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Friday, February 11, 2005::

Leave it to the Libertarians 

The Ludwig von Mises Institute has reached an all time low, equating the Bush administration’s proposed increase in Serviceman’s Group Life Insurance (SGLI) benefits for solders killed in combat to the money Islamic dictatorships pay out to the families of suicide bombers. According to N. Joseph Potts, a former Viet Nam-era Navy disbursing officer and contributor to the Mises Institute’s weblog:

Now, it won't just be Islamist suicide bombers whose families are limned and paid off for the death of their fighters—American warriors, too, will have a rather similar emolument, which for the economically disadvantaged families so overrepresented in the ranks of the armed forces may bulk quite as large economically as do those received by the survivors of their adversaries. If it works for Islam, maybe it will work for democracy as well. [blog.mises.org, February 11, 2005]
Potts’ premise is appalling. The SGLI program was developed to provide insurance benefits for service members who may not be able to get insurance from private companies because of the extra risks involved in military life. SGLI is a benefit of military service, providing service members with the piece of mind that their loved ones will not be destitute in the event of their death and is no more an inducement to kill one’s self than any other form of life insurance. Yet Potts holds otherwise, claiming that since most of the fallen are without spouses or children, SGLI is little more than hush money for bereaved parents.

Potts’ view is an affront to the men and women who have fallen in combat; it impugns their act of valor as little more then death-worship and abject self-sacrifice. For all of America’s ills, only a Rothbardian-addled libertarian could claim that suicide has now become the American way.

If our nation is to have an army dedicated to protecting freedom, those who serve in it must be offered values in exchange for their service. As I observed in 2003 in a blogpost that became a letter to the Washington Times opposing calls for re-instatement of the draft:

To convince men and women to serve in the military, [y]ou need to impress upon them of the gravity of the threat today and the manner in which it impacts them. You need to convince them of the benefits of the martial lifestyle, and pay them enough so that the cost of their service is not the derailment of every other aspect of their lives. And lastly, you must keep the promise that if they are wounded or fall in battle, they and their loved ones will be cared for by a grateful nation.
If N. Joseph Potts wants to condemn statism for leading to needless warfare, he is right to do so. If he wants to condemn the low pay servicemen receive (as he attempts in his essay), he is also right to do so. But to claim that there is no justification for an increase in the death benefits offered servicemen is utterly unfounded. It blames the solder who fights and dies to protect the Constitution for the larger cultural shortcomings that prevent its more perfect interpretation. The attempt is vicious and detestable, and it serves as yet another indictment of the libertarian ideology and those who hold it.

::: posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 12:51 PM | donate | link | |

Wednesday, February 09, 2005::

I see Paris, I see France . . . 

I see that the Virginia legislature has utterly lost its marbles about people’s underpants:

Virginians who wear their pants so low their underwear shows may want to think about investing in a stronger belt.

The state's House of Delegates passed a bill Tuesday authorizing a $50 fine for anyone who displays his or her underpants in a "lewd or indecent manner."

Del. Lionell Spruill Sr., a Democrat who opposed the bill, had pleaded with his colleagues to remember their own youthful fashion follies.

During an extended monologue Monday, he talked about how they dressed or wore their hair in their teens. On Tuesday, he said the measure was an unconstitutional attack on young blacks that would force parents to take off work to accompany their children to court just for making a fashion statement.

"This is a foolish bill, Mr. Speaker, because it will hurt so many," Spruill said before the measure was approved 60-34. It now goes to the state Senate.

The bill's sponsor, Del. Algie T. Howell, has said constituents were offended by the exposed underwear. He did not speak on the floor Tuesday. [AP]
What’s next? A bill that outlaws plumber butt?

UPDATE: Thankfully, the state Senate had droped the bill today:

RICHMOND, Va. - Virginia lawmakers dropped their droopy-pants bill Thursday after the whole thing became just too embarrassing.

The bill, which would have slapped a $50 fine on people who wear their pants so low that their underwear is visible in "a lewd or indecent manner," passed the state House on Tuesday but was killed by a Senate committee two days later in a unanimous vote.

Republican Sen. Thomas K. Norment said news reports implied that lawmakers were preoccupied with droopy pants.

"I find that an indignation, which dampens my humor," Norment said.

Republican Sen. Kenneth Stolle, the committee chairman, called the bill "a distraction."

The committee hearing drew a standing-room-only crowd that included about 75 government students from Surry County High School.

"If people in Florida can wear bikinis, a little underwear showing isn't going to hurt anybody," 17-year-old Elvyn Shaw said.

The bill's sponsor, Democratic Delegate Algie T. Howell, declined to answer reporters' questions Thursday but issued a statement saying the bill "was in direct response to a number of my constituents who found this to be a very important issue."

He has said the constituents included customers at his barber shop who were offended by exposed underwear. [AP]

::: posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 9:50 AM | donate | link | |

Virginia is for Lovers (Who Are Not Gay) 

Welcome to the new Puritanism:

The Virginia House approved a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage Tuesday, despite a warning from the state's first openly gay legislator that the measure will one day prove as shameful as slavery and segregation.
The House voted 78-18 in favor of a resolution similar to one easily approved in the Senate on Monday.

If negotiators can reconcile the two versions this year, and the measure passes both chambers again next year, it will be put to the voters in November 2006.

"Today is one of those moments for which we shall one day be ashamed," said Democrat Adam P. Ebbin, who is gay.

Supporters of the amendment contend it is vital to warding off court rulings such as one in Massachusetts that made gay marriage legal there.

The Family Foundation's executive director, Victoria Cobb, said Ebbin's remarks about Virginia's racist past were unseemly.

"This is not a case where there are separate drinking fountains. There are no lack of voting rights, no segregated schools," she said. [dailypress.com]
No, it's just a case where consenting adults are barred by law from codifying their relationships under the law. Combine the proposed constitutional amendment with the recently passed Virginia statute that voids partnership contracts between persons of the same sex and it becomes all too clear just how deeply Virginia has descended into the Dark Ages.

In 1776, George Mason wrote the Virginia Declaration of Rights, which affirmed that “all men are by nature equally free and independent, and have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter into a state of society, they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity; namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.” Over the many years, Mason’s sentiments were extended, first to women and then to blacks. It is high time Virginia recognize that these rights apply to gays as well.

::: posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 9:27 AM | donate | link | |

Monday, February 07, 2005::

Microsoft's Moral Sanction II 

In response to my earlier post on Microsoft, ROR reader Ryan Jensen posted a link to a seven page memo Microsoft has produced titled "The European Commission's Decision in the Microsoft Case and its Implications for Other Companies and Industries." This memo helps illustrate the deficiencies with Microsoft's defense of its rights. In a series of points illustrating the harm caused by the European Commission's antitrust enforcement efforts, Microsoft offers the following argument:

Fifth, the Decision rejects Microsoft's desire to maintain its intellectual property for its own use, adopting an impressionistic analysis that would enable the Commission to order compulsory licensing in virtually any market and in any case. The Decision pays little regard to the incentives that intellectual property rights create for a company to invest in product improvements and for a company's competitors to invest in their own innovations rather than simply copying from others. Instead, the Decision opts for compulsory licensing on the basis of an assertion that "on balance" innovation in the industry overall would be greater if the technology and IP rights were shared with competitors. (Para. 783.) Such an approach clearly creates new law and economic policy for Europe. By casting aside the exceptional circumstances test of Magill, the Decision obligates dominant firms to license their technology to competitors whenever the Commission determines that reducing a dominant firm's incentive to innovate would nonetheless be good for an industry overall. This unbounded test would have a profoundly negative effect on innovation and investment by market leaders around the world who sell their products in Europe.
Earlier and subsequent points illustrated in Microsoft's memo are:

  • The Commission's decision does not confine the use of the compulsorily licensed intellectual property to a secondary market.
  • The intellectual property rights at stake are the essence of Microsoft's business, the development of operating system software.
  • There is no basis for concluding that the use of Microsoft's proprietary communications protocols is indispensable to the creation of competing server operating systems.
  • The Commission's decision rests on a very narrow product market definition that bears little resemblance to the real world.
  • The Commission's decision ignores international treaty obligations designed expressly to prevent this type of broad-based compulsory licensing of intellectual property rights.

So in a list of six key points, the right to property ranks fifth, and only in so much as property creates "incentives [f]or a company to invest in product improvements," i.e., only in so much as the right to property serves the needs of others.

If service to others is Microsoft's best argument to the public in defense of its rights, Microsoft will continue to see those rights eroded. Microsoft's arguments are dishonest; everyone knows Microsoft is a profit-making company that exists for the sake of its shareholders--welcome to capitalism. Yet once again, Microsoft is attempting to prove otherwise. I don't think it can succeed, and in even trying, the firm looks foolish.

Microsoft has already paid out billions in unjustified antitrust claims. We are told that it must take such action in accordance with its fiduciary responsibilities. Yet how many of these responsibilities will be left if Microsoft refuses to defend against those who loot the firm on the moral grounds the looters operate? If Microsoft's looters claim that the firm has an obligation to sacrifice to its competitors, why can't Microsoft, just for once, defend its right to exist for its own selfish sake?

::: posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 5:10 PM | donate | link | |


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