Sunday, April 19, 2009

Force: A Governing Philosophy

Talifaitasi W. Satele

I’m very thankful for Mr. Slater’s letter written in response to my diatribe on the House ban on petroleum-based plastic shopping bags. His commentary was less a defense of the House bill than it was an explanation of his beliefs about the role of government, and I’d like to respond as such.

I agree that government should “promote the common good”. It’s even in our Constitution under slightly different terms: To Promote The General Welfare. Actually, I believe the legislature can “promote” anything it wants, but to “force” or “legislate” or “guarantee” goes beyond mere “promotion” and requires the use of the state’s police powers.

That line between promotion and the use of force is a very thin one. There’s a lot of things government would love to promote like lower prices for food, gas, and airline tickets. Government would like for all of us to be in tip-top physical shape and eat only vegetables for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Officials would love for us to quit smoking, stop drinking beer and be in bed by 10 o’clock every night. All in the name of the common good of course.

Do not the above causes deserve the use of government force? Is the criteria for determining what are just causes whether they’re too controversial or not?

That sort of criteria is simply called majority rule, and everyone agrees with the majority as long as they’re in the majority. So it begs the question: Where does the majority’s view of what is good for the rest of us end and the rights of the individual begin?

The two concepts are incompatible; on any issue, either majority rule or the sovereignty of the individual triumphs.

But I do not believe that the majority of what the majority “wants” is incompatible with the rights of the individual. Things like a cleaner environment can be addressed while protecting our individual rights to life, liberty and private property.

But the Fono or the ASG doesn’t take that approach. Whatever it wants to do, it just decides to muscle its will with a ban on this and a ban on that. It is that view I will always take issue with, because once that line is crossed, it fast becomes the governing philosophy.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Ban On Plastic Bags Is A Farce

Talifaitasi W. Satele

The House bill to ban plastic shopping bags is a farce as it will do little to protect our environment. After all, plastic shopping bags are not the only things flowing down our streams and choking our oceans. There are also diapers, cans, bottles, cardboard boxes… you name it, it’s there! Is the Chamber of Commerce going to ask the Fono to ban those items as well?

Free marketers always point to property rights as the means of effective environmental protection. People have the incentive to protect and maintain property from which they individually benefit and bear responsibility. And if government owns property, then it should enforce existing laws that protect it before going off on endless environmental crusades.

But I, for one, actually want to see this ban put into practice.

If biodegradable bags are “generally cheaper” than petroleum-based plastic bags as Mr. Robinson claims, then we wouldn’t need this ban to make the switch. We’d do it ourselves in the marketplace. And even if they were a cheaper alternative, I doubt these “environmental” bags are as convenient as their plastic counterparts are to us customers.

An attempt to force businesses and consumers to use something that’s most likely more expensive and less convenient is likely to cause a popular backlash. If that happens, it’d be interesting to see how many House members retain their seats after unanimously imposing something of this nature on their own constituents.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

It Better Work

Talifaitasi W. Satele

Over the last few months, I’ve been in utter shock at how fast America has turned away from capitalism. Everything President Obama and Democrats (and some Republicans) have proposed and enacted has been done in the name of saving the economy.

While their policies go against everything I observe to be true, deep down inside, I am hoping…no, praying, that it all works out. Like you, I have a family to feed, bills to pay, and a future to fulfill.

But these big government policies are doomed to fail. For what ails the economy cannot be cured but through its sickness. The economy cannot gain until it has realized what it has lost. In other words, we have to allow those who made the wrong choices to suffer the consequences before we can even begin to think we could prosper once again.

And it’s not that those wrong choices imply the people who made them are bad or evil; it’s just that those choices didn’t work out.

Homeowners across the country were in a rush to sap the equity out of their homes, because loans were then easy to make. No documentation required. No proof of income. Credit scores were not even relevant. All in the name of some social-economic mission.

But in the end, someone has to pay the bill. No matter how a loan was structured, when the lender didn’t receive from the borrower what he expected from his investment, there was a loss realized in the market. Someone had to pay for that loss. It was either the person who did the lending or the person who borrowed.

The only way we could have avoided this crisis was for borrowers to pay their loans as expected. But how could borrowers pay their loans in a economy that was fueled by those loans?

It’s like watching a dog chase its own tail.

And every policy from the stimulus package to every single bank bailout has been done in a futile attempt to trick the market into believing a price doesn’t have to be paid. It’s as if prosperity were only a matter of borrowing or printing money.

It’s that type of mentality that makes me sick.

When I eat rice, I think about the farmer who planted it; I think about the guy who packaged it; the person who shipped it over; and the entrepreneur who took the risk to inventory it; and then sell it to me. Then I remember that nothing in this world is free.

Yet all these big government policies from the federal government say otherwise.

All I have to say is that, in the end, it better work!