A Phoenix Event of Interest for Liberty

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The Prickly Pear announces an outstanding IN-PERSON one-day program for all lovers of liberty being held in Phoenix this Saturday, February 20 from 8:00 AM to 3:00 PM (MST). Location of the IN-PERSON symposium is announced at registration (below).

Heirs of the Republic Presents:

Essential Tools of Personal and Economic Freedom – Class 100
Email: Jeff@Freedomexpoaz.com to register for In-Person attendance or
Register for Webinar attendance at: HeirsoftheRepublic.com

PROGRAM:

Troop Deployments in Washington Are a Disaster Waiting to Happen

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

“Tyranny in form is the first step towards tyranny in substance,” warned Senator John Taylor two hundred years ago in his forgotten classic, Tyranny Unmasked. As the massive National Guard troop deployment in Washington enters its second month, much of the media and many members of Congress are thrilled that it will extend until at least mid-March. But Americans would be wise to recognize the growing perils of the militarization of American political disputes.

The military occupation of Washington was prompted by the January 6 clashes at the Capitol between Trump supporters and law enforcement, in which three people (including one Capitol policeman) died as a result of the violence. Roughly eight hundred protestors and others unlawfully entered the Capitol, though many of them entered nonviolently through open doors, and most left without incident hours later.

The federal government responded by deploying twenty-five thousand National Guard troops to prevent problems during President Joe Biden’s swearing-in—the first inauguration since 1865 featuring the capital city packed with armed soldiers. Protests were almost completely banned in Washington for the inauguration.

Instead of ending after the muted inauguration celebration, the troop deployment was extended for the Senate impeachment trial. Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) declared, “So long as Donald Trump is empowered by Senate Republicans, there is still the chance that he is going to incite another attempt at the Capitol.” But the Senate vote on Senator Rand Paul’s (R-KY) motion labeling the trial as unconstitutional signaled that the trial will be anticlimactic because Trump is unlikely to be convicted. The actual trial may be little more than a series of pratfalls, alternating between histrionic Democratic House members and wild-swinging, table-pounding Trump lawyers. A pointless deluge of political vitriol will make a mockery of Biden’s calls for national unity.

Then the troop deployment was extended into at least mid-March because of unidentified threats made to members of Congress. Acting Army Secretary John Whitley announced last week: “There are several upcoming events—we don’t know what they are—over the next several weeks, and they’re concerned that there could be situations where there are lawful protests, First Amendment-protected protests, that could either be used by malicious actors, or other problems that could emerge.”

“We don’t know what they are” but somebody heard something somewhere, so the military deployment will continue. Threats have occurred in waves toward members of Congress at least since the farm crisis of the 1980s, but prior menacing did not result in the occupation of the capital city.

Perpetuating the troop deployment is also being justified by melodramatic revisionism. In congressional testimony last week, Capitol Police acting chief Yogananda Pittman described the January 6 clash at the Capitol as “a terrorist attack by tens of thousands of insurrectionists.” Apparently, anyone who tromped from the scene of Trump’s ludicrous “I won by a landslide” spiel to the Capitol was a terrorist, or at least an “insurrectionist” (which is simply “terrorist” spelled with more letters). Is “walking on the Mall with bad thoughts” sufficient to get classified as a terrorist in the Biden era?

Placing thousands of troops on the streets of the nation’s capital could be a ticking time bomb. The longer the National Guard is deployed in Washington, the greater the peril of a Kent State–caliber catastrophe. The Ohio National Guard’s volley of fire in 1970 that killed four students and wounded nine others was a defining moment for the Vietnam era.

Forty years later, the Cleveland Plain Dealer published an investigation of the Kent State shooting based on new analyses of audio recordings from the scene. The Plain Dealer concluded that an FBI informant who was photographing student protestors fired four shots from his .38-caliber revolver after students began threatening him. That gunfire started barely a minute before the Ohio National Guard opened fire. Gunshots from the FBI informant apparently spooked guard commanders into believing they were taking sniper fire, spurring the order to shoot students. The informant denied having fired, but witnesses testified differently. (The FBI hustled the informant from the scene and he later became an undercover narcotics cop in Washington, DC.) Though there is no evidence that the FBI sought to provoke carnage at Kent State, FBI agents involved in COINTELPRO (the Counterintelligence Program) in the 1960s and 1970s boasted of “false flag” operations which provoked killings.

If some malicious group wanted to plunge this nation into chaos and fear, National Guard troops at a checkpoint would be an easy target—at least for the first moments after they were fired upon (most of the troops do not have ammo magazines in their rifles). The sweeping reaction to January 6 might be far surpassed if troops are gunned down regardless of whether the culprits were right-wing extremists, Antifa, or foreign infiltrators. An attack on the troops would likely perpetuate the military occupation and potentially spur Biden to declare martial law.

Last spring, when riots erupted after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, President Trump warned that “the Federal Government will step in and do what has to be done, and that includes using the unlimited power of our Military and many arrests.” Many activists were justifiably appalled at the specter of Trump seizing dictatorial power over areas wracked by violent protests. But the danger remains regardless of who is president.

Martial law is the ultimate revocation of constitutional rights: anyone who disobeys soldiers’ orders can be shot. There are plenty of malevolent actors here and abroad who would relish seeing martial law declared in Washington, the paramount disgrace for the world’s proudest democracy.

Unfortunately, Biden would have plenty of support initially if he proclaimed that violence in Washington required him to declare martial law. As the Washington Post noted in 2018, a public opinion poll showed that 25 percent of Americans believed “a military takeover was justified if there were widespread corruption or crime.” The Journal of Democracy reported that polls showed that only 19 percent of Millennials in the US believed that it would be illegitimate “in a democracy for the military to take over when the government is incompetent or failing to do its job.” But trusting to military rule for Millennial wish fulfillment would be the biggest folly of them all. Support for martial law is the ultimate proof of declining political literacy in this nation.

Regardless of the risks, some politicians are clinging to the presence of the troops in Washington like Linus clutching his “security blanket” in a Peanuts cartoon. Will we now see regular alarms from a long series of politicians and political appointees working to “keep up the fear”?

History is littered with stories of nations scourged by “temporary” martial law that perpetuated itself. Anyone who believes America is immune should recall Senator Taylor’s 1821 warning against presuming “our good theoretical system of government is a sufficient security against actual tyranny.”

*****

This article first appeared on Mises Wire, on February 10, 2021, and is reproduced with permission granted by the Ludwig von Mises Institute.

Mob Mixes Business with Pressure

Estimated Reading Time: 2 minutes

They used to call it “retail therapy.” But for conservatives, there’s nothing therapeutic about walking the aisles of stores that want to shut down your speech, cancel your bank accounts, or send cents on every dollar to Marxist groups who despise America. In an age when conservatives can’t turn on the TV, send their kids to school, check their Facebook feeds, or watch sports without being reminded about the wokeness of corporate extremists, it’s no wonder they’re fed up. And fed up — Gallup warns — is exactly what they are.

It used to be “cool and countercultural” to be liberal in corporate America, Dave Seminara pointed out. “Today, the Left is the establishment — and conservatives are [the] new counterculture that quietly seethes as companies we patronize inundate us with… virtue signaling.” Most people don’t expect or even want corporate America to embrace conservatives causes, the WSJ’s editorial board agrees. But it would certainly be nice if these CEOs didn’t “aggressively antagonize the very Americans it has long relied on to protect it from government control.”

After being canceled, threatened, and shamed, it’s no wonder the majority of Republicans are disgusted at the betrayal of a business community it has historically championed. In its latest survey, the GOP’s satisfaction with the “size and influence of major corporations” took a nosedive, plummeting a whopping 26 points from 2020 to a new record low: 31 percent. The relationship between the two longtime allies has soured — and fast.

Justin Danhof, general counsel for the National Center for Public Policy and Research, has been tracking this political drift for the last 10 years, and his only surprise is that it took this long for conservatives to wake up and realize that corporate America is in the tank for the political Left. “When it comes to cultural conservatives, religious conservatives, corporations are on the opposite side of every issue that you hold dear,” he warned on “Washington Watch.” “Many of them fund Planned Parenthood. Many of them oppose your religious freedom — and not just vocally — but in the courts legally fighting against [it].”

Most Americans had no idea how bad it was until last year when Black Lives Matter was burning our cities to the ground, and how did Amazon and Pepsi respond? By sending the organization huge checks. But it wasn’t just the money that bothered conservatives, it was the moralizing. “That’s what a lot of Americans found so unpalatable — that… these godless, soulless corporations like Disney and Apple are trying to dictate morality here in the United States by saying that this is a white supremacist nation, that our institutions are founded on white supremacy, that we all must bend our knees to Black Lives Matter.” Then, in the same breath, these same CEOs turn around and do business with communist China. Suddenly, they don’t care about racial justice. They don’t mind that slave laborers from nearby concentration camps are stitching together their Nikes. It’s a culture of corruption, Justin shook his head, and it’s oozing hypocrisy.

If there is good news, Justin agrees, it’s that consumers are finally seeing corporate America for what it is…..

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To continue reading click here and go to The Family Research Council.

Watch 13:46 minute video of Justin Danhof discussing Growing Dissatisfaction with Major Corporations with Tony Perkins.

Want to Guess How Close Trump and the GOP Came to Winning…Everything in 2020?

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Donald Trump is toxic. The GOP is finished. Joe Biden won; he has a mandate — all of these things are false. Also, it would seem demography is not destiny and higher turnout isn’t an automatic lock for Democrats. We have another autopsy of sorts from The Washington Post on the 2020 election. Want to take a guess how many votes Republicans needed to control everything? One million votes, two million? Nope. It didn’t even break 100,000. It was 90,000 votes. Republicans just needed 90,000 votes to control all of Washington this past election cycle. Literally minor changes in the presidential, House, and Senate races could have led to the GOP coming into 2021 with a unified government. There are many ways to skin the electoral cat as some have said in the past. It’s not all grounded in the popular vote. The Electoral College strategy is different. Are we shocked that Donald Trump had fewer popular votes than Joe Biden? No, we knew this was going to be the case, as the areas that are fastest growing are typically Democratic bastions, which also do next to nothing regarding expanding the Left’s ability to reach 270 any easier. What about Florida? Yeah, the state has become more diverse for sure. It’s also more Republican than it was back in 2000 — go figure. Demography is not destiny and there are a host of issues where civil war can break out among Democrats, especially regarding who is filling the campaign coffers.

Non-whites may vote reliably Democratic, but white educated liberals were the ones who filled the war chests and gave money at disproportionate rates. The ones who sign the checks will always get their phone calls answered. I see a big issue with that on the horizon, but we’ll just wait and see what happens. Let Democrats be the ones who cause their own car crash.

Anyway, here’s the breakdown of how close the Republican Party came to winning the whole show (via WaPo):

Republicans came, at most, 43,000 votes from winning each of the three levers of power. And that will surely temper any move toward drastic corrective action vis-a-vis former president Donald Trump.

While Democrat Joe Biden won the popular vote by more than four points and the electoral college 306 to 232, the result was much closer to flipping than that would suggest. Biden won the three decisive states — Arizona, Georgia and Wisconsin — by 0.6 percentage points or less, which was similar to Trump’s 2016 victory. If you flip fewer than 43,000 votes across those three states, the electoral college is tied 269 to 269. In that case, Trump would probably have won, given that the race would be decided by one vote for each House delegation, of which Republicans control more.

There are several reasons to argue that Biden has a mandate, including that he won more eligible voters than any candidate in half a century and won the highest percentage for any challenger to an incumbent president since 1932. But the fact remains that we weren’t that far away from a second Trump term.

The number of votes to flip the result was similar in the House. As the Cook Political Report’s David Wasserman noted in light of Tenney’s win, fewer than 32,000 votes could have flipped the five seats that Republicans would have needed to win the House majority — Illinois’s 17th District, Iowa’s 3rd, New Jersey’s 7th, Texas’s 15th and Virginia’s 7th.

While incumbent David Perdue (R-Ga.) lost the closest Senate race in a runoff last month with now-Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) by about 55,000 votes, he previously came very close to avoiding the runoff altogether. On Election Day, he took 49.7 percent of the vote — fewer than 14,000 votes from winning the race outright. That would have foreclosed any chance Democrats had at winning the Senate.

So, 43,000 votes for president, 32,000 votes for the House and 14,000 votes for the Senate. Shifts of 0.6 percent for president, 2.2 percent for the House, and 0.3 percent for the Senate…..

*****

To read the rest of this article, click here. The article first appeared on January 10, 2021 at Townhall.

AZ Supreme Court Says No to Sweetheart Deals for Private Companies

Estimated Reading Time: 2 minutes

In a major victory for taxpayers, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled unanimously today that the city of Peoria violated the state Constitution’s Gift Clause when it gave away nearly $2.6 million to two private businesses who promised nothing in return to the public, but only to run their own businesses for their own private profit.

In 2016, the city gave this money to Huntington University and its landlord Arrowhead Properties LLC, both private businesses, in hopes that these private companies’ operations would improve the local economy. But neither business promised to provide anything to the public in exchange for the millions of taxpayer dollars they received. Instead, to get the subsidy, Huntington University—a private, Christian college based in Indiana that offers only a Digital Media Arts program in Peoria—simply agreed to run its business: get accredited, offer classes, and enroll students, all things it would do anyway. Locals didn’t get any guarantee of admission, jobs at the college, reduced tuition, or even access to the college’s facilities. And Huntington’s landlord, Arrowhead, agreed to renovate its own building to house Huntington, all for private profit and private use. That doesn’t benefit taxpayers; it benefits these two private firms.

That’s why we sued the city on behalf of Peoria taxpayers. The state Constitution forbids the government from giving money away to a private company. The Goldwater Institute is the state’s leading enforcer of this “Gift Clause”—over a decade ago, we won a landmark victory in Turken v. Gordon, where the Arizona Supreme Court held that whenever officials spend taxpayer money, it must benefit the taxpayers directly. Hopes of future prosperity resulting from corporate welfare are simply not enough.

Today, the Supreme Court struck down Peoria’s handouts to Huntington and Arrowhead because giving away money simply to entice private businesses to locate in town, with nothing else in return, is precisely the sort of thing the Gift Clause was written to prohibit. The Court said that the deal was “no different than a hamburger chain promising to operate in Peoria in exchange for monetary incentives paid by the city in hope of stimulating the local economy.” After all, all private businesses “will usually, if not always, generate some economic impact and, consequently, permitting such impacts to justify public funding of private ventures would eviscerate the Gift Clause.”

What’s worse, Illegal subsidies like this discourage businesses from shouldering risks and instead encourage them to look to bureaucrats, who can dip into taxpayers’ wallets. If Huntington’s and Arrowhead’s efforts are successful, then they reap the reward. But if those ventures fail, the taxpayers—not the private companies—take the fall.

Cities have important jobs to do—like keeping people safe, solving crimes, and maintaining infrastructure. Putting resources toward projects that benefit the public, such as streamlining government permitting processes and providing better core services, contributes to true economic development. Instead, Peoria chose to dole out $2.6 million to its hand-picked favorites—an amount that could have funded more than half of the cost of the city’s police criminal investigations unit for an entire year.

Today’s unanimous ruling sends a powerful reminder to government officials across the state that they can’t spend taxpayers’ hard-earned money on sweetheart deals for select private businesses, but can only purchase goods and services that truly benefit the public.

*****

Christina Sandefur is the Executive Vice President at the Goldwater Institute.

This article first appeared on February 8, 2021 at the Goldwater Institute.

The Past And Future Of Incitement

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Accusations of incitement are becoming the establishment’s tool of choice to justify new censorship, new surveillance, and new laws.

You can only make up your own definition of “incitement” on Twitter and at presidential impeachment trials. Otherwise, the actual law is going to have to do.

The context is clear: As they geared up for an impeachment, Democrats and mainstream media have sold the events of January 6, 2021 to frightened Americans as a new 9/11, to be the prime mover for defining a whole new range of “crimes.” Incitement will become this generation’s “material support to terrorism,” meaning the complex legal definition will be massaged in the name of security so that it will become a word, and thus a crime, that will mean whatever the Dems, media, and FBI want it to mean.

The Department of Homeland Security already issued its first new terrorism alert in ages, warning of domestic anti-government extremists among us. The kid in his bedroom chatting online will be talking to a Fed pretending to be a white supremacist instead of from ISIS. The arrest for “incitement”—those DMs, supposedly about white supremacy—will be played across the news and, as with after 9/11, lead to calls for more censorship, more surveillance, more arrests. It’s the 2001 playbook all over again.

Only this time it got an upgrade. Incitement scales well. Instead of just being pointed at naive kids online, it can be a death ray aimed at a conservative writer, a member of Congress, anyone with a platform. An allegation of incitement is not aimed at stopping violence. It is a way to eliminate an opinion, take out a rival, even impeach a president. 

Current law stands in the way, however. Following the evolution of free speech over the decades, it has created increasingly specific tests to determine when speech becomes such a danger that it must be stopped. There’s a lot more to it than just that old bit about not being allowed to shout fire in a crowded theater.

Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote, “The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic. The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger.” The “Fire!” quote from the Supreme Court decision in Schenck v. United States is often cited as defining the limits of free speech. But Schenck is what jurists call bad law, in that it sought to use the Espionage Act to stop free speech by a Socialist pamphleteer opposing WWI, not protect it. The case was overturned, so Holmes’s statement is better understood not as a 21st-century test but simply a statement that while the First Amendment is not absolute, restrictions on speech should be narrow and limited.

It would be for the later case of Brandenburg v. Ohio to refine the modern standard for restricting speechBrandenburg v. Ohio (Clarence Brandenburg was an Ohio KKK leader who used the N-word with malice) precludes speech from being sanctioned as incitement to violence unless 1) the speech explicitly or implicitly encouraged the use of violence or lawless action; 2) the speaker intends their speech will result in the use of violence or lawless action; and 3) the imminent use of violence or lawless action is the likely result of the speech.Brandenburg is the Supreme Court’s final statement to date on what government may do about speech that seeks to incite others to lawless action. It was intended to resolve the debate between those who urge greater control of speech and those who favor as much speech as possible before relying on the marketplace of ideas to sort things out.

That second test under Brandenburg, intent, is purposely hard to prove. A hostile reaction of a crowd does not automatically transform protected speech into incitement. Listeners’ reaction to speech is thus not alone a basis for regulation, or for taking an enforcement action against a speaker. The speaker had to clearly want to, and succeed in, causing some specific violent act.

In a 1982 case, Claiborne v. NAACP, the Court ruled NAACP civil rights leaders were not responsible for a crowd which, after hearing them speak, burned down a white man’s hardware store. The state of Mississippi charged the leaders with incitement on the grounds that their speeches urging a boycott of white-owned stores incited their followers to violence. The state’s argument was that the NAACP must have known their inflammatory rhetoric would drive the crowd to violence even if they did not demand so out loud.

The Supreme Court rejected that argument, explaining free speech will die if people are held responsible not for their own violent acts but for those committed by others who heard them speak and were motivated in the name of that cause. The Court wrote “there is no evidence—apart from the speeches themselves that [the NAACP leader] authorized, ratified, or directly threatened acts of violence… to impose liability without a finding that the NAACP authorized—either actually or apparently—or ratified unlawful conduct would impermissibly burden the rights of political association that are protected by the First Amendment.”

The Court concluded instead that the NAACP “through exercise of their First Amendment rights of speech, assembly, association, and petition, rather than through riot or revolution, sought to bring about political, social, and economic change.” Some damn fine words there. 

The law is similar in regards to (incitement to) sedition, seeking to overthrow the U.S. government. It is intimately tied to the concept of free speech, as any true attempt at overthrow, as well as any legitimate criticism of the government, will include stirring up crowds. The line between criticizing the government and organizing for it to be overthrown is a critical juncture in a democracy.

Current law requires the government to prove someone conspired to use force. Actively planning such an action (distributing guns, working out logistics, actively opposing lawful authority, etc.) could be considered sedition. But simply advocating broadly for the use of violence is not the same thing as violence and in most cases is protected as free speech. For example, suggesting the need for revolution “by any means necessary” is unlikely to be seen as conspiracy to overthrow the government by force.

All of this may soon be thrown away, however. Joe Biden and the Democratic Congress are considering new laws against domestic terrorism which will likely stretch the current definitions of incitement and sedition, with the Trump impeachment as their philosophical touchstone. The new laws may seek to define beliefs such as “whites are a superior race” not as bad science or an unsavory opinion but as an actual threat, an illegal thought. Proposals include prohibiting people with such beliefs from joining the military or law enforcement, maybe Congress itself.

The groundwork is already in place. Don’t forget Biden claims credit for writing the original Patriot Act. Establishment media have been priming Americans to believe they have too many rights for their own safety. The New York Times is openly soliciting stories about “right-wing extremism” in the military.

Tension has always existed between the poetry of the First Amendment and the concept of incitement as a point where words should be criminalized. It sounds easy to sort out, until you consider almost any political viewpoint, passionately expressed, has the potential to incite. But a democracy can’t exactly lock up everyone who says aloud “abortion is murder” or encourages people to “fight” for their rights. Speech that inspires, motivates, stirs up the blood is not incitement, and in fact is an important part of a rugged democracy. 

On paper at least, America legally holds that, apart from some narrow exceptions, free speech exists independent of the content of that speech. This is one of the most fundamental precepts of our democracy. Violence following a speech does not mean the speech caused the violence. Not every dissenter is a domestic terrorist. There is no need for protection for things people agree with, things that are not challenging or debatable or offensive. The true tests for a democracy come at the edges, not in the middle. We need faith in free speech, not a party affiliation, to make America great again.  

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This article first appeared in The American Conservative on February 8, 2021, and is reproduced with permission.

RUMBLE VIDEO: The Truth About the November 2020 Election

Estimated Reading Time: < 1 minute

The Editors of The Prickly Pear offer our readers the following video from Rumble that we believe is well documented and reflects accurately, if not quantitatively, what actually happened in the 2020 Presidential election. It is the belief of one-half or more of American voters, shown by multiple polls since November 3, 2020  that the election had significant fraud at multiple levels and that the winner was not Joe Biden but rather Donald Trump.

This is a MUST SEE, MUST WATCH video. The following 16:29 minute video is for your consideration and importantly, to demonstrate what the citizens of this nation must fix through their state legislatures to prevent repeat of the abnormalities and irregularities that determined the outcome of the 2020 Presidential election.

WATCH THE VIDEO HERE
The Truth About the
November 2020 Election

Good Election Integrity Reforms in Arizona Must Focus on These Four Key Areas

Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

Though the November 2020 election is over and the results a foregone conclusion, the pervasive distrust of the U.S. elections system continues to linger. After all, when voters are given $25 gift cards in exchange for their votes like they were in Nevada, a judge is caught taking bribes to stuff the ballot box in Philadelphia, and a woman is hired in California to run voter registration drives and is caught forging signatures and changing their party affiliations, there should be a consensus that voter fraud is real.

Something needs to be done. And though Arizona may not be the worst offender, our state still has plenty to do to improve our elections and rebuild trust.

The Arizona legislature has convened once again, and Republican lawmakers have seemed to hear their voters loud and clear – address election integrity and address it now. Dozens of bills have been introduced, attacking reform from different angles and reacting to the frustrations of Arizona voters in November. With so many competing ideas, it is necessary to prioritize reforms that offer the greatest security to our election system and are feasible to implement.

For the legislature to claim victory on election integrity for the 2021 legislative session, they must focus their reforms in four key areas:

1. Maintain Clean and Current Voter Rolls

Once fraud is in the election system, it is extremely difficult to prove and root out. Ensuring voter rolls only contain current, legal residents who are qualified to vote is critically important. Currently, there is no standardization across all 15 Arizona counties to scrub voter lists of deceased persons, citizens who have changed residency, or duplicative voter files. Equally important is an independent audit of this practice to ensure it is actually being done. Though legislators may trust every county recorder to follow the law, a good policy ensures verification.

2. Protect Mail-In Ballots

Mail-in voting is inherently more vulnerable to mistakes, mishaps, and mischief. Due to the delay and distance of a voter receiving their ballot and the tabulation of that ballot, extra security measures are necessary to protect this method of voting.

No doubt, early mail-in voting is popular in Arizona, and efforts to eliminate the system are impractical and unnecessary. However, additional verification for early mail-in ballots is a good idea and lawmakers should focus reform in this area.

3. Ensure Legislative Oversight

Election integrity is a matter of statewide concern and therefore is a legislative concern. Many Arizona voters were understandably frustrated at how seemingly little power the legislature had to intervene and require an audit of the 2020 election results.

Not only should election procedures be standardized across all counties in Arizona, but the legislature needs to be empowered to oversee election practices, results, and compliance.

4. Prohibit Outside Influence

In the past, election officers have been permitted to use internal or external resources to sway the outcome of an election. These practices aren’t illegal, but they should be. Whether that is using taxpayer money to target voter registration activities, using third party lists to target potential voters, or accepting money from outside organizations with a political agenda, this must be eliminated. Curing voter distrust includes ensuring the government can’t put its thumb on the scale of election results.

Election integrity is a top priority of Republicans at the legislature this year. But success will not be measured by the volume of election integrity bills that get passed, but by their quality. Bills concentrated in each of these areas of reform will help improve the credibility, transparency, and security of our elections.

*****

This article is published by the Arizona Free Enterprise Club on February 8, 2021 and is reproduced with permission.

Teachers’ Unions — Killing the Competition

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

Suppose “New Burger” (a new chain of burger joints) opened to great reviews – perhaps something that is not very surprising.  What would be surprising is if McDonald’s decided it was going to throw all of its massive resources at New Burger to kill it off.  If McDonald’s made charges that New Burger was not operating within the law or selling tainted meat that would be quite surprising.  You would probably wonder why an operation with over 38,000 locations was so desperate to kill off the competition.  Of course, McDonald’s would never do that.  They are used to operating in a competitive environment.  Sadly, this scenario does not apply to the teachers’ unions; they will try to strangle any competition.

This was brought to light recently when the teachers (backed by their unions) decided to not show up to classrooms because of COVID-19.  They complained it was a safety issue, but it really wasn’t.  The teachers were not personally affected as they continue to “teach” remotely and receive their full salary, health care, and retirement benefits.

Parents decided that remote learning was not providing their children a proper education and started to fight back.  They wanted the teachers in the classrooms and a ruckus started across the country.  For their part, the teachers in public schools held firm and the administrators and local politicians caved.  We learned who was more important as if we did not already know, and it is not the children.

 They finally woke up to the facts they and their children are not the customers – it is the teachers. Parents started pulling their kids out of the schools.  After all, who gives more money to the politicians?

Prior to COVID, Education Week stated homeschooled children were three percent of the school-age population nationwideThat number jumped to 10% in 2020.  How many will continue sending their kids to public schools is yet to be answered.  Private school enrollment has risen also.  The country’s largest operator of virtual schools has had its enrollment jump from 123,000 to 170,000 in one year.

The teachers’ unions did not like this threat to their monopoly, and, like every other threat, they try to kill it off with lies and innuendo.  They constantly attack charter schools and at least in California they even attacked homeschooling.  The teachers’ unions insisted that anyone teaching a child has to be licensed by the state and use a curriculum approved by the state department of education.  In March 2008, an appeals court ruled that a parent teaching their own child must have a state credential.  That ruling was fortunately overturned.  But that has not stopped teachers and their unions from trying to kill off the next challenge to their stranglehold on the educational system.

Don’t mess with parents wanting to educate their kids.  Just like they formed carpools so they can get their kids to school and get to work every day, they formed education pods.  In effect, mini-classrooms.  These pods were deemed dangerous by the teachers’ unions.  Remember anything challenging the monopoly is dangerous.  Becky Pringle, president of the National Education Association (NEA), struck back.  She stated, “pods will become widespread and damage a public-education system already reeling from budget cuts and struggling to fund COVID-19 safety measures.”  Ms. Pringle did not specify the budget cuts because they are non-existent.  At best there are increases in the budgets deemed inadequate by her. The funding for safety measures is certainly not the ridiculous $130 billion proposed by the lapdogs in the Biden Administration who are owned by the teachers’ unions.  That would be on top of the $65 billion previously allocated and not accounted for.  And last, what exactly is dangerous about parents gathering their kids together to get them an education the teachers refuse to supply while they line their own pockets?

Ms. Pringle went on and did what is de rigueur – invoking racism.  “This, in turn, could open the door for more inequity, segregation and unsafe workplaces, since pods are expensive and unregulated.”  If they are indeed expensive, they certainly pale in comparison to public schools at over $15,000 per student in many systems with more non-class personnel than class personnel.  Regulatory control in school systems like Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York lead to high rates of failed students and miserable graduation rates.  Worse, our national press reprints Ms. Pringle’s garbage comments without calling her to the task.

Then Ms. Pringle went in for the kill.  She went after Prenda. Prenda until this time was an obscure operation that was aimed at helping parents educate their children that have been abandoned by the public schools and cannot afford to pay for the public schools through taxes and private schooling. This is the  link to their website. Dangerous stuff here.  The Democrats will probably include them in the domestic terrorism bill.

Instead of letting an insignificant competitor remain so, the NEA issued an “opposition report.” The union attacked Prenda for lack of safety charging inadequate protections.  In the 2017-2018 school year, there were 962,300 violent incidents in public schools.  The union had the audacity to question safety in parents’ homes while parents are running away from public schools because of their lack of safety.  The NEA will probably recommend an armed guard at all Prenda sites as there is at most high schools in America.

The NEA went on to chastise Prenda for not providing meals or transportation for the students.  It might be parents on their own can figure out how to get their kids to the site and Prenda figured out the parents are not going to let their kids starve during the day.  It is almost surprising the NEA did not demand a nutritionist present at every Prenda site.

The teachers’ unions did not stop at attacking Prenda.  They went to the state legislatures that are bought and paid for by union dues and demanded their lackeys go after the pods.  We will see how that turns out, but none of their actions will be beneficial to the people they are supposed to protect – the children.

There is a reason our national leaders went after monopolies and restricted them at the beginning of the 20th century.  We now have very dangerous monopolies controlling our educational systems in many of our states.  They have a stranglehold on the elected officials in many of those states.  They are willing to crush any and all competition to their monopoly.  Their results show they are the most racist organizations in America.  Once again, we have positive proof that they only care about their members and have little regard for their supposed customers – the children.

NOTE:  The only way to stop the teachers’ unions from this unacceptable behavior is to stop paying them for not showing up.  Then we will see if they really believe what they believe.  

*****

This article first appeared in Flash Report, on February 7, 2021, and is reproduced with permission from the author.

Lockdowns Have Depleted Capital in All Forms

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When lockdowns first happened, my initial thought was geeky, and only later did I begin to realize the implications for human rights and liberties.

My thought was: this is going to be devastating for future capital investment. The basis of my fear was the knowledge that in almost all poor countries, property rights are insecure, particularly for capital goods. These are goods that are produced to make other goods (the “produced means of production,” in the classic formulation by Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk). Their existence and protection is a key to prosperity. They enable more complex economic structures – the extended order, in F.A. Hayek’s phrase. It’s the basis of hiring and investment, and the foundation of wealth production.

In the normal course of economic life, capital structures are constantly adapting to changed conditions. Changes in available technology, consumer demand, labor pools, and other conditions require entrepreneurs to stay constantly on the move. They need the freedom to act based on the expectation that their decisions matter within a market framework in which there is a test for success or failure. Without this ability, writes Ludwig Lachmann, “a civilized economy could not survive at all.”

When governments attack capital by making it less secure, denying its own volition over how it is deployed, or it comes to be depleted through some other shock like a natural disaster, capital cannot do the work of creating wealth. This is a major reason for poverty. Start a business, make some money, employ some people, and a powerful person or agency comes along and steals it all. People get demoralized and give up. Society can’t progress under such conditions. Take it far enough and people end up living hand to mouth.

Lockdowns seem focused on expenditures and consumption but fundamentally they attack capital. The restaurant, the theater, the stadium, the school, the means of transport, all are forced into idleness. They cannot return a profit to the owners. It’s a form of theft. All that you have done to save and work and invest is voided.

That investors and entrepreneurs would lose faith in the rule of law – and thereby the security of their rights – was my main worry about lockdowns. Before lockdowns, life was functioning normally for so very long, decades and decades. Restaurants and hotels stayed up, operating according to their owners’ wishes. People could make plans and invest across state and national boundaries, never thinking that they could be prevented from traveling. A new theater could open and rent out space for concerts or other performances. A band could form and travel here and there and arrange bookings. Large conferences could be put on in cities all over the country, and there was nary a thought of the possibility that some politician would just decide to shut it down.

Starting March 8, 2020, all that changed. The mayor of Austin, Texas, shut down South by Southwest, forcibly canceling 100,000 contracts for flights, hotels, and conference participation. It seemed unbelievable to me at the time. Surely there would be a flurry of lawsuits and the courts would intervene to call the mayor’s actions despotic. The lesson would be learned and such a thing would not happen again in America for a very long time, if ever. We do have a Fifth Amendment that rules out such “takings” without due process, and as a general principle we believe in the right to run enterprises.

To my shock, this was just the beginning. Travel ceased. Schools shut down. Businesses were forcibly closed and events we had taken for granted just weeks before were deemed illegal. The churches were padlocked. Courts closed. You know the rest. By March 16, the buzzing, happy, progressing world of enterprise and creativity was shut down by governments. The politicians locked us down. People were panicked too but once rationality struggled to make a return, the law stood in the way of normalcy.

All of this amounts to an attack on economic networks and capital infrastructure. Investment plunged during the great suppression. These days, private investment in the United States is back to 2018 levels but I wonder about the long-term economic effects. Do we expect “snap lockdowns” in the future such as that experienced by Perth, Australia, last week? A writer for the Washington Post thinks they are just fantastic:

It may seem strange to act so aggressively for a single case, but we Australians complied. There were no complaints of infringing on freedoms. No marches against masks. My city of Perth came to a standstill. The roads were quiet, and our beaches were deserted. A trip to the supermarket for essential groceries saw everyone wearing a mask — for the first time. Other states restricted travel of West Australians, desperate to keep the virus out.

The subsequent two days didn’t bring a rush of cases that we feared; instead, for the first two days of lockdown, no new cases of covid-19 were detected. Residents of other countries might think this was overkill; in truth, that’s how a proper pandemic response should look.

Under the conditions, how is planning possible? You have dinner reservations, a party planned, a wedding with contracts, a business meeting, a concert, a delivery scheduled, or anything at all, and everything can be closed for an indefinite period of time. This could happen any time day or night, all on the authority of government officials and all because of a positive PCR test. Australia is widely celebrated as a success but is it a success when any state within Australia can fall to totalitarian control at the drop of a hat, in a country that has locked its citizens within its borders and locked visitors out, thus smashing the whole of the tourist industry?

Do we really want to live in this world? And also a relevant question: what does this do to the ability to plan and invest in the future? There is the thing called “time preference” which refers to the willingness of individuals to put off current consumption for the future. A low time preference is essential for building a progressing economy and social order and it is contingent on a stable and predictable regime that doesn’t randomly invade people’s rights. When arbitrary power comes along to pillage people’s property, inhibit their freedom of movement, and restrict their associations, the effect is to make planning for the future less possible and hence disincentivize it. In effect, you encourage people to live for the moment rather than planning for the future. Hope is replaced by nihilism.

Lockdowns also attacked other forms of capital: professional, educational, and social. About one-third of workers in America started working from home. For many, the word working should be in quotes. Life changed dramatically. Forget the commutes, the traffic, the office environment, the waits for the elevator, the lunch hour, the after-hours cocktails with friends. Instead, work became about laptops, houseshoes, all-day snacks, afternoon drinking, and binging Netflix in the background. Laziness became too easy.

Maybe this was viable for a few weeks. But after several months, it became obvious that people’s personal capital was under attack. Some people could continue to receive a paycheck while staring at a screen while others have to hustle, go to work, cut the meat and stock the shelves, check out the customers, slog around the hospital, paint the houses and do the yardwork, serve people where dining was allowed, and so on. Still, others were forcibly put out of work (movie theaters, the arts, conference venues, and so on). Whether you could deploy your labors to your benefit depended entirely on the exigencies of the planning elites.

All this terrible disruption has shattered people’s confidence in the system and rattled people’s sense of their own value. Lockdowns have taken their toll on our confidence in the law and our optimism that we live in a world in which our persons and property are safe from invasion by political elites.

A very practical example of a form of investment concerns the decision to have children. Kids have been locked out of their schools for a year, depleting educational capital. One million mothers have left the workforce to care for kids, depleting professional capital. Three-quarters of families have said they feel intense stress. Early on after the lockdowns began, people were predicting a new baby boom.

Not so much anymore. Now there is growing wonder whether people will decide not to have children because of the burden, the lack of educational security, the possibility that this whole nightmare could happen again and leave parents with impossible circumstances yet again. Then there is the deeper question of whether we really want to bring children into a world in which they could be so brutalized as they were in 2020. Perhaps this accounts for why births in Italy alone plunged 22% since lockdowns.

The same fear is expressed by many capitalists. Why open a restaurant if it can be shut down? Why build a hotel if travel restrictions can leave it empty for months and even years? If you don’t have confidence in a stable legal regime for the future, what can one say about whether investing in anything physical or that depends on customers coming and going is really a good idea? Do we really want to open a factory that can be closed at any time by decree?

Outside of a major war, it is hard to recall a time when government policies have so seriously roiled business practices, economic structures, and personal lives as much as lockdowns have, not only in the US but all over the world. The consequences will be felt for many years in the future.

What we need today more than anything is a guarantee, an ironclad guarantee from our leaders that nothing like this can ever happen again. To make that promise credible we also need a flurry of frank admissions that they made terrible mistakes this time, detailing what they were, and give us proof that there are legal means to stop the next guy in that office from locking people down yet again. We need the rule of law to once again protect essential rights. If we do not get that, we will continue to see people lose hope and confidence in the future, and that could have a devastating long-term effect on prosperity and social peace.

*****

This article was first published on February 6, 2021 at AIER, American Institute for Economic Research and is reproduced with permission.