions on libertarian issues, email Dr. Ruwart

Due to volume, Dr. Ruwart can’t personally acknowledge all emails. But we’ll run the best questions and answers in upcoming issues.

Dr. Ruwart’s previous Liberator Online answers are archived in searchable form.

Dr. Ruwart’s latest book Short Answers to the Tough Questions, Expanded Edition is available from the Advocates, as is her acclaimed classic Healing Our World.

What 10 Federal Laws, Agencies or Rulings Would You Abolish?

in Ask Dr. Ruwart, Liberator Online, Libertarian Answers on Issues, Libertarian Stances on Issues, Libertarianism by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

(From the Ask Dr. Ruwart section in Volume 19, No. 14 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

QUESTION: If you could repeal 10 federal laws, reverse 10 Supreme Court rulings or dismantle 10 federal agencies, which laws, rulings or agencies would you do away with? I guess what I’m looking for is the libertarian “hit list.”

TargetMY SHORT ANSWER: Each libertarian might answer this differently, so I can only give you my personal favorites. If I could magically change our government ten ways, I would end all taxation (1), confiscation (2), and eminent domain (3), effectively cutting off the government’s revenue. The borrowing powers of the government would be rescinded to prevent it from deficit spending in retaliation (4). Any outstanding obligations would be retired (5), as much as possible, from sales of government property (including about 42% of our country’s land mass).

Without the means to compel payment for government services, all government agencies would have to operate like any business by voluntary exchange with its customers. Agencies that failed to provide satisfactory service would have to shut their doors. Since some people would undoubtedly be willing to support a government that regulated in their favor, any initiation of force, by government or individuals, would be outlawed (6).

Sovereign immunity would be eliminated (7), making government officials subject to direct prosecution by their victims. For example, bureaucrats in the FDA, if they managed to survive the above reforms, could be held liable for deaths that they caused by denying the American consumer access to drugs of their choice or information about them.

Gold and silver would likely become legal tender, by simply ending the Federal Reserve’s monopoly on currency issue (8). I’d make a declaration of war by Congress necessary for sending troops overseas (9), taking away the president’s power to wage war by naming it something else.

Finally, I’d save my last “wish”‘ for something critical that I may have missed!

Read the next article from this issue here.

Go back to the full issue here.

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Short Answers to Tough QuestionsGot questions?  Dr. Ruwart has answers! If you’d like answers to YOUR tough questions on libertarian issues, email Dr. Ruwart

Due to volume, Dr. Ruwart can’t personally acknowledge all emails. But we’ll run the best questions and answers in upcoming issues.

Dr. Ruwart’s previous Liberator Online answers are archived in searchable form.

Dr. Ruwart’s latest book Short Answers to the Tough Questions, Expanded Edition is available from the Advocates, as is her acclaimed classic Healing Our World.