Not least because she does what I do not do, so many of us do not do, though we ought to: she puts her convictions to the test of real politics.
I do not refrain from politics because I think it is per se wrong to engage in it, as unfortunately so many libertarians think. I stay away from the fray because it is so tough and gruelling.
Yet we need voices like that of Senator Ebke to be heard in the political arena, voices of those conscious of freedom.
A lot of my writing here at RSE is in defence of politics and the state, an incongruous position, many believe, for someone concerned with freedom.
However, over the years, I have come to realise that politics and the state are vital to our liberty; and when I say this, I think of public personalities like Senator Laura Ebke - undogmatic yet principled believers in freedom, with courage and circumspection in equal measure to defend their views tenaciously and to yield to better insight (of the need of compromise, for instance) when resistance to it becomes unreasonable.
Image credit. "The blunt truth is that even libertarians and other defenders of small government should support the basic constitutional framework that gives public officials extensive powers to control against infection and disease by devices such as quarantine and vaccination."
Writes Richard Epstein:
The current struggles over sound vaccine policy raise a tension between public health on the one hand and competing versions of individual liberty on the other. This conflict was, if anything, more acute a century ago when infectious diseases cut a wide path for which vaccines and other treatments provided only a limited response. The main constitutional lens through which these issues were viewed at the time was one of police power. This all-pervasive notion has no explicit textual authorization in the Constitution. But a moment’s reflection makes it clear that the Constitution’s various provisions protecting individual liberty must at times give way to government control in response to health hazards.
From the earliest times, therefore, the police power has always been construed to allow public officials to take strong action against individuals who posed threats to the health of others by the spread of communicable diseases. In perhaps the most famous statement of this sort, Justice John Marshall Harlan, himself a champion of limited government, wrote in the 1905 case of Jacobson v. Massachusetts that while the Supreme Court had refrained from defining the limits of police power, it had “distinctly recognized the authority of a State to enact quarantine laws and ‘health laws of every description,’” and then proceeded to sustain a Cambridge Massachusetts compulsory vaccination statute against smallpox, a disease for which Edward Jenner had developed an effective vaccine as early as 1796.
The basic soundness of the constitutional recognition of a police power to deal with communicable diseases is beyond dispute. Even in a free state, quarantines are the only reliable remedy to protect the health of the public at large from the spread of disease. It is sheer fantasy to think that individuals made ill could bring private lawsuits for damages against the parties that infected them, or that persons exposed to imminent risk could obtain injunctive relief against the scores of persons who threaten to transmit disease. The transmission of disease involves hidden and complex interconnections between persons that could not be detected in litigation, even assuming that it could be brought in time, which it cannot. Public oversight should be able to achieve the desired end at a far lower cost.
In making his broad defense of the police power, Justice Harlan did not mean to eradicate the substantive protections otherwise afforded by the Constitution. Thus, only three years later in Adair v. United States, he struck down a mandatory collective bargaining statute on the ground that its interference with the contractual liberties of the employer and individual employees could not be justified on grounds of either health or safety.
That said, the categorical defense of compulsory vaccination statutes raises serious questions of its own. [Emphasis added.]
Today Nebraska and Oklahoma sued Colorado, arguing that marijuana legalization there is having spillover effects on neighboring states and should be reversed because it violates federal law. The two states are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to declare that Amendment 64, the legalization measure that Colorado voters approved in 2012, is "unconstitutional and unenforceable under the Supremacy Clause" because it conflicts with the Controlled Substances Act.
The art of faking - the above drawing is actually two-dimensional. Image credit.
Remember Obama campaigning based on the promise of a decisive turn towards transparency? He was right to champion transparency - but did he and his entourage mean it?
Writes Jim Harper of the CATO Institute:
The benefits of transparency are hard to explain. Bit by bit, we’re improving public oversight of government, I’ve been heard to say, implying more libertarian-friendly outcomes—never quite sure that I’m getting my message through.
Now comes a comment on transparency that articulates its importance better than I ever could. It’s Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber describing how lacking transparency allowed the president’s signature health care regulation to pass.
"This bill was written in a tortured way to make sure CBO did not score the mandate as taxes. If CBO [Congressional Budget Office] scored the mandate as taxes, the bill dies. Okay, so it’s written to do that. In terms of risk rated subsidies, if you had a law which said that healthy people are going to pay in – you made explicit healthy people pay in and sick people get money, it would not have passed… Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage. And basically, call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically that was really really critical for the thing to pass....Look, I wish Mark was right that we could make it all transparent, but I’d rather have this law than not."
By the way, Jonathon Gruber was the one in 2012 who said over and over that the limitation of subsidies to state-run exchanges was not a drafting error, but was an intentional feature meant to give incentives to states to create exchanges. Now that it is clear that incentive did not do its job, and a case is in front of the Supreme Court attempting to enforce the plain language of the law, Gruber is now saying that he mispoke (over and over again) in 2012 and it was a typo. Given the fact that he has now admitted he would gladly lie (and has) to the public to defend Obamacare, how much should we believe his current claims?
In so far as some people will not have the chance to learn the truth of the matter, it is, for someone who knows Laura as a conscientiously fair and honest person, both saddening and infuriating to see her, of all people, become the target of a "hit piece" of political defaming (see below P.S.).
But then, in the end, I am convinced that Laura's natural integrity will be her best advertisement among those that meet her during the campaign and those who know her anyway, as well as reaching many more on-line and by word of mouth.
Laura is a wonderfully balanced person of warmth, responsibility and circumspection, ideally suited to represent her fellow Nebraskans in the Legislature.
Yesterday, my mother-in-law received a "hit piece"--paid for by the Nebraska Democratic Party--suggesting that "Laura Ebke: TOO Extreme for Women"--and that I was saying NO Health care that Nebraska Women deserve--like Mammograms, coverage of pre-existing conditions, and affordable access to contraception.
They refer the Campaign for Liberty Legislative survey, found here:http://www.campaignforliberty.org/surveys2/?id=59. My opponent didn't bother to answer it--nor did a lot of other candidates. I'm sure that this refers to the question about opposing Obamacare.
As the wife of a physician--and a woman--it's laughable to suggest that I am *against* any of those things. I just happen to believe that Obamacare doesn't fix the problem of access.
It is a mystery to me how one should be able to make any money at all with the product discussed in the below clip -- it just tastes awful. By contrast, milk is one of my favourite drinks. Also, the best energy drink I know is mate tea. Or a drop of vodka. But only a drop.
Mind you, Austria can be a funny place: you arrive at your ski resort, happy to take a breather, on the drinks menu you are being offered a fancy sounding drink which consists of whiskey and Red Bull. You order the oddity and are promptly served a glass of whiskey and a can of the energy drink. So you open the can and pour it into the whiskey. When you get to sip the drink and dreamily study the inscription on the can, you learn that it is illegal to mix the energy drink with alcohol. Which is oddly constricting, as the drink is only drinkable when heavily diluted with whiskey. In the meantime, you are left to reason - since it is me who has committed the mixing act, I suppose, the restaurant proprietor is off the hook, and full legal responsibility rests with the hapless foreigner.
I could talk for hours on the masochism of being a German spending a holiday in Austria.
As for the below opinion, while I regret the language used in certain passages and doubt the gentleman's economic literacy, I am impressed with the show of character and share with him a robust dislike of the beverage.
Liberty is a great method to further and lift to success the wisdom that is randomly available among humankind, and a means to reduce to a minimum the society-wide contagion of the errors to which we all are so prone.
High-yield agriculture and long-distance trade have long delivered a similar outcome—more abundant and affordable food with reduced environmental impact—on a global scale…. So prepare your meal from the most affordable food you can find to do both your wallet and the planet a favor.
As the Marxist theorist Karl Kautsky observed in 1899 in his classic On the Agrarian Question,
As long as any rural economy is self-sufficient it has to produce everything which it needs, irrespective of whether the soil is suitable or not. Grain has to be cultivated on infertile, stony and steeply sloping ground as well as on rich soils.
In time though, the development of better production areas such as the Canadian Prairies removed the need to keep producing grain on poorer soils, “and where circumstances were favorable it was taken off the land and replaced by other types of agricultural production” such as orchards, beef cattle, and dairy cows. Exporting food items from production locations where water was abundant to consumers living in regions where it wasn’t similarly removed the need to drain surface waters and aquifers in many drier parts of the world. [...]
Unfortunately, in our carbon emissions-obsessed era, local food activists (or locavores) have embraced the notion of “food miles,” or the distance food items travel from farms to consumers, as the be all and end all of the environmental impact of agricultural production. As has been repeatedly and rigorously documented in numerous life cycle assessment (LCA) studies, however, the distance traveled by food is a worthless indicator of sustainable development.
Among other issues, producing food typically requires (much) more energy than moving it around, especially when significant amounts of heating and/or cold-protection technologies, irrigation water, fertilizers, pesticides, and other inputs are required to grow things in one region, but not in another. Reducing food miles typically means a greater environmental footprint given the use of additional resources in less desirable locations.
Another issue is that the distance travelled by food matters less than the mode of transportation. For instance, shipping food halfway around the world on a container ship often has a smaller footprint per item carried than a short trip by car to a grocery store to buy a small quantity of these items. [...]
Advances in transportation and conservation technologies have also historically increased the importation of perishable food items produced at different latitudes and decreased local food production and storage, in the process delivering greater freshness, lower costs, and reduced energy consumption.
Importing New Zealand apples in the northern hemisphere in April rather than preserving local apples picked in September in cold storage for several months, for example, has advantages. Not only is freshness improved, spoilage is reduced. And storage costs, mainly the need to maintain higher than normal CO2 concentrations, lower than ambient temperatures to inhibit spoilage, or higher than ambient temperatures to prevent freezing, are avoided.
While agricultural markets are not perfect, due to numerous subsidies and barriers to trade, market prices factor in the environmental impact of food production by including the additional costs from less desirable production locals.