ABOLISH PROPERTY TAXes
Securing property rights against government infringement
“If history could teach us anything, it would be that private property is inextricably linked with civilization”
― Ludwig von Mises
You own yourself, the fruits of your labor, and the means by which you produce those fruits – that is, your property. Therefore libertarians unequivocally stand for the rights of all people to own and keep their property and we resolutely oppose the confiscation thereof by the State for any reason, including eminent domain, civil asset forfeiture, or failure to pay land or property taxes. Land is one of the most important categories of property, as it is one of the most essential means of living and production. Being required to pay taxes on your land essentially turns you into a renter of your own property.
The people most hurt by taxation on land and property are seniors on fixed incomes who often sacrifice quality of life for fear of losing their homes for being unable to pay these taxes, and low-income people struggling to make ends meet. Home ownership is one of the most effective means for lifting people out of multi-generational poverty. People take more pride in homes they own, and therefore communities where more people own their homes tend to be safer and more appealing. High property tax also raises the cost of rent, making it more difficult for people of low-income to live comfortably without relying on government assistance. For these reasons, I am calling for the immediate abolition of all taxes on land or property for any purpose, including for education. Funding education through taxation on property value is classist, as communities with lower property values – poor communities – inevitably collect less in property tax and therefore their schools are not nearly as well funded as schools in wealthier communities. This method of school funding is also racist, as people of color tend to disproportionately live in impoverished communities. Property tax-funded education results in unjust inequalities based on race and class.
Other candidates in this race are proposing ideas to reduce property taxes – a truly multi-partisan issue! While I agree in spirit with my esteemed competitors and think that many of their propositions are good ones, the nature of government is to always increase taxation. So while a 30% reduction in property taxes would be wonderful in the short run, property taxes will inevitably rise again somewhere down the road. That is why I will call for an amendment to the Constitution of Pennsylvania to permanently abolish taxation on homesteads. Senate Bill 76 is a fine start for abolishing property taxes and if elected I will make it my number one priority to get it passed.
I favor the conditional elimination of land tax on rental properties provided landlords reduce the cost of rent at least 70% of the money saved by the land tax elimination.
ABOLISH OCCUPATIONAL LICENSING
Championing entrepreneurial innovation against bureaucratic hindrance
“The end of law is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom.”
― John Locke
You own yourself and the fruits of your labor. Therefore you have the right to engage in honest commerce, innovate to meet market demands, and make a living for you and your family. You should not need to get a permission slip from the government to provide goods or services in the marketplace. Presently, the government requires you to purchase “licenses” to practice certain occupations or provide certain goods and services. In the 1950's, only 5% of US workers were required to hold occupational licensing. Today, that number is 23%. Here in Pennsylvania we have 255 types of occupational licenses overseen by twenty-nine boards. Many types of licenses are only available in limited quantity, artificially capping the number of people allowed to work in a certain field. This creates an unnecessary barrier to entry into the marketplace, prevents new jobs from being created and prevents the kind of competition that drives down costs. This also creates a situation where people of lower socioeconomic status have a harder time entering certain lucrative fields of work and ensures that those with means maintain a functional monopoly on certain parts of the market, as lower income people cannot afford the time and money required for the formal education, certification, and licensing fees required for many professions. Some licenses don't even require any sort of education or certification to obtain; they simply require you to pay a fee. A fee to the government simply for the permission to practice an occupation. That's called a racket.
Instead of licenses, I favor voluntary certification for most trades. The State can create evidence-based standards of best practice for the occupations currently bound by involuntary licenses and then businesses can choose to have themselves certified or not, so long as the status of their certification is made known to potential consumers. This is already how the supplement market, for example, is regulated. Supplements that have not been evaluated by the FDA are required to state as much on their label. And, wonder of wonders, millions of people take unregulated supplements every day and don't get sick or die because of them. We do not need the State to be our nanny, nor do we need the State to be the hall-monitor of the marketplace, determining who does and doesn't get in.
COMPREHENSIVE CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM
Ensuring the protection of civil rights and liberties of all people
“‘Emergencies’ have always been the pretext on which the safeguards of individual liberty have been eroded.”
― Ludwig von Mises
You own yourself. Therefore you have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of your own happiness. Nobody has the right to rob you of any of those things. This is the meaning of justice: that everyone respects the rights of everyone else. And in the case of someone violating another person's rights, justice demands fair and adequate recompense. Justice can be maintained with or without government, but government in this country was instituted to ensure justice, that is, to ensure that our inherent human rights are respected. Because we have the right to liberty, any law which criminalizes behaviors that do not violate other people's rights are themselves a violation of our rights. In short, if there is no victim, there is no crime. Any law prohibiting victimless behavior subverts the only just role of government in our lives. Laws against victimless behavior turns what is supposed to be an instrument of justice into an instrument of injustice and oppression of the people. Therefore, libertarians call for the decriminalization of all victimless behaviors and for the immediate pardon of those currently serving penalty for victimless crimes.
Presently we are seeing a crisis of injustice in our country today being perpetrated by the very institutions established in the name of ensuring justice – the criminal justice system. The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world (astounding for a place we like to call “the land of the free”). We account for roughly 4.4% of the world's population yet we house 22% of the world's prison population. We hold 2.2 million people in our nation's jail's and prisons. That is a 500% increase from 40 years ago. Are Americans just more prone to criminal behavior? I don't think so. Believe it or not, crimes rates have steadily decreased since the early 1990's. Our incarceration crisis is the direct result of the failed drug war and the wrong-headed “tough on crime” initiative. What's more, this crisis of mass incarceration doesn't afflict all Americans equally. Poor and minority communities are disproportionately hurt by our current injustice system. People of color make up only 37% of the population and yet 67% of our prison population are people of color. Black men are 6 times more likely to be incarcerated than white men, and they tend to be sentenced more severely than white men for committing the exact same crimes. Black Americans are 8 times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police and while they make up 13% of the population, they account for 31% of those killed during police encounters. Whether this phenomenon stems from conscious racial bias or not, the whole criminal justice system is broken. How can we fix it?
In the first place we need to end the war on drugs. There are more people incarcerated today due to drugs than the total number of people incarcerated for any crime in 1980. Despite this, drug use and abuse has only continued to increase. Maybe throwing sick people into cages doesn't work. Drug use and abuse should be considered a public health issue and not a criminal justice issue, and in countries where drugs have been completely decriminalized we have seen a precipitous decrease in death, disease, and crime related to drugs. Ending the war on drugs would also be beneficial to law enforcement, as it would free up their resources to preventing and solving real crimes – the ones with victims. There is no reason our officers need to waste their time and put their safety at risk to stop grown adults from smoking a plant. We also need to abolish mandatory minimum sentencing, aka the “three strikes” policy. A big factor contributing to mass incarceration is the fact that sentencing has gotten harsher and people are serving longer terms in prison. This is directly the result of mandatory minimums.
How can we reduce the number of fatal interactions between the police and the public, in a way which keeps both groups safe? Stop forcing police to enforce laws against victimless behavior and put in place a real system of accountability for police who abuse their authority. The power of a badge and a gun is a sacred trust, and there should be a zero tolerance policy for the abuse of that power. I lift up the ten-point platform of Campaign Zero as an excellent template for the kinds of law enforcement reform that will protect citizens and officers alike: https://www.joincampaignzero.org/solutions/
Prison should be reserved for only the most dangerous people in society. We should focus on rehabilitating people rather than punishing them. And where there is no victim, the government should have no involvement at all.
ABOLISH THE LIQUOR CONTROL BOARD
Upholding personal liberty against indefensible over regulation
“A lot of people out there pay good lip service to the idea of personal freedom... right up to the point that someone tries to do something that they don't personally approve of.”
― Neal Boortz
You own yourself, your body, and the consequences of your choices. Therefore you should be free to choose what you do or do not put into your body, so long as in the process you are not harming another person. Free human beings also should not require permission from politicians or bureaucrats to engage in economic activity, including the production or sale of alcohol.
Pennsylvania has some of the most restrictive and intrusive laws regarding alcohol in the entire country. In fact, the CATO Institute has ranked Pennsylvania 49th in the nation regarding alcohol freedom. We're one of only seventeen States in the Union to have a State-claimed monopoly on the wholesaling or retailing of alcohol. The State issues only a limited number of liquor licenses, so by the law of supply and demand these licenses are prohibitively expensive for people of ordinary means who aspire to open a business involving alcohol. And what does Pennsylvania have to show for it? Do we have lower rates of alcohol use and abuse than most other states? No. Do we have less drunk driving than most other states? No. In fact we're at roughly the national average regarding all of the above.
So who does the Liquor Control Board serve if it isn't reducing alcohol abuse with its policies? The LCB functions as a racket to generate revenue for the State and to ensure that only the wealthy class are able to make it in the liquor business. Ending the LCB's monopoly on the sale of wine and spirits will strengthen Pennsylvania's economy by creating jobs as entrepreneurs seize on the new opportunities presented by a free market for liquor. Businesses will begin to move out of less-alcohol friendly states and into Pennsylvania. And with the new, guaranteed stream of income from alcohol sales gas stations, convenience stores, and restaurants will thrive, able to hire more employees and raise wages and benefits. What could compliment our beautiful tourist areas more than an explosion of wineries and craft breweries?
In short, the LCB is expensive to run and does not provide a very large return on investment. It hinders business growth and job creation. It is high time we get rid of it.
LEGALIZE Cannabis And INDUSTRIAL HEMP
Establishing commercial and agricultural opportunities against government restrictions
“I believe in the future of agriculture, with a faith born not of words but of deeds.”
― E.M. Tiffany
You own yourself, your body, your land, and the product of your labor. Therefore it should be obvious that the government has absolutely no right to tell you what you can or can't grow, cultivate, produce, or consume on your own land. It is presently illegal in Pennsylvania to grow, sell, and manufacture products from cannabis and hemp. This is an egregious violation of your natural human rights. You have the right to be industrious and to innovate in order to provide economic stability for yourself and for your family and to meet the demands of consumers in the marketplace.
Hemp is an incredible plant. It can produce textiles and fibers for rope, canvass, clothing, and all paper products – reducing the number of trees we cut down. It is part of our national heritage: George Washington considered it to be one of the most essential crops any farmer could grow; it was used to make the sails of ships and military uniforms from the revolution up through World War II; the paper used for the Declaration of Independence was written on hemp! It can be used as a food source for people and for livestock. Some even suggest that it contains powerful medicinal properties. It can be used for sustainable, renewable fuel, reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and making our carbon footprint smaller. In fact, almost anything made from petroleum can be made with hemp – including plastics! Instead of banning certain plastic products like they are trying to do in places like California, we could instead make biodegradable plastics out of hemp. Most of us agree that fossil fuels and petroleum based products are extremely detrimental to the environment. Industrial hemp could be a critical piece to solving the ecological issues we face such as climate change and plastic litter in our oceans.
Legalizing industrial hemp would also be an enormous economic boon for Pennsylvania. Hemp legalization has already passed in the United States Senate. It is only a matter of time before it is legalized nationwide and Pennsylvania should be proactive by creating the legal framework for hemp now so that we will become the leader of the nation in hemp production. Investors will flock to our state and countless jobs will be created. State revenue from sales tax and income tax will therefore increase. And with even a small tax on hemp and cannabis sale we can make up for much of the revenues lost by the abolition of taxes on land and property.
Contrary to public perception, cannabis (or Marijuana) and hemp are not the same. They are in the same family of plants, but hemp does not contain high enough levels of THC, the primary psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, to get you “high”. Some people oppose the legalization of hemp because they mistakenly believe it can be used as a drug. I will reiterate: hemp cannot get you high. Even if you smoked a hemp joint the size of a telephone poll. That being said, I also favor the legalization of hemp's groovy cousin cannabis. I recognize that this is a non-starter for some people. Regardless of your personal opinion of whether or not a person should use cannabis recreationally the prohibition of it has led to more problems than benefits. The war on drugs has been an abysmal failure, costing trillions of dollars, ruining countless lives, justifying the abuse of our civil liberties, leading to mass incarceration, and wasting valuable law enforcement resources and putting our officers in situations of unnecessary risk. And what do we have to show for it? Less drugs on the street? Fewer overdoses? No. The war on drugs seems to have only created more of what it fights.
Alcohol and tobacco contribute to hundreds of thousands of deaths every year, and yet these substances are legal for recreational use. Cannabis on the other hand has never killed anyone. Cannabis has already been legalized in nine states plus Washington DC, and wherever it has been legalized in the US or in other countries abuse rates of not only cannabis but of other drugs has decreased. The opiate crisis in this country has reached epidemic levels, and studies have shown that the majority of people who become addicted to opiates started with prescription pain medication. If people were given a safer pain-management alternative in the form of cannabis there would be fewer cases of addiction caused by prescription opiates. This has already been proven in states such as Colorado. Furthermore, the tax revenue from cannabis sales could be used to replace some of the revenue lost by eliminating taxation on land and property. Legalizing cannabis will also mean a safer product for those who choose to consume it, as people will no longer be purchasing it from unregulated street dealers.
Ultimately you own your body and you should have the choice to use whatever recreational intoxicants you wish to use, so long as you use them responsibly and don't put others in harm's way. Legalizing cannabis and hemp will lead to safer streets, less drug addiction, a cleaner environment, innovation, job creation, a stronger economy, and more tax revenue for the State.
CUT SPENDING AND BALANCE THE BUDGET
Advocating for fiscal responsibility against government gone mad
"This is the tendency of all human governments. A departure from principle becomes a precedent for a second; that second for a third; and so on, till the bulk of society is reduced to mere automatons of misery, to have no sensibilities left but for sinning and suffering... And the fore horse of this frightful team is public debt. Taxation follows that, and in its train wretchedness and oppression”
― Thomas Jefferson
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