Shocker! Nevada state officials caught double dipping!

The immensely talented, Geoffrey Lawrence, of the Nevada Policy Research Institute (NPRI) has authored a truly remarkable set of policy recommendations in the just released Solutions 2013 handbook. Of the many diverse topics covered, one area that really struck me was on page 60, entitled, Double Dipping. My paraphrasing of their finding is as follows.

In 2001 Nevada passed a statute specifically designed to allow public-sector employees to receive pension payments without ever leaving their jobs. This was achieved via the creation of a "critical labor shortage" (CLS) classification, which allows public officials to collect pension benefits while remaining employed and receiving a full salary!

The CLS exemption was originally passed to alleviate a perceived shortage of teachers during the 2001-2003 biennium, but now is being rampantly abused. For instance, the first people using this exemption were not teachers but rather cabinet-level appointees such as Deputy Director of Public Safety, David Kieckbusch.

The day after this law was passed he retired to begin receiving pension benefits. Two days later he was re-hired and is now receiving pension benefits of 70k a year in addition to his salary of $103,301! The report goes on to document the many similar cases of rampant abuse of this exemption that goes on today, and rightfully proposes the solution of abolishing the CLS classification entirely.

Solutions 2013 contains much more on a variety of topics (39 in total, I believe) that can eliminate waste, reduce government spending, and consequently, promote a healthier Nevada economy in the process. None of which call for raising taxes! When you see all the common-sense, obvious solutions that could save our state millions of dollars that aren’t being implemented, it makes any policies that call for even higher taxes that much more infuriating!

As far as I can tell, the biggest obstacle to implementing these much needed policy changes is creating awareness about them. So be sure to check it out for yourselves, and if you would like a physical copy for free swing by the CCRP HQ or email me directly and I’ll be sure to get you one.


Liberals most likely to unfriend those with opposing political views

The money section from a new Pew Research study reads as follows:

Liberals are the most likely to have taken each of these steps to block, unfriend, or hide. In all, 28% of liberals have blocked, unfriended, or hidden someone on SNS because of one of these reasons, compared with 16% of conservatives and 14% of moderates.

This touches on a topic I was thinking about the other day. I get that those who identify as Progressive are generally uninterested in politics, war, and all the crap I normally post. And that's fine.

What is a bit troubling, is the tendency for these very same politically dis-interested and unaware folks, to rabidly support the very political liberal agenda.

How can you spend 99.9% of your time with zero interest in politics, economics, foreign policy, etc. but then rabidly defend Obama or any aspect of the liberal regime?

The answer that I commonly get is a regurgitation of Progressive propaganda, such as, "without government poor people would be poorer" or whatever. To which I reply, when Budweiser runs advertisements claiming that their beers have the best taste with the most hops, don't we view that claim with skepticism?

In the event we know nothing about beer and brewing, I suspect we don't make any opinion at all, or if we do it is very weak and open to being changed. Only in the event that we are deeply knowledgeable and experienced in the art of beer brewing, do we have more confidence that our opinion is, in fact, the correct one.

See what I'm driving at here?


McDonalds refuses to use it, yet public schools feed it to your children

Headline from USA Today: 'Pink slime' eliminated from fast food, but not school lunches.
Boy, I wonder what people would say if schools were purely privatized and they behaved in this way? Absolute, irrefutable proof we need government-run schools! When government-run schools operate in a way that society rightfully thinks is appalling, the reaction is just deafening silence.
Incidentally, ALL red meat increases your chance of dying.
So.....if we outlaw smoking because 2nd hand smoke increases your chances of dying, naturally government should outlaw ALL red meat, right? Obviously I am just demonstrating the absurd premise that government should have the authority to keep people safe, and consequently outlaw or forcibly prevent people from doing things that are determined to be unsafe. In a disturbingly ironic twist, this same, so-called "safety first!" government, instead feeds 7 million pounds of slime so gross McDonald's won't even touch it, to our children.

I’m shifting goals from getting people to embrace libertarianism to just acknowledging how unscientific and comically absurd the bias in conversations comparing government to free market are. It is never really a comparison of the pros and cons of each, but instead the anti-free market side merely attempts to illustrate that freedom would not result in a utopia. Upon successful demonstration of this, they feel more comfortable in dismissing libertarianism as the irrefutably superior political theory that is clearly is.

Sorry for the rant, the serving of ‘pink slime’ to children that has a higher risk of containing E.Coli than not such a disgusting, low-quality form of meat, is one of those things that is just so repulsive, it’s hard to contain myself!
If you are as horrified at the failure of public schools as I am, I implore you to read this fantastic paper by the brilliant Jane Shaw, Education - a Bad Public Good?

Update: A Yahoo news story adds the following:
Others are not convinced. McDonald's, Taco Bell and Burger King announced earlier this month they were going to discontinue using the product in their food. The U.K. has banned it for human consumption.
How did the media found out about the product?
Two former USDA scientists have publicly decried the use of pink slime, according to the New York Times. Carl S. Custer and Gerald Zernstein have at turns called the product "a cheap substitute" and "not nutritionally equivalent," to regular beef.

This is such a perfect illustration of why government is the worst possible method to provide vital goods and services, such as education. Bureaucracies do not operate under the profit/loss test, and as such, have much weaker incentives to provide their customers with high quality products, than do their free market counterparts. The fast food restaurants listed in the Yahoo news story are not exactly known for their elite, high-quality food products.
Yet, even they decide to opt out of using this disgusting, low-grade meat, precisely because they are motivated by profit. Or greed, if you prefer. And as such, using a product that increases the chance of food poisoning, is of lower quality, etc. exposes them to potential financial losses. The cost of causing food poisoning is obvious, as far as the lower quality product, we see how public perception or demand is significantly more influential on determining their actions, than it is on affecting the behavior of government. (Ironic that it is government which claims to “serve” the public!)
Namely, the fast food companies stand to lose business if other companies decide to stop using the pink slime meat “in order to better serve their customers”. This creates a dynamic where the firms are responsive to consumer demands in a way bureaucracy is incapable of. Even ignoring the legitimate health and quality concerns, merely the public perception that using pink slime meat is unacceptable, results in the firms responding accordingly. Naturally, the USDA is immune from all these concerns and gets paid via taxation, regardless.


Metro Police should spend less time searching for weeds on a mountain and more time dealing with real crimes

Putting aside whether or not you support the criminalization of drugs, as a resident of Las Vegas, I find it hard to believe the most urgent use of police resources is scouring Mt. Charleston in search of marijuana farms. This concept, of understanding the scarcity of resources and trade-off that is required when we pursue X over Y, is rarely discussed often enough when making a case for or against legalization.

Even if we put aside the much more important concepts of liberty and the proper role of government, it seems unlikely that even those who do support prohibition, honestly believe this is the most pressing issue that Metro PD should be dealing with given the high crime rate here in Vegas. That’s all for today, just remember to include the opportunity cost involved for X policy when you decide whether or not it is necessary. Simply demonstrating X is bad, is not sufficient to conclude it should therefore be illegal.




Government safety regulations make it illegal to improve safety in combat sports

mieshatateAs the sport of Mixed Martials Arts (MMA) continues to grow at a rapid pace, marked improvements have been made in all areas of the industry with only one exception that stands as a potential impediment to MMA’s continued meteoric rise – judging and refereeing. Not surprisingly, judges and referees are both aspects of the various state athletic commissions that sanction MMA, and as such, no competition is allowed in this area. One of the many cumbersome regulations the state athletic commissions mandates is that you must use the judges/referees assigned to you.

The atrocious judging, which UFC president Dana White has said is the greatest threat to the continued growth of the sport, is due to two factors: the incompetency of the judges assigned to MMA events (many are simply recycled boxing judges with little to no understanding of the sport of MMA) and the nonsensical 10 point must scoring system imposed upon MMA. It should not be too surprising that mandating the use of another sport’s scoring system for the sport of MMA may not produce the most desirable results.

Even worse than judging, is the refusal to allow the many free market solutions that have already cropped up, to provide competent referees. As referees are literally tasked with protecting the fighter from serious injury, or even death, one would think that refereeing competency would be set at the highest level, with little to no tolerance for inadequate performance. The reality is almost the exact opposite. Here is the most recent example (of which there are so many) of gross referee incompetency that directly endangers the safety and welfare of the fighter: From popular MMA website, Cage Potato’s recap of last night’s fight, Strikeforce: Tate vs Rousey – The good, the bad, and the ugly under the section for “the bad”:

- The referee in Tate vs. Rousey not stopping the fight until about eight seconds after Tate’s arm had grown a new elbow. Tate showed her warrior heart by not tapping until the pain was overwhelming; the ref showed his ignorance by not stopping the fight until that moment.

When I was watching the fight as this happened live, I could not believe what I was watching. The arm was clearly broken, and the referee just stood there watching. The referee is supposed to stop the fighter from taking punishment when they can no longer intelligently defend themselves, as well as the instant the fighter suffers a debilitating injury. For instance, if a fighter suffers a cut over his eye, or a cut that is sufficiently deep, the referee is required to stop the fight and check with the ringside doctor whether or the not the cut is serious enough to prevent the wounded fighter from continuing. In some cases, the fight will be stopped not because the cut itself is a risk, but because of the location of the cut. If it is directly above the eye, the loss of vision that will result from the blood flowing down past the eye will prompt the doctor to stop the fight, as this impedes the fighter’s ability to defend himself. I hope it goes without saying that a broken arm would obviously qualify as warranting an immediate stoppage as well!

MMA is a great example to demonstrate just how backwards the call for government regulation is. It is in the UFC’s interest to use the most competent, professional, and skilled judges/referees for a variety of reasons. And they have repeatedly begged for better judges and referees. Yet such cries fall on the slow-moving, nearly deaf ears of a government bureaucracy. If we want to only focus on the profit-motive and assume there are no other motivations at play, it is extremely bad for business to have fighters dying or getting seriously hurt in your sport. For obvious reasons, it harms the image of the company, it opens you up to liability and lawsuits, it makes it much less attractive for potential NFL athletes to join a sport that is unsafe and thus reduces the quality of fighters etc. So even accepting the premise that businessmen are soulless demons only motivated by greed, it is precisely that greed that ensures they operate in a way that meets consumers demands – a sport that has competent referees and judges.

As an aside, UFC president Dana White has donated so much money to charity, and gone so far above and beyond his obligations as a boss, it would be remiss of me not to mention that and include one such example. I put a great degree of emphasis on the theoretical strengths of the free market system, as that is where the argument must be, and is won, that I did not want to imply the reality of the UFC is anything close to the illusory “greedy business” that so much of the narrative for government intervention claims to be the case, and ultimately relies on.

As the embedded links above demonstrate, there are already so many free-market solutions coming into existence to meet this government failure of providing quality judges and referees. Unfortunately the government monopoly on licensing limits the effectiveness of these solutions. While it is a great thing to have more and more qualified judges/referees in the world, it is of little use if they are unable to be employed. Unfortunately, it seems like the various state athletic commissions operate much like all other government agencies, and even if they begin to employ some of these superior referees, the licensing process is likely to take years. And worse, the most vital fix, the removal of incompetent refs, is even more unlikely to occur under a government-run athletic commission. Unlike a private firm which operates under the profit/loss test and risks losing funding as a result of acquiring a reputation for incompetent employees, the state athletic commissions have no such concerns. Funded by compulsory taxation, incompetency becomes institutionalized, not purged as it must be in the free market system.

In the next 10-20 years, I fully expect the anemic state athletic commissions, to slowly incorporate some of the amazing new referees being produced by private training camps, and perhaps even adopt an appropriate scoring system for this new sport. The tragic irony is that whenever they finally do a satisfactory enough job, the myth of government keeping us safe will be propagated all over again. The beauty of this example is that MMA is so new. We are here to bear witness to how markets operate (and whether or not the supposed market failures, actually occur!) and the effect government regulation actually has: to retard progress of a thriving sport and directly endangering the safety and welfare of the athletes involved. It is a tragedy to think that whenever they finally absorb enough of the free market solutions, a fresh new generation of progressives will point to the example of how necessary government is to keep us safe. Why look at MMA! Could you imagine if there were no athletic commissions? People would get broken arms and the refs would just stand there, doing nothing! Thankfully government forced their way in to keep us safe from ourselves.

I should mention for those not as familiar with MMA, the referee in the incident above has not and will not be disciplined in anyway. The sport, or more accurately the athletic commissions, has a long history of refusing to discipline and continuing to employ referees and judges that demonstrate extreme negligence. It is so consistent in this regard that there isn’t even any question of whether or not disciplinary action will occur in situations like this. I should have mentioned this earlier, but I forgot that not all of my readers are MMA fans and are not as intimately familiar with its history in that regard.


Live video Q&A with Tom Woods and I on Liberty Chat next week!

Should be fun. You need to register at Libertychat.com to participate, but that only takes a minute. The Q&A is scheduled for Tuesday, March 13th at 9:30pm EST. Hope to see you there!

Update: Walter Block just added to the lineup!


FBI’s counter-terrorism specialist: “The TSA is one of the most ineffective and worst-run agencies in the US government.”

I came across the most devastating, authoritative, and substantive critique of the TSA I’ve ever seen. I’ve cropped the intro and last paragraph to wet your appetite, but you must read the whole thing:

"For 25 years, as many of readers know, I was an FBI Special Agent, and for many of those years, I was a counter-terrorism specialist. I ran the Los Angeles Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) Al Qaeda squad.
As a SWAT Agent, I was fully trained to interdict hijackings. I have trained countless hours on actual airliners, learned to shoot surgically inside the airliner “tube,” silently approach the aircraft and breach exterior doors quickly. I was also trained to shoot from airline seats in case I was aboard a hijacked flight, and for 25 years I traveled armed on airliners, meeting with Air Marshals prior to each flight.

I have dealt with TSA since its inception and FAA security prior to that. I have witnessed TSA operate since they became a separate organization in 2002 and seen their reaction to intelligence provided them. I have now watched them operate for a decade, and I have respect for their hard-working employees who are doing a thankless job. But I have come to the conclusion that TSA is one of the worst-run, ineffective and most unnecessarily intrusive agencies in the United States government."

Some other links on the TSA: