The £2 Workaround

Last February, between Bath and Bristol, the A431 suffered from a “landslip.” (I assume that’s Brit-speak for “landslide.”) With the road closed, folks on either side of the slide had to drive around “the long way.”

The government body responsible for the road said the repair wouldn’t be finished till the end of the year.

So one commuter, businessman Mike Watts, took matters into his own hands. Contracting with the farmer who owned the adjacent fields, he built a road parallel to the old one. And, with the apparent blessings of the road authority, set up his 400-yard toll road to make up the difference. A private, pay-for-use “traffic revision.”

He charges £2 per trip for a car, and just celebrated his hundred thousandth car. He’s well on his way to recovering his costs.

Unfortunately, those costs have included some payola demands (er, fees) from the government.

On mises.org Matt McCaffrey lauds the success of this private road venture, making the point that, yes, private enterprise can build roads.

But we all knew that. Private roads, turnpikes, toll roads — they were once quite common, and could become common again. This is the first in a century in Britain, though.

What this story demonstrates? Let another enterprising Brit, 19th century sociologist Herbert Spencer, explain it: “Unlike private enterprise which quickly modifies its actions to meet emergencies . . . the law-made instrumentality lumbers on under all varieties of circumstances at its habitual rate.”

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Townhall: And the Hypocritical Horse-Trading You Rode In On

This weekend on Townhall.com? The Common Sense of a broken stalemate in Virginia. Click on over. Then come back here, for more information.

Video: The Long Con in Arkansas

A video about three legislature-referred ballot measures in Arkansas, one of which, Issue 3, is NOT like the others. Video courtesy of Paul Jacob.

Grand Rapids’ Grand Alliance

Two incredible activists in Grand Rapids, Michigan, have achieved the impossible. Through their hard work in gathering over 10,000 voter signatures on a petition, Rina Baker and Bonnie Burke have united big business and big labor in perfect harmony.

Union bosses and the bigs of biz are now funding a united campaign.

Their ubiquitous mailers speak against the “hijacking of our local democratic process” and sinister forces trying to “change our city charter, erode local control and silence your voice,” warning Grand Rapids residents: “Don’t let your vote be shredded.”

Shredded votes? What specific issue are they talking about?

Well, this well-funded business/labor campaign has purposely left out two words that, if uttered, would obliterate their entire effort.

Those two little words? Term limits.

The law that Rina Baker and Bonnie Burke have petitioned onto the ballot, for a public vote? An eight-year limit for mayor and council members.

Nothing brings powerful special interests together like fear of term limits.

The president of the United States is limited to eight years, but Andy Johnston, the Chamber of Commerce’s vice president of government affairs, argues that, “Particularly at the local level, it takes time to learn the ins and outs of city government.”

“In politics you develop relationships with different people,” explains Kent-Ionia Labor Council President Sean Egan. “When you continually replace good politicians for the sake of having new people, you lose the wisdom and experience and you end up with policy created by other groups.”

You mean policy supported by folks “other” than big business and big labor?

Oh, my!

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Paying Yourself with Money You Stole

Did Viking raiders hire attorneys to stipulate, before each raid, that plundering English monasteries and churches would be hunky-dory?

No. The Vikings just raided and looted. They didn’t also assure their victims, “Hey, we talked to the lawyer and he said it was fine.”

Thanks at least for that, Scandinavian marauders. Because why add insult to injury?

Yet U.S. Senator Kay Hagan hired some high-priced barrister to bleat that looking the other way while her husband scooped up hundreds of thousands of our tax dollars is “appropriate.” Yep. According to senatorial spokesman Sadie Weiner: “Kay . . . had no part in helping [her husband’s company JDC] receive these grants. Her only involvement was when she made sure that a respected ethics attorney was consulted to ensure that it was appropriate. . . .”

No part! Nobody involved in distributing the boodle knew he was married to a U.S. Senator! Had no way to know!

Ugh.

Per investigative work done by Politico and others:

In August 2010, Senator Kay Hagan’s husband Chip and their son founded a solar energy company, Solardyne.

Weeks later, in September, JDC Manufacturing — a company part-owned by Chip Hagan, the senator’s husband — paid $250,000 in federal “stimulus” dollars to Solardyne to install solar panels at a JDC building. Short version of preceding sentence: Mr. Hagan paid himself $250,000 with money taken from us (you, me, your neighbor, my neighbor).

Did I say “ugh”?

Two suggestions:

  1. end all “stimulus” taxing and “stimulus” spending;
  2. eject Senator Hagan from the U.S. Senate.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

An Ebola Education

Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) faces a tough re-election contest. Following his campaign, MSNBC’s Kasie Hunt inquired: “Do you think the Obama Administration has done an appropriate job handling the Ebola crisis?”

The senator responded with the universal politician distress call: “Uuuhhhhmmmmmm.”

Then Pryor stumbled ahead: “I would say that . . . it’s hard to know, ah, because, um . . . I haven’t heard the latest briefing on that to know all . . . [inaudible] can somehow read the paper and all. My impression is that we have people over there both from CDC and other medical-type people and even some engineers to try to build . . . um, you know, medical facilities. That’s what they need over there; they need the medical infrastructure.”

When Hunt asked whether the Administration had been “aggressive enough,” the senator returned to: “Uuhhhmmmmm. Again, I’d have to see the latest numbers.”

“Oh my god,” uber-liberal host Mika Brzezinski reacted to Pryor’s stumbling. “She asked a gentle question . . . and the guy just collapsed.”

“What was that, Kasie?” laughed Joe Scarborough. “Why were those questions so hard for the senator to answer?”

“I was a little surprised . . .” Kasie chuckled, noting that Sen. Pryor had earlier run a ludicrous TV spot accusing his Republican opponent, U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, of voting “against preparing America for pandemics like Ebola.”

One might think the incumbent senator actually followed and cared about the effort to combat a horrible disease that could kill untold people. Instead, it appears he knows Ebola only as a brickbat with which to slug a political opponent in hopes of staying in power.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Principled, and Un-

Can one “rise above principle”?

Aren’t most (all?) who think they “rise above principle” actually sinking below it?

Economist David Henderson called our attention to this notion in reference to legal theorist Richard Epstein’s call for a war against ISIS. On AntiWar.com, he challenged Epstein’s support for the president’s war on ISIS on constitutional grounds, and wondered why constitutional scholar Epstein hadn’t addressed this concern.

Then Epstein addressed it — using that curious phrase “rise above principle.”

Henderson’s response? Characteristically astute:

In which times of crisis do you need to “rise above principle?” What are the criteria for doing so? If you don’t specify criteria, then I think you’re saying that anything goes. If you do specify criteria, don’t those criteria amount to a principle? In that latter case, are you really rising above principle?

It’s not just a matter of constitutionality, though. Just war requires coherent goals. And a debate and vote in Congress over going to war against ISIS could help establish those goals.

Clearly, the continuing interventions in the Islamic East have suffered from massive confusion. A year ago, President Obama called for regime change in Syria and wanted to bomb government forces; today, we are bombing ISIS, the main opposition to that same government.

Sinking below principle on matters of warfare is the least excusable abandonment of law. It’s the suppression of hasty warfare — individual, group, or national — upon which the rule of law rests. Upon which civilization rests.

There’s no “rising above.” There’s no acceptable abandonment. There is only sticking to principle upon the issues that matter most.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.