Friday, May 10, 2013

NH Senate Finance - One of the Worst Hearings Ever

The NH House passed a budget for the state, and it crossed over to the Senate where it's currently being  examined and probably rewritten. The NH Senate seems bent on undoing all of the positive work done in the House this year. As part of the process, the Senate Finance Commitee held what was supposed to be a four hour hearing on the budget on May 9, in Representative's Hall. This was a chance for members of the public, various agencies, and special interest groups to weigh in on the needs of the state. 

The hearing lasted for 6 hours. Committee Chair Chuck Morse announced at the beginning: "We don't limit testimony" and he went on to do just that. At large House hearings, generally the committee chair will give each person a three minute limit for testimony, and often the chairs are quite dogmatic about keeping on topic. 

This committee was not bound by any such considerations, and as such, there were all manner of hijinks. There was at least one piece of performance testimony, with a dramatic rant delivered by a fellow calling himself "Adam Sutler." (Adam Sutler was a character in V for Vendetta.) Given the number of Free State Project members in the room for the hearing, it's quite possible that the Sutler character was one of them. Another performance piece apparently took place after I left, with a speech from the movie Demolition Man. 

 State Representative Barbara French rose to speak on behalf of Family Resource Centers, and presented a bloc of fellow speakers as a fait accompli. The testimony of the combined group lasted for over 30 minutes. A state rep should know better than this, especially given the hundreds of people who were there to testify. The first 2 speakers each testified for 10 minutes apiece. It wasn't the worst run hearing I've ever been to at the NH legislature, but it was in the top 3. 

One of the first two speakers was Greg Moore of the NH outlet of Americans for Prosperity - the right wing group founded by the Koch brothers in 2004. He spoke for 10 minutes, and one certainly wonders why this lobbyist was given such a plum speaking time slot. Moore (who worked for Speaker O'Brien during the last biennium) was there to speak in opposition to the entire budget. He has the sads about business taxes, but then went into a rantlet about fee increases. NH is apparently supposed to run on the prayers of magic unicorns, and require no actual money to be raised or spent. Mr. Moore is also very opposed to the proposed Medicaid expansion. It seems that people who get Medicaid actually use the health care system. This is heady stuff - people who have access to health care actually USE IT. Oh, and that's a BAD THING. 

Folks were present to speak in support of all manner of programs. Two staffers from Granite State Independent Living testified about how the personal care attendant program enables them to be out in the community, working, and having an independent life. 

There were people who urged the committee to increase funding to our state's nursing homes. Some recovering substance abusers from New Futures spoke about the need to fund treatment in NH. 

NH Judge Edward Gordon spoke about the need to properly fund the state's Intervention Fund, created in 2001, and administered by the Governor's Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse. It was supposed to be funded with 5% of the gross profits from the State Liquor Commission. Since 2003, the law has been suspended, and the fund has been raided for other uses. The 2012-2013 budget provided for a paltry $3.2 million for two years. If the fund had actually gotten the 5%, it would have received $18.3 million. Judge Gordon said, "If we're going to aggressively market alcohol as a state, we should be prepared to address the consequences." In speaking of his own years in court, he said, "alcohol flowed through my courtroom like a river." 

Maggie Fogarty of the American Friends Service Committee testified about the good work done by NH Legal Assistance, and how they need to be better funded. 

People spoke on behalf of funding domestic violence programs, affordable housing programs, and fully funding the state's Developmental Disability wait list. One of the great shames of our state is that we have a waiting list for DD services. 

Parents brought their children who have developmental disabilities to the hearing. They sobbed as they spoke about their fears for these children. Some of us wept as we listened.

This is a terrible process, that people have to come and share their private business with the public, and  plead for the kinds of help that they need. Surely as a state we can do better than this? 

Still, as shameful as that process is, it is far more shameful that some cult members would have so little respect for members of the public that they would turn it into mockery theater. 


Anonymous said...

Agreed. That legislators would force members of the public to air their sorrows and ask for help speaks to their complete lack of pre frontal cortex functioning and spine. What brain parts of theirs are missing that they are so cold and hateful? The Stellaaaaaa syndrome is evidently a group sickness. I think we should start working on legislation to fix it, permanently.

William Kiely said...

"NH is apparently supposed to run on the prayers of magic unicorns, and require no actual money to be raised or spent."

I believe that the organization known as the "State of New Hampshire" should run entirely on voluntary contributions--donations and payments--just like all other people and organizations in New Hampshire do.

Surely if someone said that your local grocery store should not be permitted to impose taxes on people you would not dismiss the person's position as absurd by saying, "[Apparently you want the grocery store] to run on the prayers of magic unicorns." If you did say this, then I would have to say that it is your dismissal that is absurd, not the person's position that the grocery stores should not be allowed to impose taxes on people.

Not all charitable organizations and businesses manage to stay in business, but a lot of them do manage by offering goods and services that consumers are willing to voluntarily purchase.

susanthe said...

Thanks, William. You believe that the world should be run on the prayers of magic unicorns!

Can you point me to a state or a country that runs on the FSP economic model?

William Kiely said...

Thank you for the reply. I'm not sure why you continue to use the phrase "the prayers of magic unicorns" when there are much clearer phrases for what you mean, such as "voluntary exchanges."

Anyway, yes, I do believe that the world should be run on voluntary exchanges.

You presumably believe that the world should be run *mostly* on voluntary exchanges. For example, you presumably believe that grocery stores and car dealerships and clothing stores and computer manufacturing plants should all be run on "the prayers of magic unicorns."

The only things that you believe should not be run on "the prayers of magic unicorns" are the rights-protecting, law-providing organizations known as governments. You believe that these organizations should not have to rely on voluntary financial contributions like all other people and organizations in society do, but rather you believe that these organizations should be allowed to obtain revenue by extracting money from people by force.

There are many reasons why people believe that the organizations called governments should be permitted to collect revenue in this aggressive (as opposed to voluntary) way. Probably one of the main reasons is that people fear that if governments are not permitted to collect revenue in this way then they would not be able to get funding to continue to provide the essential security and law services they provide, meaning these essential services would go unprovided and society would quickly degenerate into violent chaos. As Prof. Bryan Caplan writes in his Anarchist Theory FAQ ( ), "The most common criticism, shared by the entire range of critics, is basically that anarchism would swiftly degenerate into a chaotic Hobbesian war of all-against-all."

Your question, in which you ask me to point to a society in which all goods and services are provided on a voluntary basis--even the security and law services traditionally provided by governments--suggests to me that you believe that you agree with "the most common criticism [of anarchism]," stated above. In other words, you probably believe that it is impossible for these particular services to be provided unless they are provided by an organization that is permitted to get funding by aggressively extracting money from people by force. Your question is rhetorical in the sense that it is saying that there are no societies that run on a completely voluntary basis and the reason for that is because any society that tried that would turn into a Hobbesian nightmare and the people would quickly establish an organization with the power to aggressively obtain revenue from people so that that organization could provide the law/security services that we all agree are essential to a peaceful, prosperous society.

Of course, it's not entirely true that there are no historical examples of societies that provided the services traditionally provided by governments on a voluntary basis instead. I'll get to this in a moment. First, however, I would like to point out that even if it were true that there were no historical examples of societies that successfully provided the essential security/law services on a voluntary basis that would not prove that it is impossible to provide these services on a voluntary basis. After all, it could just be the case that many people simply *believed* that it was impossible to provide the services on a voluntary basis and that they were thus unwilling to try out providing the services on a voluntary basis. In that case, the reason for the lack of societies with these services provided on a voluntary basis would not be because it is impossible to provide them voluntarily, but rather would be because people were not willing to let them be provided voluntarily.

(Continued in second comment due to character limit.)

William Kiely said...

(Continued from my first comment.)

So perhaps if enough people in New Hampshire decided to try out voluntary-provision of "government services," that is, if they stopped permitting the government to collect money by force, then maybe the result would not be that police would disappear and crime levels would skyrocket, but instead might be that people would actually manage to find ways to voluntary fund protection/law services and crime levels would not sky rocket, but instead would remain the same or possibly decrease.

Anyway, there are in fact some historical examples of societies that successfully provided certain "government services" on a voluntary basis, rather than with governments with the power to extract money from people by force. For example, see this collection of "Historical Examples of Anarchy without Chaos":

If you study those historical cases and examine them together I think you will find that they provide a fair amount of evidence that a completely voluntary society could indeed "work" and would not be the lawless Hobbesian nightmare most people imagine when they hear the term "anarchy."

Of course, even without the historical support, I think the theoretical economic arguments for a completely voluntary society are compelling enough that we should give such a system a try. Give peace a chance.

Speaking of theoretical economic arguments for a completely voluntary society, the first advocate of such a free market anarchist society was the 19th-century economist Gustave de Molinari. I encourage you to read my brief overview of his groundbreaking essay "The Production of Security" if you're interested in learning more:

Also please note that there is no "FSP economic model" and that not all (or even most, I think) supporters of the FSP are anarchists like myself. Most "Free Staters" support permitting governments to extract money from people by force, like you do. They just tend to want to limit the services that governments provide to "the protection of life, liberty, and property" which is presumably much more than you support limiting it to.

I apologize for the length if you weren't interested in what I had to say. But I hope you gained something and I thank you for taking the time to read it. Peace.

susanthe said...

The short version of your answer would be: "Why no, Susan. I can't point to a state or country that runs on the FSP economic model."

Instead, you gave a deadly dull, far too lengthy, and somewhat insulting (don't presume to imagine you know what I think, sparky) tapdance around the question.

I've been mighty accommodating. This is the only time you'll ever get to do that kind of thing, William. This is MY blog, and as a freemarketeer, I'm certain you'll respect my right to publish or not publish comments as I see fit.

William Kiely said...

Well again, there is no "FSP economic model" so that short answer wouldn't be very satisfactory.

But anyway, do you believe that grocery stores should be run on the prayers of magic unicorns?

I don't mind if you give a short or long answer. And of course you have the right not to answer the question or approve my comment if you don't want to.

susanthe said...

Gee thanks, William. I appreciate you giving me permission to do whatever I want with my blog.

Do you have a paying job? Have you ever had one? Do your parents still support you? How many times have you read Atlas Shrugged?

susanthe said...

Also, I think it's delightful that you believe in a fantasy world of voluntary exchanges. NH has the 11th worst infrastructure in the United States. All of you Free Staters could really put us "statists" in our place by stepping up to the plate and fixing some roads and bridges.

William Kiely said...

I wasn't giving you permission; I was agreeing that you have / should have the right.

No. Yes. Yes. Zero.

None of these questions/answers are relevant to you. Why did you bothered asking them rather than engage in a discussion with me on the initial point of disagreement that I raised in my first comment? If you're not interested in having such a discussion with me just say so.

It's not constructive to say that you believe it is delightful that I support a completely voluntary society. Instead you should say whether you agree that all products and services should be provided on a voluntary basis and if not why not. In your article you mentioned someone who opposed some taxes and then you stated how silly you think their position is, but you didn't actually give any reasons or arguments as to why their position is bad or why your position is better.

I'm not a "Free Stater." I'm a NH native. The Free State Project is an effort to get people who don't live in NH already to move to NH.

susanthe said...

Oh, I get it! We can have a discussion as long as I follow YOUR rules, even though it's my blog. You certainly have the FSP attitude down pat. The sneering contempt that you people have for those who dare disagree is a big draw. It sure does make us "statists" want to jump right in, embrace your magic unicorn and buy some gold.

William, you may not be an idiot, but clearly you're not a student of history. Your pie-in-the-sky fantasy world won't ever work, because HUMAN NATURE. Whenever you get rid of the old boss, a new one takes over. You're a dedicated, grim, humorless, true believer, able to parrot all of the Rothbardian/Austrian/Paullower talking points, and the new boss won't give a shit. Because work has to get done. You'll be "voluntarily" dispatched to work, or else.

Get your nose out of fantasy economic theory and read some history.

William Kiely said...

You finally offered a reason why you don't think all goods and services should be provided solely on a voluntary basis: "Your pie-in-the-sky fantasy world won't ever work, because HUMAN NATURE."

It "won't ever work"? Cool, my guess at what you think was right. It's funny that you wrote "don't presume to imagine you know what I think, sparky" even though my presumption was correct.

My original reply to the objection was adequate. If you have any criticisms of what I wrote I'll reply, but it looks like you don't have anything substantive to say, so adios.

susanthe said...

One of the least attractive attributes of the FSP crowd is the grim, earnest, humorless, spouting of dogma combined with grim, earnest, humorless, condescension.

You have no idea or interest in what I think. You skim a statement off the top, slap a label on it, and GOTCHA, it's playground time. I'm not about to discuss what I believe in with a hive minded peckerhead who is here to play games.

Grow a sense of humor. Get over yourself. Read some history. Evolve. Get out of the hive for a while and travel.

Oh, and grow the fuck up. You guys either pontificate, or head straight for the 5th grade playground. It's not clever, it's not intimidating (and I know you all desperately want to be intimidating), but it is boring and predictable.

susanthe said...

Sorry Willy. No links to Lew Rockwell going up on my blog. Either he wrote Ron Paul's racist blog or Ron Paul wrote his own racist blog. Either way, you can peddle his baloney elsewhere.