Markets Don't Just Help Rich People


Libertarians are often accused of not caring about poor people, or culture, or any good thing that more than just we as individuals can benefit from.  Capitalism and free markets are attacked for only helping selfish rich people.  This article from Students For Liberty gives an example how free markets can benefit everyone.


Virginia Senate Debate

By Sarah Prescott

On Thursday, October 20th Luke Wachob, Helen Shibut and I attended a local Tea Party debate held for candidates for Senate from Virginia. Instead of covering what each candidate said, I’m going to write about each candidate’s body language non-verbal communication skills. Kevin Chisholm, E.W. Jackson, David McCormick, and Tim Donner were all present to debate current issues and to convince the audience why each one thought he should be Virginia’s next Senator. The debate began with each candidate giving an opening statement where they were free to say whatever they chose to.                
Kevin Chisholm began the evening and admitted to reading part of his opening statement from his notes because he was “a little nervous.” The opening statement was the beginning of a night full of blunt honesty from Chisholm. He was the only non-Republican candidate present, which made his evening a little challenging. Throughout the debate Kevin leaned far back in his chair. He often looked extremely uncomfortable. He also seemed unprepared for many of the questions that were asked. He did not act like a typical Washington politician. When confronted with difficult questions, he often said he felt he would have to speak with an expert on the subject before making a judgment. Though some people in the room seemed turned off by that answer (especially the second or third time around), it definitely made him seem less arrogant in comparison with the other candidates.
                The second candidate we were introduced to was E.W. Jackson. If I could sum up E.W. Jackson with one word it would be passionate. From the moment he advanced confidently to the podium to give his opening statement to the moment he stood up and leaned over the table to give his closing statement, he voice was filled with passion. Jackson’s diction was neither watered-down and simple nor overly eloquent. Although he said some very provocative things, such as “we should profile” (when discussing border security), he did so in such a way that received applause from many of Tea Party members present in the audience.
                David McCormick seemed to me to be a classic Republican candidate. If that is what the tea party members want, than I think he would be a good choice. In fact, while looking back at my notes, it is almost difficult for me to picture his face. He seemed to me to be very forgettable. He constantly referred to “kicking out Obama”. I wonder if he realized that he was running for VA Senate not the presidency. 
               Tim Donner, who was seated on the very end of the table, looked stern and almost angry when he was not speaking. When he did speak, he used very effective language. I enjoyed the tone of his voice and the diction he used. He also used humor now and then, which everyone seemed to appreciate. Tim Donner commanded attention when he spoke and used every bit of his speaking time on stage to share what he wanted to do to change Washington.


What Went on at the VA Senate Debate

By Helen Shibut

There were no losers in this debate (sorry). But I think all of the candidates who showed up managed to showcase themselves pretty clearly. Kevin Chisholm was inexperienced but relatable.  He admitted to being confused by specific tax codes and policies of the federal government, and I’m sure everyone can identify with that struggle.  Tim Donner was positively pragmatic, and perfectly conservative.  He was the easiest to imagine actually making it to Washington.  David McCormick was confident because he had a jobs plan.  Fewer regulations and lower taxes—I can’t argue with that.  Unfortunately, his plan was full of economic protectionism, and I don’t think China will just sit there if we starting bumping up tariffs on everything they send here.  E.W. Jackson was certainly the most exciting person on stage, and in the beginning I was prepared to get excited with him.  Raise the debt ceiling? “Under no circumstances!” Department of Education? Waste of space. Ditto for the EPA.  I was loving it. But then he started talking about cutting off immigration for the rest of the recession (strike one), bringing back Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (strike two), and how the PATRIOT Act is actually a good thing (strike three, and thrown out of the game for arguing the call).

Not surprisingly, all of the candidates were opposed to the way the federal government has twisted the Constitution’s eminent domain clause.  Everyone seemed to agree that private property is important, and the government shouldn’t be able to take it from any individual without a seriously good reason and actual just compensation.  Therefore, it surprised me that the candidates were split on the question of whether or not the PATRIOT Act should be renewed.  Though McCormick stated clearly that he opposed it because it is directly contrary to our Constitutional rights, Jackson, who talked about civil liberties and individual rights throughout the evening, said that it was necessary because our security is a bigger deal than our property, so our liberty has to be compromised—for our own good.  This threw me off, because in general, I don’t like the government taking away anything from anyone for his or her own good. 

My Reactions to the Verona Virginia Senate debate, October 20

By Luke Wachob

The 30 year business man. The fair-minded engineer. The former Marine and minister. The outsider free of political baggage. These were the four candidates on stage as they wished to be seen: David McCormick, Kevin Chisholm, E.W. Jackson, and Tim Donner. Here’s the best and worst of each candidate, in my view.

McCormick was at his best advocating 6 year term limits on Senators and Congressmen and the elimination of the Departments of Education and Energy (a view shared by Jackson and Donner). However, he also wanted tariffs and quotas to balance trade with China and supported state immigration law and nullification.

Chisholm plays the role of calm consensus-builder, which is both his strength and weakness. I liked that he was honest enough to admit a lack of expertise about certain complicated policies and tax codes, and humble enough to seek expert advice or mimic others’ successful policies. However, Chisholm accepts a larger government than the other three candidates, characterizing green energy funding as a “noble struggle” and saying government stimulus can work in some circumstances.

Jackson was the rabble-rouser, advocating the abolition of the IRS, the NLRB, the complete repeal of ObamaCare, the Dodd-Frank bill, and promising to never raise the debt ceiling. However, Jackson supported a moratorium on immigration until the economy improves, and was hostile towards homosexuals in the military and what he perceived as a homosexual agenda in public schools.

Donner talked the most of all the candidates about containing military spending and cutting bureaucracy in the Pentagon, and also argued for U.S. withdrawal from the UN and market-based health care reform. Donner did, however, caution against a complete repeal of the PATRIOT act, and his confrontational “us versus them” mentality and his belief in not only American exceptionalism but also ‘Virginian exceptionalism’ made him tough to warm up to.

Who’s the best? I’ll leave that up to you.

Visualizing a “Plenitude” Economy

By Luke Wachob

The Center for a New American Dream, a nonprofit who despises the economy and very much wishes it would go away, has developed a very good plan for doing just that.

Let’s break it down:

(0:24) – How many times in human history has someone predicted we were on the verge of “overuse of planetary resources”? I’m pretty sure it wasn’t just one time in the 1970s.

(0:55) – “Wall Street and big business were thriving”, we’re told. Then what were they bailed out for? They fail to acknowledge the role the federal government played in subsidizing risky investments, and they don’t mention monetary policy at all. Actually, when I think about how complex global economies are and how recent this last crash and recession has been, it seems like you would need more than 30 seconds to explain what went wrong. Oversimplifying social problems and human interaction sure has that Fatal Conceit ring to it, doesn’t it?

(1:28) – “We can’t just trade one problem off for another” – I tend to agree.

(1:52) – The suggestion that green growth can improve the economy is vague, and there’s really no strong evidence to support it that I know of. Replacing fossil fuels with more expensive alternatives will raise the prices of a lot of essential goods, which will only exacerbate our unemployment problem and make people poorer. Poverty is one of the biggest causes of environmental degradation, and since the Center for a New American Dream seems like a Malthusian bunch, I’ll add that wealth lowers birthrates, lessening our strain on planetary resources.

(1:58) – You thought I was joking when I said they despised the economy. Well now you know better. They’re saying economic growth… is a bad idea!!! What?? “Hey guys, we’ve made enough things now, everybody just stop and share!”

(2:02) – “Central insight” – my face is going to be permanently frozen in a cringe by the time this is over, isn’t it?

(2:10) A better life = adults on playgrounds (with considerable lines)

(2:40) I share the Center for a New American Dream’s suspicion that the American structure of the work week is probably not as efficient or pleasant in most cases as it could be. But how are you going to have more employees working fewer hours while forcing employers to cover an ever-increasing slate of benefits? The video assures us “that’s solvable”, but is it? The video’s moving on either way.

(2:50) I’m not an economist, but didn’t the Dutch economy boom because they held their wages artificially low? Didn’t their growth grind to a halt when wages were allowed to rise? That looks like a GDP-inflator and unemployment-reducer to be sure, but an example of human flourishing or a stable economic plan? To quote my roommate, “Doubt it.”

(3:18) Who is doing this?

(3:36) Can they start businesses only if they’re “new, eco-intelligent ways of producing”? DIY conflicts with a top down environmental regulatory scheme, so how does that work? Can I just start making things in my house and selling them, or do I need a permit?

(4:15) So, like, anarchy?

(4:25) I wish I could’ve heard the artist’s pitch of this last sketch to the Center for a New American Dream.

“Hey, Mr. Artist, what were you thinking of drawing for the part where we sum up how awesome this model is?”

“I wanted to show a healthy, nonthreatening family biking in the middle of an eco-friendly economy – meaning no cars, no people, and no human structures besides the bike path and maybe some windmills. Oh, by the way, how many of those does it take to power a city? I’m guessing about 8. But anyways, the family’s using their underemployment leisure time to bike through 20 miles of complete nothingness until they get downtown to enjoy the playground there and take their home grown vegetables to market. If they’re lucky, one of them will get to work a 2 hour shift at the chemist’s office with all the flowers I drew earlier.”

“If only the rest of the world had your vision.”

(4:51) Phew. Thank goodness that’s over. Thanks for sharing my pain, and be sure to pass this brilliant plan along to everyone you know who thinks we should take revenge on the economy by murdering it forever.


Economic freedom connecting to all sorts of good things

By Helen Shibut

Tonight, in lieu of a regular Madison Liberty meeting, we hosted John Hardin, a program manager from the Charles Koch Foundation.  He gave a presentation on prosperity and economic freedom.  I’m not usually a graph person, but he had a powerpoint and a short video from the Koch Foundation that had some really interesting graphs showing the relationship between economic freedom and things like average income per capita, happiness index, and life expectancy.  The graphs showed a strong correlation between economic freedom and things most people would consider elements of a prosperous society—not a big shock.  The lack of exceptions to the correlations was what really surprised me.  No countries without at least a midrange level of economic freedom had high average income or long life expectancy.  All the countries with a low economic freedom ranking had high percentages of infant mortality and child labor. 
It was scary to see what happens in countries with less economic freedom, especially since our own economic freedom is under attack every day.  Hopefully groups like the Koch Foundation (and Madison Liberty) can make a difference by spreading the word about the benefits of economic freedom and the risks of big government and loads of regulation. 


JMU earns highest rating for free speech by FIRE

Freedom of speech is perhaps the most widely embraced political ideal in American history. It was singled out for protection from the federal government as early as the First Amendment, extended to the states and localities by the 14th Amendment, and is now revered as a key characteristic that differentiates free nations from oppressive regimes.
But protecting free speech isn't simple. While it's commonly agreed in this country that criticisms of the government, social norms or other powerful institutions must be allowed in order to promote social awareness, growth and individual dignity, we're faced with ideas that are deeply offensive to us.
This year, it's become clear that JMU is a true believer in free speech. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a national organization, announced last Tuesday that JMU had "eliminated the last of its speech codes, earning the highest ‘green light' rating for free speech."
FIRE studies university speech codes and gives ratings of "red light," "yellow light" or "green light" for codes that are very restrictive of speech, somewhat restrictive and fully First Amendment compliant, respectively.
JMU joins just 14 other schools nationwide to earn the "green light" rating and is the third school to receive it in Virginia, after the College of William & Mary and the University of Virginia.
Those numbers surprised me. Only 14 universities nationwide have free speech, despite the fact that Constitutional law says all citizens do? First, there's an important distinction to recognize between schools.
Private universities, like Liberty University or the University of Richmond, aren't obligated to protect free speech and may legally have restrictive speech codes for their students. Public universities, like JMU or George Mason University, are a different story.
Public universities are funded by the government and typically run by the states. Because of this, all students are entitled to their First Amendment rights. In any discussion of student rights and freedoms, comparisons between private and public universities are meaningless.
That explains some of it, but still, the vast majority of public universities must be clearly restricting students' speech rights if only 14 schools are "green lights." Oftentimes this happens because schools have policies requiring demonstrations be registered or approved, fliers be in "good taste," or that students may not speak or email potentially offensive comments.
Between the Springfest riot and everything I've read scribbled in bathroom stalls on campus, I'm not surprised that universities sometimes want to restrict things.
It takes a rational, patient and tolerant mind to see the bigger picture, where productive speech is silenced or cooled by policies meant only to make things more orderly.
In light of this, JMU's decision to fully protect its students' rights is even more impressive. We should all commend JMU for removing its restrictive policies and encourage our friends at other schools to fight for their rights as well.
This "green light" rating didn't happen randomly, after all. FIRE, JMU administrators, JMU students and the Office of Judicial Affairs have all worked together, starting in October 2009, to assess and amend JMU's speech code. The process is now complete and our rights are fully intact - and I'm proud to be a Duke because of it.

More of the same?

In 2007, a United States senator wisely observed that "the president does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation." That senator was Barack Obama.
On March 19 President Barack Obama, without the support of Congress, unilaterally authorized a military attack on Libya, whose situation does not involve any imminent threat — or any threat at all — to our nation. What a difference four years makes.
Then-senator Obama was correct. The Constitution makes it explicitly clear that while the president is commander-in-chief, only Congress may declare war. In recent decades, the executive branch has been disturbingly bold in its initiation of military force in foreign countries
without congressional approval beforehand.
Congress has responded by giving away its war powers easily, especially with the Gulf of Tonkin resolution in Vietnam and the Iraq Resolution in 2002. Both of these gave the executive branch full discretion to use the military as it saw fit. Passing full authority to the president allows Congress to claim credit for a "successful" war and distance itself from an "unsuccessful" one.
Cowardice in Congress is nothing new and neither is the liberal use of the military by the president. However, when Obama was campaigning for president, he noticeably opted not to describe his candidacy as "nothing new," but instead promoted himself as the candidate of "change." The only thing that seems to be changing is the number of buildings left standing in Libya.
Libya is under the rule of Moammar Gadhafi, a dictator who uses violence against those who oppose his rule. Was Saddam Hussein any different? Or does Obama think that military intervention in Iraq was the right decision? If so, I've never heard him say that.
Obama has promised not to deploy ground troops, a stark difference from President Bush, but at this point it's hard to trust Obama's promises. He promised that health care negotiations with insurance providers would be televised, he promised the Drug Enforcement Administration would stop raiding medical marijuana dispensaries in states where they're legal. He promised to end federal no-bid contracts above $25,000, and he promised he'd allow five days for the public to read any legislation that came across his desk before he signed it.
The negotiations were not televised, the DEA continues to raid legal dispensaries, the federal government continues to issue no-bid contracts, and Obama frequently signs bills he receives in less than five days. And that's just the tip of the iceberg of broken promises. To quote then-senator Joe Biden, "That's not change, that's more of the same."
Obama is most frequently described as being Carter-esque, Clinton-esque or another FDR. Considering the lack of transparency in his administration, the bombing of a Middle Eastern country in the name of "freeing its people," a massive expansion of the federal government's role in health care and the continuing growth of the surveillance state, the president who Obama most accurately resembles is George W. Bush.

Why isn’t pot O-K2?

K2, or spice, an incense that produces effects similar to marijuana when smoked, has become a popular recreational drug this year, catching the attention of media such as Newsweek and The New York Times.
K2's popularity as a substitute for marijuana is not at all surprising considering it's readily available at many gas stations and entirely legal in Virginia. The health effects, however, are both more mysterious and seemingly more severe than marijuana use. As The Breeze reported in the Oct. 21 article, "Fake pot, real high," there have been cases where users have become psychotic or had seizures.
The message policymakers should be taking from K2's popularity is that there will always be people who want to get high, and they'll always find a way to do it. Bans of the substance in 10 states, with more following, show that they are treating K2 as a threat to our communities.
The War on Drugs is failing because of this blindness to the root causes of drug use and abuse. The story of K2 will be another one where our world gets unhealthier and less free, instead of smarter and healthier.
Getting high is a behavior that many consistent voters, specifically older Americans and conservatives, frown upon so it's easy to make it a crime and punish the users who garner almost no political sympathy.
It's the easy way around dealing with the real issue, because it allows people to feel like their society is actively trying to encourage healthy living while punishing a group whose voice is rarely heard. We can pretend the problem is solved and sleep easier at night.
If more news about K2 abuse finds its way to our comfortably sheltered lives, we can just throw money at enforcement and increase penalties until we feel safe again. And at no point in this process do we become healthier, safer or smarter.
If K2 were to be treated as just another in the long history of recreational drugs, we would see the futility of trying to legislate away this behavior just because we disapprove. It didn't work with alcohol, it isn't working with marijuana - which is estimated to be the largest cash crop in the country by the Coalition for Researching Cannabis - and it won't work with anything else.
If K2 is treated as a threat, then banning it won't be the best option. K2 is just a substitute for marijuana, so nothing would decrease its usage more effectively than legalizing marijuana - a natural substance with negative health effects less severe than alcohol, tobacco and many other legal medications. This option won't be discussed by states because it's much easier to punish users than to have a serious discussion about the natural role recreational drug use has in our society.
Whether marijuana use is dangerous or no big deal, consider which solution to K2 is preferable. Banning K2 restricts our liberty by telling adults that they are not allowed to choose for themselves what they buy and consume, adds more costs to our law enforcement and justice system and turns thousands of people who haven't hurt anyone into criminals.
Personally, I'll take a healthier world of legal marijuana over one where people have to choose between their hobbies, health and the law. I'll take a world where adults decide for themselves over one where they're told what they can and cannot do with their money and bodies. I'll take a free world over a never ending War on Drugs.

Cut it or shut it

You can breathe now - the elections are over. The Republicans took back a majority in the House of Representatives while the Democrats maintained their majority in the Senate, despite losing several seats.
Touted by conservatives as a referendum on the president's ambitiously liberal policies, the results are more likely due to frustration over the unemployment rate near 10 percent and a long recession we've yet to see significant recovery from.
The Republicans promise to stimulate growth by extending the Bush administration's tax cuts for everyone, and reducing government spending. They talk about the dangers of our debt, currently projected by the Obama administration to be at 100 percent of Gross Domestic Product in 2012.
It's easy to complain when the other guys are in charge, but now the Republicans have the power to actually implement their solutions. It's still Obama's agenda, but every revenue bill originates in the House, so the Republicans have a firm foothold in our fiscal policy.
Will they keep their promises? Are they serious about cutting spending and reducing our debt? I doubt it.
Numbers from the 2009 Federal Budget Report shows how limited the GOP's budget change will be.
Defense amounts to about 23 percent of our budget, and Republicans have been clear about the need to maintain military spending. The Republican National Committee website, gop.com, describes its position on defense as Reagan's "peace through strength" philosophy, with no mention of changing our defense spending, which is more than eight times that of any other country on Earth.
Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid make up another 39 percent of our budget, and their costs are projected to increase as the Baby Boomer generation retires. The AARP is arguably the strongest lobbying group in the country, and it'll fight hard against any cuts in benefits for seniors.
Even Tea Party favorites like Rand Paul object to any reforms affecting those who currently receive the benefits of those programs or are about to. These programs need reform, but most Republicans avoid suggesting that they would have their funding cut, or services reduced.
Congressman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has been chosen to chair the House Budget Committee because of his aggressive policy "Roadmap for America's Future" which includes significant changes to all of these programs, as well as a restructuring of the tax system. He's earned praise from his party for his efforts to fix our debt problem, yet only 13 of 178 House Republicans, prior to the Nov. 2 elections, had co-sponsored the plan, according to Paul Neuberger of examiner.com.
Another 17 percent of our budget is considered "Mandatory Spending," meaning that existing laws require they be paid for, so they represent another hard battle for reformers.
Programs in this 17 percent include subsidies for school lunches, food stamps and farm crop insurance, so cuts in spending would have clear losers but no clear winners.
There doesn't seem to be enough political will to impose significant cost-cutting measures on many or any of these programs. There is a disproportionate lobbying incentive for those fighting to maintain these programs over those who would benefit from their alteration.
What's left is interest payments on our debt, which can't be reduced without further raising the debt, and then a measly 12 percent on discretionary spending. Discretionary includes funding for public universities like JMU, public works programs and research grants. Cuts in this area could happen, but they won't be enough to help our debt problem, and it only takes one disaster like 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina to spur spending that would offset cuts.
What spending do the Republicans actually intend to cut, besides potentially refusing to fund parts of Obamacare?
They haven't said.
How do they expect to fight the debt while holding down taxes for all, as Social Security and Medicare costs rise?
Simplest answer: They probably don't.

Curbing childhood obesity

First Lady Michelle Obama has been at the forefront of a new initiative by the United States Department of Agriculture to lower rates of childhood obesity. The new standards more than double the required amount of fruits and vegetables, mandate steady reductions in sodium, restrict all milk with higher fat content than 1 percent and place a cap on the number of calories a student should consume in a day. The initiative marks the first major change since 1955 when fat content was reduced.
Because approximately 17 percent of American children are considered obese, according to the Office of the Surgeon General, the USDA's new standards for healthier school lunches are appropriate but they aren't a solution and shouldn't be treated like one.
The battle against unhealthy lifestyles takes a lot more than one balanced meal each day for 180 days of the year for 13 years. The fact that minor improvements in school lunches have become national news worries me that some people think it will solve the entire problem.
The problem with obese, unhealthy children is that they tend to grow up to be obese, unhealthy adults. An adult needs to be able to choose wisely and embrace an active lifestyle to be healthy, and it's these skills that children need to be developing.
While kids are in school, adults are able to make healthy choices for them. When these kids become adults, how will they know what to choose for themselves? If we simply keep unhealthy foods out of children's reach, that progess may be easily be undone once they have access to those foods. Parents shouldn't let kids eat whatever they want, but sheltering them from the bad things will only leave them less prepared to deal with them.
Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, says, "Requiring school lunches to provide more whole grains, fruits and vegetables will teach kids healthy eating habits that may last a lifetime."
Apparently in Ms. Wootan's mind, the old saying goes "Give a man a fish, and you've just taught a man to fish." Which, I assure you, it does not. The actual saying is "Give a man a fish, and you've fed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you've fed him for a lifetime." Parents need to be teaching children about food choices just as much as we need to provide them a healthy meal during school.
Schools also need to promote physical activity much more than they currently do. Gym class, the laughingstock of public education, may actually be as important to our quality of life as the academic skills taught in other classes. Having gym class every other day - like I did - or even less isn't enough to keep kids in shape.
In school, we need to better emphasize the importance of physical activity to a well-rounded education by giving kids more opportunities to be active.
Kids need healthy, active role models in their lives on a daily basis and personally attentive adults who can guide them as they experiment with finding balance. An extra cup of fruit won't make an obese child healthy if his home life revolves around watching television or doing homework.
Drinking 1 percent milk instead of whole milk won't add years to a child's life if both of her parents work and have no time to prepare healthy dinners at home. Having a celebrity tell kids to be active won't build healthy routines if the adults they see on a daily basis aren't also active.
Childhood obesity is a product of structural, societal conditions - not how much salt is on our freedom fries or syrup on our freedom toast. If Americans aren't serious about discussing all of the causes of childhood obesity, they shouldn't expect effective and long-lasting solutions.

In defense of chicken ‘lovers’

If it was legal to have sex with animals, I would choose not to, but as a truth seeker I have to ask: Why aren't people allowed to have sex with animals?
Typically people think it's illegal because it's a horrible thing to do or because it harms animals that obviously can't give consent.
If you think that bestiality should be illegal because it's disgusting or whatever other adjective you prefer to use, then why would you support free speech or freedom of religion? I could say things that would disgust you or practice a faith that might disgust you, yet most of you would probably not try to forcibly prevent me from speaking or worshipping however I wish. We tolerate speech that disgusts us because we know that we are morally fallible and that it doesn't hurt anyone.
No person, absent of a messiah figure, is capable of knowing with absolute certainty what is right and what is wrong. If they were, then would freedom be obsolete. While people would have the ability to make decisions, it would be in their best interest to make the right decisions and avoid punishment.
A perfect and morally infallible person could dictate every aspect of our lives to us, and we might obey, and everything might be great because all of us might always be doing the right thing and never doing the wrong thing.
Because we recognize that we are all flawed and all capable of error, we allow people to do and say whatever they want so long as it does not harm others. What makes bestiality any different?
The single limitation on freedom - the "so long as it does not harm others" part - leads into the second possible justification for bestiality being illegal: It harms animals, but they can't consent to it. This statement is valid, but inconsistent with United States law and most of our lifestyles.
Can animals consent to being owned? Can animals consent to being slaughtered? Do those actions not harm them?
If animals deserve protection from the harm of humans, then we would have to make it illegal to consume any animal product or own a pet or go hunting. Animals can't give consent to these activities, and yet all of them are harmful.
If you treat a pet well, they probably are better off with you than without you, but ownership is slavery and the benevolence of a slave master is not justification for slavery.
If animals don't deserve protection from the harm of humans and can be owned as property (which they currently can), then the act of bestiality is a victimless crime, and we're back to the starting point of "it should be illegal because I disapprove of it."
It's uncomfortable to be faced with this hypocrisy in the law, but legalizing bestiality shouldn't be scary. History has shown us that alcohol prohibition didn't stop people drinking, that censorship doesn't stop people from speaking out, and that banning prostitution and pornography doesn't prevent people from finding pornographic material or prostitutes in a black market.
Banning things does not prevent them from happening; it only punishes people for their choices.
Making bestiality legal probably won't cause people to suddenly start having sex with animals, because those who feel the urge and need to do that probably already do. So who benefits from keeping it illegal? No one, really. And the amount of benefit animals receive from bestiality being illegal is almost negligible in comparison.
Animal husbandry, pet ownership, slaughterhouse factories, animal pageants and pet shows, dog fighting, bestiality - it's all or none. I charge that anyone who would ban one or more of these actions without banning all of them is being inconsistent and hypocritical.
We can all pick and choose which of these we think are OK and which we think aren't, and we can try to convince others to think the same as we do, but we can't apply those feelings to the law without implying that we are infallible. I hope no one is arrogant enough to think that they are.
Hypocrisy in the law cannot be tolerated, regardless of how relevant that law is to our lives.

Economic freedom necessary for personal prosperity

The Democrats rode into power in D.C. with a promise to return the government's focus to middle and lower classes who greatly rely on it. The ambitious policies they wanted included universal health care, increased funding into green technologies and education and another war in the Middle East, apparently.
Unfortunately for them, a decade of poor stewardship of tax dollars left the government and the economy too strained for capital to accomplish these lofty ideals, as Americans demanded frugality by returning the House of Representatives to Republicans in 2010.
For all the high rhetoric, whether liberal or conservative, a bad economy spells doom for incumbents. Consider 1992 when President George H.W. Bush had just overseen the most successful United States military operation in decades with the Gulf War.
He, however, lost his re-election bid to a governor from Arkansas because, as Bill Clinton's campaign strategist James Carvill said, "It's the economy, stupid."
The important thing to take from this is people's ideologies and stated priorities quickly change when prices rise or people start getting laid off en masse.
Despite our reputation as a culture that celebrates the creation of wealth, tough times see more Americans turning a skeptical eye toward the rich and our current disparity of wealth. Skepticism is healthy, but when emotions are running high, it can cede to the Dark Side: resentment, fear, anger and hate.
Is a wide disparity of wealth always bad, or are we letting emotion sway us beyond reason? Rather than debate theories, let's compare nations on how good life is for their citizens, and how their economic policies differ. Does redistribution produce better results than a laissez-faire system?
First, let's get our terms clarified. I'll be comparing rankings of "Economic freedom," generally referring to a system of free trade, equal legal rights, low taxation, low regulation and high degrees of consumer choice, with a ranking of "economic equality," which refers to the disparity of wealth within a country, reduced through higher taxes and wage laws.
To determine which system results in better living conditions, let's examine the developed countries with the highest and lowest standards of living and see how free their economies are and how equally distributed their wealth is.
The information in the box is obtained from the United Nation's Human Development Index to measure standard of living, the Heritage Foundation's 2010 Index of Economic Freedom and the Gini coefficient applied to economic data from the U.N.'s Development Programme to measure economic equality.
Countries’ economic freedom vs. economic equality by rank of standard of living:
  • Norway (37, 5)
  • Australia (3, 45)
  • New Zealand (4, 51)
  • USA (8, 76)
  • Ireland (5, 38)
  • Netherlands (15, 20)
  • Canada (7, 24)
  • Sweden (21, 3)
  • Germany (23, 11)

  • Poland (71, 41)
  • Portugal (62, 57)
  • Hungary (51, 9)
  • Estonia (16, 47
  • Slovakia (35, 6)

The results aren't overwhelming, but they do lean one direction more than the other. Six of the nine countries in the world with the highest standard of living are more free than equal, and all of the bottom five except for Estonia (a Soviet territory until 1990) are more equally distributed than free. Three of the top five countries with the highest standard of living are also in the top five for economic freedom. It's hardly a definitive conclusion, but it appears that economic freedom correlates to prosperity for everyone much more than economic equality does.
For those not convinced, consider the world's freest economy, Hong Kong. Asia has been trying to catch up to the West economically for the last century, with mixed success. As neighboring China has tried to plan its growth, ranking 140th in economic freedom, it has suffered a 91st-ranked standard of living. Hong Kong has surged ahead by freeing its economy, climbing to 21st in the world in standard of living, surpassing the United Kingdom, Italy and Austria in the last four years.
Regulations and government programs don't help people climb out of poverty nearly as much as they prevent people from rising to prosperity. They create an environment where winning the government's favor is a prerequisite to pursuing our own interests.
The next time some billionaire says we should raise taxes on the "rich" or some economist says we need to spend more in the face of a national debt now equal to the nation's GDP, think about the lightning pace at which the middle class in freer Asian economies is emerging and prospering. Think of the famines they suffered not that long ago under rigorously planned economies.
Equal or free? I'll take equal for the law and free for commerce.