no third solution

Blogging about liberty, anarchy, economics and politics

What Part of “Public Servant” Don’t You Understand?

August 27th, 2011

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette is allowing his personal opinions (as an opponent of legalization) to interfere with his obligation as a public servant and elected official. Ostensibly, he is in office because of the people who voted for him (via the Detroit Free Press).

The unanimous ruling by the three-judge panel of the state Court of Appeals was declared a statewide precedent by Attorney General Bill Schuette, an opponent of the 2008 voter-passed law legalizing marijuana for medical use.

“The court made it clear that these dispensaries, these pot shops, have to be closed down,” he said.

As a result of the recent ruling, dispensaries throughout the state shut their doors. The unlucky ones were raided by law enforcement and several people were arrested. There have been several robberies carried out on these establishments thus far, perpetrated by law enforcement officers and now backed by the Attorney General’s opinion, acting in direct contravention to the will of the people they purport to “serve and protect”.

Unfortunately for the people, Attorney General Bill Schuette doesn’t give a damn about them, he is more interested in flexing his political power to support his own agenda.

If my ire sounds familiar, it should. I said essentially the same thing about Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard, over three years ago.

It is simply not excusable for any public official to publicly campaign against the will of the people, nor to direct policy in direct opposition thereto.

Doing so ought to be considered an immediate and irrevocable act of resignation; as they are demonstrably unfit for their duties as public servants if they are unwilling to at least tolerate non-violent activities that were overwhelmingly approved by the public. And yes, if you’re keeping score, a 60-40 margin is overwhelming.

Mr. Schuette, the people have spoken and they have essentially mandated the exact fucking opposite. You don’t get to tell the people what they want. It’s the other way around.

So either do your job, or quit.

 

 

 

 

My Take on the Pure Michigan Advertising Campaign

May 14th, 2010

In 2009, the State of Michigan spent approximately $12M for a national advertising campaign to promote tourism to Michigan, called Pure Michigan. Currently, the State legislature is considering reducing the funding for the program to only $5M for 2010. From a State budget perspective, this seems silly since the results of third-party research provided by Longwoods International suggest that the program was wildly successful. In sum, the findings suggest that the Pure Michigan campaign induced about two million incremental trips to Michigan, $600 million worth of revenue for Michigan businesses, and added $41M in tax revenue to the State’s coffers.

So, how can I possibly be opposed to such a program? Because it’s funded by taxes, silly (i.e., legalized theft, extortion). And I am fundamentally opposed to all taxes, except for maybe some sort of “asshole tax”. Yes, if they could find a way to levy taxes only on people who are total assholes, I could be OK with that.

Other than the very vague description given in the press release, I know nothing about the study or its method. What I do know from years of experience in the field, is that “online consumer panels” pose many serious challenges to market researchers in terms of obtaining representative sample (they skew significantly younger), avoiding ‘professional survey takers’, etc. So, take it for what it’s worth.

Distributed Costs, Concentrated Benefits

One popular argument is simply the magnitude of the problem an. Spend $12M to generate $600M in revenues. I understand the difficulties in organizing competing businesses in some sort of consortium, but seriously this should be a no-brainer. “Difficulty” in organizing is simply not a valid justification for taxing people. It’s “difficult” to make a No.2 pencil — so difficult in fact that nobody really knows how its done — but we have them anyways. It’s “difficult” to raise money to build a factory to manufacture vehicles, but people do it all the time. Lots of things are “difficult” and require imagination, ingenuity, and the sacrifice of risk. But that doesn’t justify taxing people.

At the very least, it seems like an opportunity for dominant assurance contracts or real-life community-building. Less “competition” and more “cooperation”, if you will.

And it clearly fails the popular “public goods” test.

Macro explanations for the micro boon

Although it is not clear whether the authors are suggesting that the macro-economy had a positive or negative impact on these numbers, they do qualify the research, stating:

These results should also be considered in light of the economic conditions in the United States in 2009 which had a constraining effect on travel and traveler spending

In my grossly uninformed opinion, against the backdrop of a faltering economy, 2009 was probably a down year overall for vacations in the traditional sense, as families abandoned luxurious plans in favor of the “stay-cation.” It certainly seems plausible that the “stay-cation” phenomena could skew midwest travel, as people substitute Michigan vacations for the more extravagant vacation they might take under different economic circumstances.

Marginal consumption, and small margins

The hospitality industry operates on small margins. A fortunate restaurant might increase its sales by 10% but net profits increase maybe a fraction of a 1% (or less). This isn’t the sort of revenue that enables capital-intensive investments. It’s not creating long-term growth opportunities, it’s simply moving finished goods from one place to another.

Most of this spending is marginal, and purely consumption; i.e., it doesn’t really matter whether the gas station sells 1M gallons of gas in 2009, or 1.001 million gallons of gas. It doesn’t matter if a restaurant sells one extra steak dinner or one single extra beer. That is, it requires no additional labor, brings no unemployed people in to the labor force, and generally does not measurably improve the lot of anyone already in the labor force.

Seen and unseen

Every dollar funneled into, or otherwise diverted to the tourism industry is a dollar which can’t be used on other productive endeavors. So to some extent, tax-funded promotions like this encourage the mis-allocation of productive resources (labor and capital) in favor of the hospitality industry, and at the expense of every other sector of the economy.

Conclusion

The only palatable argument for such a program is if its used to offset resident’s taxes. So, if MI plans to reduce their property taxes by the net of $29M, or if they plan on refunding $29M worth of sales taxes paid by MI residents, I guess it’s not such a bad thing. But that’s not how it operates.

Instead, it is a direct transfer of wealth, corporate subsidies, if you will. Use $12M worth of money taken from taxpayers (an extremely distributed cost) in order to fund an Advertising/Marketing campaign to support business interests which, although still distributed, are significantly more concentrated than ‘taxpayers’. Hey, it’s better than spending their own money, and coming up with their own solutions to the problems they face.

Ad spending, and private business revenues/profits is not a public good which would arguably justify some sort of redistribution, and since it’s not a public good, we have to reject the Reagan-esque, trickle-down-economics argument which is mostly bullshit anyways.

Addenda

I swear when I was walking the dog yesterday evning I had one more even better response, but I lost that train of thought and it hasn’t come back yet…

Michigan had $23B worth of tax revenue in FY2009 — in all honesty $41M is like pissing on a forest fire.

Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em

April 30th, 2010

Tonight at midnight the statewide smoking ban goes in to effect here in Michigan. Not exactly sure how that works… does a bouncer come around at midnight and remove all the ashtrays from the bar? Immediately start kicking people out for burning squares? Do the Gestapo come in and start issuing citations?

Probably “Yes” to all of the above.

Logistics aside… I’ve been covering this topic for a few years now as the proposals and bills have been stalled or shot down or whatever. But here we are, hours away from what is essentially an irrevocable ban.  Short of full collapse, the likelihood of this ban ever being popularly overturned is zero.

I don’t really know what to say that I haven’t already said.

I listen to the radio and I hear the same tired arguments put forth by the same mouth-breathing dolts day-in and day-out: non-smokers shouldn’t have to put up with it; or what about the employees’ safety?; or any similar inanity. Here’s a tip: if you don’t like it, don’t go out to dinner. And deal with things like a mature and reasonable person who respects other people, which is to say: As long as you are

[F]ree to decide whether you want to inhale burning tobacco smoke in the privacy of your own home, you [should be] equally free to decide whether you want to inhale someone else’s tobacco smoke on someone else’s property. — Smoking is healthier than fascism (#3)

And the property owners should be the ones who decide whether smoking is permitted. Just like you can’t walk in to my living room and light up a cigarette…  You do not come in to my house and tell me what my guests can and can not do.  There is nothing magical about a restaurant or a bar which would suspend the rules of logic which make the “living room” problem so easy to resolve.

But no, it is so much easier to just shrug and say, “I don’t like it so I’m going to call the police to make you let me have it my way.” And that’s just being a shitty, childish human being.

I’ve already blogged responses to all the stupid objections, and it had the net effect of pissing on a forest fire.

I mean, these people act like they can’t go anywhere without being forced to suck down someone else’s Marlboros. The facts of the matter couldn’t be further from the truth.  As I’ve argued before:

There is no shortage of smoke-free places to eat, drink or play. The casinos already have non-smoking Poker rooms (and probably other game rooms, too.) Ninety-nine percent of franchise fast-food restaurants are smoke free and have been for years (voluntarily). Nearly every independent deli is smoke free. Plenty of diners and upscale restaurants have also made the move, and smoking is not permitted inside any of the major sport venues.

One report substantiated my claims, indicating that:

[N]early 5,100 Michigan restaurants and taverns — about one of three — prohibit smoking, an increase of 130% in the last 10 years. He said owners made the switch to accommodate customers.

And the rest of you bastards say, “Well, it doesn’t affect me, so I don’t really care.”

Apathy might even be worse than the people who openly advocate for the ban. At least the advocates make their intentions known.

no third solution

Blogging about liberty, anarchy, economics and politics