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Free Citizen

This writer espouses individual liberty, free markets, and limited government.

Location: Jackson, Mississippi, United States

Thursday, October 29, 2009

John Anderson Backs Instant Runoff Voting

Former congressman John Anderson, who was a candidate for president in 1980, has written this op-ed in the Orlando (Florida) Sentinel advocating the use of instant runoff voting (IRV).

Anderson, a liberal Republican from Illinois, ran unsuccessfully in some GOP presidential primaries in early 1980. He then ran that fall as an independent against the Democratic incumbent, Jimmy Carter, and the Republican nominee, Ronald Reagan.

Carter refused to participate in any debate which included Anderson, so Reagan and Anderson debated each other one-on-one. They were familiar with one another, since they had taken part in the primary debates with the other Republican candidates earlier in the year. Anderson, who always sounded like a preacher to me, was pro-choice on abortion, while Reagan made it clear that he was pro-life. One thing that Anderson proposed was "saving" Social Security with a 50-cents-per-gallon gasoline tax; he noted that people would get their money back. Reagan asked, "Why take it from them in the first place?"

Carter finally agreed to debate Reagan shortly before the election. The president continually hurled accusations at the former California governor, who delivered one of the greatest put-down lines in history: "There you go again." In his closing statement, Reagan looked into the camera and asked, "Are you better off today than you were four years ago?" On the following Tuesday, Reagan crushed Carter in a 44-state landslide. If memory serves me right, Anderson's candidacy cost Carter several states.

In the ensuing years, Anderson researched the possibility of starting a new party as a vehicle for another presidential candidacy, but he has never run for office again.

Thanks to Ballot Access News for the link.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Education, Once Upon A Time

... [T]he only dangerous change that the German reaction in this country has made, is the substitution of compulsory State education for the former American free education.

[In the early 1900s], American children went to school because they wanted to go, or because their parents sent them. Children knew the fact that schooling is a great opportunity which the Revolution had opened here to all American children alike. They made every effort to go to school; they walked miles through deep snow on winter mornings to reach school. They studied eagerly, to learn. They controlled their behavior in school, for improper behavior might be punished by their being sent home from school; deprived of half-a-day's schooling. The worst of all possible punishments was being expelled from school. That punishment, far worse than whipping, was held in reserve for rare instances of some pupil's utter lack of self-discipline.

The only schools supported by (compulsory) taxes were grammar schools. The belief was that a community should offer every young child an opportunity to learn. After grammar school age, a boy or girl was able to get his own education if he wanted one. Everyone did want one, who was capable of learning at all, for the years in grammar school only whetted an appetite for learning.

All over this country were Academies, private schools, privately owned and managed as the Saracens' schools were; they offered the equivalent (for those times) of the present High School curriculum; they offered it at various costs, suited to every circumstance. When Mark Twain was a boy in Missouri, graduating students of Missouri's Academies read their essays and delivered their orations in five languages (Latin, Greek, French, German, and English), to audiences that knew these languages well enough to appreciate fine points of style. There were bookshops where Kansas City is, before Kansas City was there; and by camp fires in ox-wagon stockades on the Santa Fe trail, the traders read Greek poets in Greek and European history in French. Any student could work his way through the Academies and the colleges. And many of America's most valuable citizens today, did it. (italics added)

This American method of education never fully developed; it was stopped about [1903], by the eager German-minded reformers, who believed that the State can spend an American's money for his, or his children's, education, much more wisely than he can. American schooling is now compulsory, enforced by the police and controlled by the State (that is, by the politicians in office) and paid for by compulsory taxes.

The inevitable result is to postpone a child's growing-up. He passes from the authority of his parents to the authority of the police. He has no control of his time and no responsibility for its use until he is sixteen years old. His actual situation does not require him to develop self-reliance, self-discipline and responsibility; that is, he has no actual experience of freedom in his youth.

This is ideal education for the German State, whose subjects are not expected ever to know freedom. The discipline in German schools is strict; it tends to train the young into the obedient submission that men in German Government demand from their subjects.

But it does not work that way in this country, because American educators naturally try to compensate for the counter-revolutionary compulsion in this school system. They do not subject American children to rigid German discipline. On the contrary, they try to make schools so enjoyable that the children will not realize that the police compel them to be there. (But the children know it.) The teachers try to make learning easy, a game. But real learning is not easy; it requires self-discipline and hard work. The attempt to make learning effortless actually keeps a child from discovering the pleasure of self-discipline and of the mental effort that overcomes difficulties and does a thoroughly good job.

This is cruel treatment of the new generations of Americans who must come out of this compulsory and yet too softly pampering schooling to face the realities of a world in which human beings are free and living is not easy. And it is not the best preparation for inheriting the leadership of the World Revolution for freedom.

The Revolution has been causing upheavals in almost every country on earth, [since the 1840s]. Now the counter-revolutionaries come out of Germany, determined to end it.

~~ Rose Wilder Lane, The Discovery of Freedom: Man's Struggle Against Authority (New York, 1943), pp. 258, 259, 260.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Rights of the States

This book, one of the very best I have ever read, is chock-a-block with quotable passages. The excerpt below is, in my view, superb.

The mention of Daniel Webster reminds me that, when he was chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, he was regularly receiving a retainer for his legal services from the head of the National Bank, the forerunner of the Federal Reserve. That would be comparable today to Senator Max Baucus getting a retainer from Ben Bernanke.

Hmmm... interesting that Mrs. Lane does not say that slavery was a cause of the War of Northern Aggression. ~~ SR


The most atrocious, bloodiest and most costly war of the [1800s] was the war between these States. Its cause was the Federal Government's so-called "Protective" tariff.

This tariff is a restriction of trade. Its original purpose was to protect this country's infant industries. Ordinary Americans fought it until 1896. [In 1933,] American farmers began taking money from all American tax-payers in payment for reducing this country's food supplies, on the ground that this payment is "the farmers' protective tariff."

From the first, this Protective tariff worked as all attempts to control productive human energy have always worked. It made everyone poorer. But the owners of the infant industries, still pagan-minded, still regarding wealth as a static quantity, and Government as Authority, imagined that this restriction of trade was making them prosperous.

How could they prosper, they reasoned, except by taking prosperity from someone else? If this universe is static, wealth does not increase; a man can get a dollar only by taking it from another man. The idea that prices can go down while wages and profits increase, naturally never entered their heads, because in all history this had never occurred.

The Government's kind protection was taking money from most Americans and giving it to the factory-owners, thus making their customers poorer and reducing the market for factory products. Believe it or not, this is what the factory-owners wanted, and they got it and kept it, by buying Daniel Webster and assorted lots of cheaper Congressmen, both northern and southern.

Ordinary dumb Americans fought that tariff for a hundred years, because it was counter-revolutionary and because it was a use of force to take money from most citizens and give it to a few. Southern Americans fought it politically until 1860, for the same reasons and also because they were selling cotton on the world market and wanted to buy manufactured goods at world prices. They claimed a right to nullify the tariff in their own ports; they did open their ports, and the Federal Government threatened war and made them close them.

The election of 1860 decided that this tariff would be raised still higher. So Southerners claimed the right to leave the Union, which all States had until then maintained, and they did leave it. They formed a Government, and when Federal troops would not withdraw from their States, they attacked the Federal troops.

That was the most brutal war that civilized men had ever fought. In that war, Americans revived a barbarity that had not been practiced since Genghis Khan, but is Hitler's method today: cold-blooded atrocities committed on unarmed civilians and women and children, by regular troops acting under orders (italics added).

Northerners fought to save the American Revolution by saving the Union. Southerners fought to save the Revolution by defending the rights of the States.

... . A shift in the Constitutional balance of power in this Government, ever since that war ended, may yet prove that the Southerners were right.

That war cost the lives of half a million Americans. ...

~~ Rose Wilder Lane, The Discovery of Freedom: Man's Struggle Against Authority (New York, 1943), pp. 63-64.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Sneaky Rooster

John was in the fertilized egg business. He had several hundred young layers (hens), called 'pullets,' and ten roosters to fertilize their eggs.

He kept records, and any rooster not performing went into the soup pot and was replaced. This took a lot of time, so he bought some tiny bells and attached one to each rooster.

Each bell had a different tone, so he could tell from a distance which rooster was performing. Now he could sit on the porch and fill out an efficiency report by just listening to the bells.

John's favorite rooster, old Butch, was a very fine specimen, but one morning he noticed old Butch's bell hadn't rung at all! When he went to investigate, he saw the other roosters were busy chasing pullets, bells a-ringing, but the pullets, hearing the roosters coming, were running and hiding.

To John's amazement, old Butch had his bell in his beak, so that it couldn't ring. He'd sneak up on a pullet, do his job and walk on to the next one.

John was so proud of old Butch that he entered him in the Renfrew County Fair, where he became an overnight sensation with the judges. The result was that the judges not only awarded old Butch the No Bell Piece Prize,but they also awarded him the Pulletsurprise as well.

Clearly old Butch was a politician in the making. Who else but a politician could figure out how to win two of the most highly coveted awards on our planet by being the best at sneaking up on the populace and screwing them when they weren't paying attention?

Vote carefully next year... you can't always hear the bells.

~~ Author unknown

An "Open Primary" For California?

In June 2010, California voters will have a ballot question for a nonpartisan, Louisiana-style "top two" election system [1] (popularly called the "open primary" in Mississippi). Richard Winger, a Californian, has already had a number of "top two" posts at Ballot Access News, which have generated some lively commentary. Below are some of my remarks on the latest such post.

“… 1971, the last year Louisiana used a closed primary for state legislative races…”

In 1971, the Republicans were still only running a few candidates; I doubt that there were more than a handful of Republican candidates for the legislature– if that many. Louisiana was still largely a one-party state.

The one-party system was a de facto “top two” system, except that a voter had to register as a Democrat to participate in Louisiana's one-party system (of the 11 former Confederate states, only Louisiana, Florida, and North Carolina register voters by party).

A Democratic runoff was generally necessary, so when the Republicans started running a few candidates, the winner of the Democratic primary faced a third campaign; his Republican opponent, in contrast, usually just had to campaign in the general election. This was the big reason that Democratic politicians in Louisiana and Mississippi wanted to implement the “top two” (a. k. a. “open primary”).

Many voters also liked the concept of the “open primary,” since they were accustomed to (1) choosing among ALL the candidates in the first round, and (2) having elections decided with no more than two rounds of voting.

Hence Louisiana’s “open primary” is a remnant of the old one-party (truly no-party) system.


[1] All candidates, including independents, run in the same election. The top two vote-getters, regardless of party, advance to the runoff. Louisiana has used this system since 1975 to elect its state and local officials, whereas Washington state began using it in 2008 to elect its state and congressional officials. The California proposal applies to state and congressional elections.