Fat-cat unions hard to stop

Related story: "The 28 labor-states"

SEIU's blatant disregard for the spirit of campaign finance laws prompts review in left-ish Santa Cruz

In light of unprecedented spending in the District 1 supervisorial race, at least one supervisor concedes that county caps on campaign contributions are failing to limit money's role in politics, and she wants to consider removing them.

Supervisor Jan Beautz, who is leaving office this year and watched a pricey fight ensue for her seat, says hefty union spending exposed a "loophole" in the county's campaign finance limits. She says it created an inequity that needs to be addressed.

"This isn't fair. You have one group giving as much as they want," Beautz said. "It seems to me that if we didn't have the caps on other contributors, everybody could just give what they want. That seems more fair."

Beautz says she plans to schedule a discussion of the county's campaign finance laws with her colleagues on the Board of Supervisors. A date has not been set.

The issue follows roughly $60,000 of spending in October by the Service Employees International Union on behalf of supervisor candidate John Leopold, who won Tuesday's race.

The union money was reported as "independent expenditures," which means it can't be given directly to a candidate, only spent on his behalf, but it enjoys immunity from county campaign finance laws.

Direct contributions, by contrast, are limited to $250 per person and $600 per group.

Beautz, who has served on the board for 20 years, says there's always been an implicit agreement among candidates to stick to the smaller sums and eschew independent expenditures. But if that understanding is lost, she insists the rules need to be changed.

"Our caps on spending have served this county well. But I'm afraid a Pandora's box has been opened," Beautz said. "This has changed the landscape completely."

Big money hard to stop

The issue of big money in local politics is not unique to Santa Cruz.

"Money is going to find its way where it needs to go," said Denise Roth Barber, research director of the National Institute on Money in State Politics. "As long as there are independent expenditures, contribution limits are not going to stop the flow of special interest money."

Government is prohibited from limiting independent expenditures, with the Supreme Court ruling that spending is an expression of free speech. Independent expenditures, though, can't be spent in coordination with the campaign they're targeting, as that would be construed as a direct contribution.

The difference between independent expenditures and contributions is sometimes fuzzy, however, and the matter is not commonly prosecuted, confirmed officials at the California Fair Political Practices Commission.

Some counties, like neighboring Monterey County, do not have campaign contribution limits. There, campaigns for supervisor positions can run several hundred-thousand dollars.

Locally, campaign spending has been more tame, with races rarely topping $100,000.

"Keeping spending in scope with the community," says former county Supervisor Gary Patton, is the intent of the county's contribution caps, which were established during his tenure.

The 1976 law limited direct contributions to $100 per person.

Despite the presence of independent expenditures, Patton sees little reason to abandon county limits. Having some controls on spending is better than none, he said. And even when independent money comes, he added, voters serve as the necessary check.

"If people in Live Oak think that their supervisor is being bought and sold, there's a real good possibility that they'll vote against him," Patton said.

This year's union spending on behalf of Leopold, an amount not seen in a supervisor race before, provided a more than 50 percent boost to the nearly $100,000 the campaign collected on its own. His opponent Betty Danner also raised nearly $100,000 but had no independent expenditures.

New campaign finance rules

Beyond eliminating caps outright, other options exist for trying to prevent disproportionate amounts of money from slipping into local politics.

"I think there's a middle ground," said Fred Keeley, a former county supervisor who has worked on state campaign finance reform.

One alternative, Keeley said, would be to maintain the current limits, but establish a trigger that removes them if independent expenditures come in.

Another possibility is raising the current limits, which haven't been changed in at least a decade, an option that Beautz said she will also consider.

Keeley agreed that a renewed discussion of the issue was a good idea.

Representatives with SEIU Local 521, which represents nearly 2,000 county employees, said there's no plan to continue spending the sums they recently spent, but it could happen.

"I don't expect it will be a regular occurrence, because there are limited resources," said member Jim Heaney. "But if the situation warrants it ..."

Union expenditures are common in supervisor races elsewhere, like Santa Clara County.

A merger of the local SEIU chapter two years ago into a larger, regional chapter, which includes Santa Clara County, has meant better political strategizing and more resources for labor in Santa Cruz County.


Union secret-ballot news - Nov. 9

Bookmark Secret-Ballot News posts: herecard-check: hereEFCA: here

The Union News presents:
Stories-of-the-day concerning Organized Labor's #1 priority.

'If you want a depression,' pass union bill ... The president of one of the country's oldest forest-product companies fears Tuesday's Democratic victory will prolong a painful, but necessary shrinkage of his industry. (oregonlive.com)

Unions: It's time to cash check ... After spending $400 million on the election, Big Labor wants easier organizing laws. (financialweek.com)

After Push for Obama, Unions Seek New Rules ... Thomas J. Donohue, the chamber’s president, criticized the card-check bill as “payback” that labor unions were expecting in return for their campaign efforts. (nytimes.com)

Obama's union ties, hard times could open door in Alabama's auto industry ... Called the Employee Free Choice Act, or "card check" bill, the legislation would allow a union to be certified if a majority of workers sign a card favoring the move. The bill would effectively eliminate the secret ballot election that now follows the card-signing process. (al.com)

Election result rekindles card-check debate ... The honeymoon for President-elect Barack Obama has already ended locally on one issue. (lvrj.com)

Comcast looking ahead to Obama ... President-elect Obama was helped in his historic presidential campaign by powerful Comcast opponents who also claim Democratic ties: unions ... (philly.com)

Related video: "Employee Forced Choice Act"

Ayn Rand's advice to the future

More collectivism stories: here

U.S. seduced by unionist class warfare

Saul Alinsky stories: hereMore collectivism stories: here

Four more years of failed economic policies?

This presidential election was not about what the candidates looked like, nor was it about what the candidates promised. It was about what the candidates stood for. Unfortunately, neither news media nor candidates themselves made clear in this campaign‚what their socioeconomic positions are. Except for defense, John McCain's political history has been inconsistent.

Not so, Barack Obama's. Obama has consistently supported a social and economic system in which the working class controls society politically and economically.

"Political and economic justice" are goals he has worked for in the Saul Alinsky tradition as a community organizer and as a legislator. These goals are achieved in part by community organizers throughÂpopular struggle "at the street level."

Labor unions and community action organizations are proven pathways to "progressive" political and economic power. Under a progressive government, acting on behalf of ordinary people, industrial production and financial institutions are controlled by regulation, taxation and eventually nationalization. With the resultant increased tax revenue, social welfare programs can be used to "spread the wealth around."

By necessity, such a system is based not on the needs of individuals, which are too cumbersome to assess, but rather on the needs of groups or classes.

The idea of such a government can be very attractive to those who feel disadvantaged, or who envy others more successful or wealthy.

Unfortunately, where such systems have been tried, they have resulted in economic decline, poverty, loss of individual rights, and social disintegration. Tax revenues eventually decline due to loss of incentive to invest, and jobs must be created by expanding government even more.

President-elect Obama is not a bad guy. He just believes in a political philosophy that has always failed. Who knows, maybe it will work this time. In any case, we've made our bed; now we must lie down.

- Barry Dickson, Augusta


Secret ballot on the way out in the U.S.

Related video: "Employee Forced Choice Act"
More EFCA stories: herecard-check: here

Progressives want to change the rules so unions win

Hundreds of candidates are running for federal office. When the polls close tonight, more than a hundred million Americans will have voted, all by secret ballots.

But thanks to many of the very politicians running in today’s election, millions of today’s voters could lose their right to a secret ballot in the workplace tomorrow.

It’s cynical, even by political standards, for candidates to accept today’s private votes if they support the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) — a one-bill union bailout for decades of corruption, ineptitude, and insulation from true competition.

Facing a decades-long decline in union membership, labor executives have crafted this law to strip working Americans of the right to cast a private ballot in workplace elections, as they decide whether to join a union. In place of an election, EFCA would impose a petition-like system already proven susceptible to coercion.

Related video: "Employee Forced Choice Act"

In other words, those loveable, incorruptible Teamsters can solicit employees’ support for an organizing drive in front of their peers and continue harassing them until they sign a card. Once enough employees have signed the card, the union automatically “represents” everyone.

Of course, one can hardly blame the unions for seeking this grotesque bailout, which would send millions of Americans into a union they may not want (or even know about until their dues are sent off to Washington, D.C.). It’s much easier to seek a government bailout than to reform their business model to actually serve the needs of workers.

Union officials figured out that you can’t fight City Hall, but you can buy it. Labor officers have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on this election, with EFCA as their top litmus test.

It’s get on board or get run over. If EFCA passes, their investment will have a high return: added control over a teetering economy, plus millions of new union members paying billions of dues dollars.

That’s the politics, but what about policy?

Secret ballot elections are a cornerstone of our democracy. Ending them is panned by nearly everyone. Voters in federal elections get a private vote for a reason: It’s not good for people when those with power over our lives get the ability to track and punish us based on our civic beliefs.

When it comes to choosing a union, the Supreme Court has weighed in, recognizing the superior nature of a private vote. Even union officials seem to recognize that elections are a better way to go. After all, they conduct elections when their own employees want to form a union and they demand elections when employees try to get rid of one.

Perhaps the greatest hypocrisy lies on Capitol Hill. Even EFCA’s own author in the House of Representatives, Rep. George Miller, D-CA, favors secret ballot elections for Mexican workers. Apparently they deserve basic workplace protections, but Americans do not.

While too many politicians have offered up the secret ballot on the altar of union dollars, a few have stood strong. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who fought a similar union attempt to end secret ballots for workers in his state, last week questioned Sen. Barack Obama’s support for EFCA.

“So, Senator Obama, explain to me, how can you deny Americans the right to vote by secret ballot?” he asked. “We all know that, on November 4, we all step into that voting booth, and we draw the curtain, and we all vote secretly. So, why would you deny this voting secretly to the workers of America? That is the question I have for Senator Obama.”

Sadly, it’s a question that ought to be posed to more of our nation’s politicians pandering for secret ballot votes on the one hand and preparing to shred workplace ballots with the other.

- Bret Jacobson is founder and president of Maverick Strategies LLC, a research and communications firm serving business and free-market think tanks.


Denver Post keyed forced-dues win

More worker-choice stories: here

Pro-union daily waits until after election to write something nice about worker-choice

Jonathan Coors shows no signs of slowing down after spending much of the year pushing a ballot measure that fractured the business community and tattered labor relations in Colorado.

The lanky, soft-spoken 28-year-old, a fifth-generation member of the conservative brewing family, was the face of a failed attempt to make Colorado a "right-to-work" state. The Amendment 47 effort was launched incognito last year by American Furniture Warehouse founder Jake Jabs.

Asked whether he had any regrets about working on the measure, which sought to prohibit mandatory union fees as a condition of employment, Coors didn't hesitate.

"None whatsoever," he said in an interview at a Lakewood restaurant near his home. "You don't get involved in politics or in the democratic process if you anticipate having regrets."

The measure, rejected 56 percent to 44 percent by Colorado voters Tuesday, ignited a bitter, $30 million ballot battle between organized labor and business.

In a separate interview, Jabs, a longtime right-to-work advocate, said he jump-started the measure because he believed unions were taking over statehouse politics.

Democrats, viewed as union-friendly, control both houses of the legislature. Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter also is a Democrat.

"I'm glad I tried it," said Jabs, who didn't speak publicly about his support until the final month of the campaign. "It was a wake-up call. I don't think the general public knew the unions had taken over."

Sen. Ted Harvey, R-Highlands Ranch, also a longtime right-to-work proponent, said he helped early on with strategy and fundraising before launching a failed bid for the 6th Congressional District seat.

Coors devoted personal time

Harvey confirmed that he brought Jonathan Coors and Coors' father, John, into the fold in late 2007.

CoorsTek, based in Golden, headed by John Coors and where Jonathan Coors works as a program manager, contributed $520,000 to the effort.

After Harvey approached the Coors family about financial support, Jonathan decided to devote his personal time to the measure.

Jonathan hired political consultants from Goddard Claussen in Sacramento, Calif., to run the campaign. He worked in California politics from 2002 to 2005, spending nearly three years on Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's advance team.

"One of the things I always admired about Gov. Schwarzenegger was that he was who he was on-screen and off-screen, or in front of the media and in the privacy of whatever activity is going on," Coors said. "So I learned that in politics if you believe in something and are genuine about it, then people are going to have a tendency to want to follow you."

Coors speaks passionately about why a right-to-work law would be good for Colorado. He believes unions hinder business' ability to interact with their employees and optimize production, serving as an unnecessary go-between.

Opponents referred to Amendment 47 as the "right-to-work-for-less" measure because, they said, it would have weakened labor's resources and ability to negotiate on behalf of employees.

Coors raised funds, sought endorsements, and rebuffed pressure from elected officials and business leaders to withdraw the measure, all while working on a master's in business administration at the University of Denver, which he received in September.

"I worked hard to pass right-to- work in Colorado," he said.

But it didn't gain full support from the business community. The Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce opposed the measure, though the group didn't spend any money to campaign against it.

Proponents, however, are still upset about the chamber's position.

"I give them a lot of credit for the defeat," said John Berry, an attorney who drafted the ballot language for Amendment 47.

Right-to-work effort remains

Chamber president Joe Blake has said the prospect of supporting Amendment 47 was outweighed by the danger of having voters approve several union-backed countermeasures, which were ultimately withdrawn.

He also said Amendment 47 was unnecessary because of Colorado's Labor Peace Act, which already makes it tougher for unions to mandate union fees.

In fact, Blake said the chamber may push to put the Labor Peace Act into the state constitution.

"It has served us extraordinarily well," Blake said. "We'd like to take what's best and make it more permanent."

Steve Welchert, a political consultant for the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7, said unions would oppose that effort.

"We just taught them one lesson on right-to-work, and we'd be happy to teach them another lesson," Welchert said.

Dan Pilcher, chief operating officer of the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry, a supporter of Amendment 47, said the relationship between business and labor is now "more difficult than it has been in prior years."

The door isn't closed on another drive for right-to-work in Colorado.

Jabs said "right-to-work will raise its head again" if unions are successful in passing the federal Employee Free Choice Act, which would make it easier to organize workplaces. It would eliminate the secret-ballot requirement in workplace elections, making it mandatory, instead of voluntary, for businesses to recognize a union if a majority of their employees sign a union card.

"The only defense against that is right-to-work," Jabs said.

As for Coors, he said he has had aspirations since high school to be in Congress. But he added that he sees "the value that a private citizen can have in the political process."

"I love politics. I will do this forever," Coors said. "I think it's our prerogative and our obligation as younger members of society to get involved in the political process."


U.S. condemned to repeat the past

More collectivism stories: here

Could Obama's win mean a new Progressive Era?

Ronald Reagan called them the nine most terrifying words in the English language: 'I'm from the government, and I'm here to help.'

Where Reagan saw fear, voters on Nov. 4 saw hope that the historic victory by Democrat Barack Obama could herald a generational shift in U.S. government.

Nearly three decades after Reagan sparked a conservative transformation, many of Obama's supporters hope the first president born in the 1960s will deliver an equally defining progressive shift.

The shift could change almost every facet of American life. Obama's backers envision an empowered federal government squarely in control of the presidency and both chambers of Congress that will:

• Make affordable health care available to all Americans, including most of the 47 million who have no insurance.

• Narrow the gap between rich and poor, which is at its largest divide since the 1920s, through higher corporate taxes and income taxes on the wealthy.

• Provide strict oversight of everything from Wall Street to power plants in a rejection of the Reagan ethos that markets should run free.

To be sure, such a transformation faces many obstacles, including an electorate that still leans center-right on many issues and remains dubious of the government's ability to solve problems. Indeed, while President George W. Bush's 29 percent approval rating helped usher Obama to victory, Americans' approval of Congress is even dimmer: a record-low 14 percent.

U.S. Rep. Tom Davis of Virginia, a leading moderate Republican who is retiring this year, warned that the new blue states on the American political map would quickly revert to red if Obama and Congress pursue a strong left agenda.

Yet one of the characteristics of a transformational shift in government is that old rules no longer apply.

During the Gilded Age following the Civil War, industrialists such as Carnegie, Rockefeller and Vanderbilt loomed large over America. But in the Progressive Era, which began in 1890, the nation moved to tame business and industry excess by tightening regulations and favoring labor unions.

Obama's ascension to the White House also mirrors another hallmark of earlier progressive eras: mass involvement by citizens, particularly young voters and independents.

But plenty of obstacles stand in the way of a new Progressive Era.

The only Democrat to win the presidency in the past three decades, Bill Clinton, governed more as a centrist than as a progressive, particularly after universal health care, a bedrock of his 1992 campaign, failed in a Democratic Congress. Two years into his first term, Republicans won control of Congress, marking the first time in four decades that the GOP ruled the House.

Clinton's 'Third Way' philosophy of governance combined elements of market liberalism with democratic socialism, and garnered criticism from progressives who saw his policies as a betrayal.

'Clinton defined a Democratic philosophy that had broader, more moderate elements than the New Deal,' Al From, founder and CEO of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council, said, referring to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's package of Depression-era government programs. 'We took the tenants of progressivism but with a modern twist.'

Yet, more so than in decades, the time may be right for a transformative movement.

Many economists see the current crisis as the largest seen since Roosevelt succeeded President Herbert Hoover in the throes of the Great Depression. Hoover's failure to respond to the Depression is widely believed to have cost him the 1932 election.

There were echoes of Hoover in Republican John McCain's statements well into September that the 'fundamentals' of the economy are strong. Poll after poll during the campaign showed voters believed Obama was far better equipped than McCain to handle an economy in recession.

Yet campaigning and governing are two very different skills. Obama faces enormous challenges, including a $455 billion budget deficit; a struggle for survival by bedrock corporations such as General Motors and Ford; a housing market that may yet hit bottom; and unemployment that threatens to reach levels not seen in decades.

In many ways, Obama echoed Reagan's 1980 campaign in which he famously asked Americans, 'Are you better off than you were four years ago?'

Like Obama, Reagan also faced long odds that he could become a transformational president. In the first two years of Reagan's presidency, the nation was in a severe recession, its unemployment rate surged to 10 percent and industrial plants lay idle. Reagan also faced a seemingly intractable Cold War and threats from a radicalized Middle East.

Yet when Reagan left office after eight years, a renewed sense of national pride and a healthier economy had replaced the malaise he inherited. The Reagan Revolution swayed American politics for a generation.

The historic parallel many Obama supporters see is Roosevelt. Roosevelt's New Deal initiatives created work relief programs that put paychecks in Americans' wallets, a refinancing program that kept homes out of foreclosure and a government safety net that put food on the tables of the neediest Americans.

Under Roosevelt, the government also tightened regulation of American banks and other economic institutions.

Yet Obama may more closely model another progressive, Theodore Roosevelt, president from 1901 to 1909 during the height of the Progressive Era. During that era, which ran from the 1890s to the end of World War I in 1918, the nation moved to tame business and industry excess, to use government to help solve social and economic problems and to involve more people directly in the political process, all elements of Obama's campaign.

'He ran his campaign in an extremely decentralized way with lots of ways for people to participate,' mirroring the Progressive Era, said Peter Levine of the Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service at Tufts University.

Thousands of those who volunteered for the Obama campaign are the nation's youngest voters, ages 18 to 26. The oldest of the so-called Millennial generation, born between 1982 and 2003, were 7 during Reagan's last year as president.

They comprise the first generation in at least 40 years in which more members label themselves liberals than conservatives, according to the media research firm Frank N. Magid Associates.

Civic and political engagement defines the generation, much as it defined their great-grandparents who fought in World War II.

'Our notion is that they will revitalize our institutions and government,' said Michael D. Hais, a fellow at NDN, a progressive advocacy organization, who co-wrote 'Millennial Makeover: MySpace, YouTube and the Future of American Politics.'

With midterm elections occurring less than two years into Obama's term, he faces a political stopwatch.

'He can't just do what Democratic interest groups and the Democratic leadership wants,' From said. 'He has to be bigger than his party.'


More than half on the dole by 2012

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Mark Steyn: 'Center-right' America lurches further left

"Give me liberty or give me death!" "Live free or die!"

What's that? Oh, don't mind me. I'm just trying out slogans for the 2012 campaign and seeing which one would get the biggest laughs.

My Republican friends are now saying, oh, not to worry, look at the exit polls, this is still a "center-right" country. Americans didn't vote to go left, they voted to go cool. It was a "Dancing With The Stars" election: Obama's a star, and everyone wants to dance with him. It doesn't mean they're suddenly gung-ho for left-wingery.

Up to a point.

Unlike those excitable countries where the peasants overrun the presidential palace, settled democratic societies rarely vote to "go left." Yet oddly enough that's where they've all gone. In its assumptions about the size of the state and the role of government, almost every advanced nation is more left than it was, and getting lefter.

Even in America, federal spending (in inflation-adjusted 2007 dollars) has gone from $600 billion in 1965 to $3 trillion today. The Heritage Foundation put it in a convenient graph: It's pretty much a straight line across four decades, up, up, up. Doesn't make any difference who controls Congress, who's in the White House. The government just grows and grows, remorselessly. Every two years, the voters walk out of their town halls and school gyms and tell the exit pollsters that three-quarters of them are "moderates" or "conservatives" (i.e, the center and the right) and barely 20 percent are "liberals." And then, regardless of how the vote went, big government just resumes its inexorable growth.

"The greatest dangers to liberty," wrote Justice Brandeis, "lurk in the insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well meaning but without understanding."

Now who does that remind you of?

Ha! Trick question! Never mind Obama, it's John McCain. He encroached on our liberties with the constitutional abomination of McCain-Feingold. Well-meaning but without understanding, he proposed that the federal government buy up all these junk mortgages so that people would be able to stay in "their" homes. And this is the "center-right" candidate? It's hard for Republicans to hammer Obama as a socialist when their own party's nationalizing the banks and its presidential nominee is denouncing the private sector for putting profits before patriotism. That's why Joe the Plumber struck a chord: He briefly turned a one-and-a-half party election back into a two-party choice again.

If you went back to the end of the 19th century and suggested to, say, William McKinley that one day Americans would find themselves choosing between a candidate promising to guarantee your mortgage and a candidate promising to give "tax cuts" to millions of people who pay no taxes he would scoff at you for concocting some patently absurd H.G. Wells dystopian fantasy. Yet it happened. Slowly, remorselessly, government metastasized to the point where it now seems entirely normal for Peggy Joseph of Sarasota, Fla., to vote for Obama because "I won't have to worry about putting gas in my car. I won't have to worry about paying my mortgage."

While few electorates consciously choose to leap left, a couple more steps every election, and eventually societies reach a tipping point. In much of the West, it's government health care. It changes the relationship between state and citizen into something closer to pusher and junkie. Henceforth, elections are fought over which party is proposing the shiniest government bauble: If you think President-elect Obama's promise of federally subsidized day care was a relatively peripheral part of his platform, in Canada in the election before last it was the dominant issue. Yet America may be approaching its tipping point even more directly. In political terms, the message of the gazillion-dollar bipartisan bailout was a simple one: "Individual responsibility" and "self-reliance" are for chumps. If Goldman Sachs and AIG and Bear Stearns are getting government checks to "stay in their homes" (and boardrooms, and luxury corporate retreats), why shouldn't Peggy Joseph?

I don't need Barack Obama's help to "spread the wealth around." I spread my wealth around every time I hire somebody, expand my business, or just go to the general store and buy a quart of milk and loaf of bread. As far as I know, only one bloated plutocrat declines to spread his wealth around, and that's Scrooge McDuck, whose principal activity in Disney cartoons was getting into his little bulldozer and plowing back and forth over a mountain of warehoused gold and silver coins. Don't know where he is these days. On the board at Halliburton, no doubt. But most of the beleaguered band of American capitalists do not warehouse their wealth in McDuck fashion. It's not a choice between hoarding and spreading, but a choice between who spreads it best: an individual free to make his own decisions about investment and spending, or Barney Frank. I don't find that a difficult question to answer. More to the point, put Barney & Co. in charge of the spreading, and there'll be a lot less to spread.

I disagree with my fellow conservatives who think the Obama-Pelosi-Reid-Frank liberal behemoth will so obviously screw up that they'll be routed in two or four years' time. The president-elect's so-called "tax cut" will absolve 48 percent of Americans from paying any federal income tax at all, while those who are left will pay more. Just under half the population will be, as Daniel Henninger pointed out in The Wall Street Journal, on the dole.

By 2012, it will be more than half on the dole, and this will be an electorate where the majority of the electorate will be able to vote itself more lollipops from the minority of their compatriots still dumb enough to prioritize self-reliance, dynamism and innovation over the sedating cocoon of the Nanny State. That is the death of the American idea – which, after all, began as an economic argument: "No taxation without representation" is a great rallying cry. "No representation without taxation" has less mass appeal. For how do you tell an electorate living high off the entitlement hog that it's unsustainable, and you've got to give some of it back?

At that point, America might as well apply for honorary membership in the European Union. It will be a nation at odds with the spirit of its founding, and embarking on decline from which there are few escape routes. In 2012, the least we deserve is a choice between the collectivist assumptions of the Democrats, and a candidate who stands for individual liberty – for economic dynamism not the sclerotic "managed capitalism" of Germany; for the First Amendment, not Canadian-style government regulation of approved opinion; for self-reliance and the Second Amendment, not the security state in which Britons are second only to North Koreans in the number of times they're photographed by government cameras in the course of going about their daily business.

In Forbes last week, Claudia Rosett issued a stirring defense of individual liberty. That it should require a stirring defense at all is a melancholy reflection on this election season. Live free – or die from a thousand beguiling caresses of Nanny State sirens.

- Mark Steyn


New Zealand voters reject the Left

More collectivism stories: here

U.S. voters do not yet regard Obama as a Leftist

New Zealand's Prime Minister elect John Key said Sunday he wants to be sworn in by November 17 so he can attend the APEC leaders' summit in Peru five days later.

Key's centre-right National Party was swept to power in a national election Saturday and he will govern with the support of the conservative ACT and United Future parties. The vote count following the heavy defeat of Prime Minister Helen Clark's Labour Party will not be finalised until November 22.

But Key said it was important New Zealand was represented at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, which starts the same day, because of the seriousness of the global financial crisis.

Preliminary election figures showed National won 45.5 per cent of the vote, or 59 seats in the 122-seat Parliament, with ACT's five seats and United Future's one ensuring a majority.

Key confirmed ministerial posts for United Future leader Peter Dunne and ACT leader Rodney Hide.

"They will certainly be ministers, whether they are ministers inside cabinet is something I think we need to discuss with them," Key told a press conference.

The pair would serve inside cabinet if they were part of a formal coalition but outside if there was a looser alliance with National.

Key told reporters in Auckland he would also be seeking to include the indigenous Maori Party and its five seats within the government.

"It would be my preference if that was possible but obviously that's dependent on our ability to negotiate a successful agreement with the Maori Party," he said Sunday.

During his victory speech the previous night, the former investment banker who only entered Parliament in 2002 said he wanted his government to serve the interests of all New Zealanders.


How to eliminate freedom and prosperity

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Portugal's PM bucks U.S. conventional wisdom

Reacting to calls from some Latin American leaders for a return to Marxist government to tackle the world’s financial woes, Portugal’s prime minister, José Sécrates, says so-called state capitalism died with the fall of the Berlin Wall as it offered neither freedom nor prosperity.

Prime Minister Sócrates told the Ibero-America summit late last week in the El Salvador capital: “I want to say clearly that [the international financial crisis] is the failure of thinking and of a single model…But this model is the second one to be defeated.

“There was one that failed around the year 1989. And if wild capitalism is today showing its deficiencies, which must be corrected, state capitalism proved at other times that it didn’t offer freedom or prosperity.”

The Portuguese leader’s comments were in direct response to earlier calls from the presidents of Bolivia and Nicaragua, Evo Morales and Hugo Chavez, respectively, for the resurrection of Marxist-style management of national economies.

The world’s present economic turmoil is “serious, profound and global and nobody will emerge unscathed,” Prime Minister Sócrates told leaders from 22 Spanish-speaking states in Latin America, Brazil and his country’s Iberian neighbour, Spain.

Citing British economist J.M. Keynes’ advocacy of state economic intervention, Socrates said the current turmoil in financial markets offers an ideal opportunity to reform world financial bodies like the IMF that have clearly failed to meet their responsibilities.

The world wide economic slowdown and financial and banking market collapse “has already ceased to be a problem of banks to become a problem for families and firms.”

“Everything must change and all will change,” said Socrates, stressing: “This is not an era of change, it’s a change of era.”

Prime Minister Sócrates also expressed relief over his country’s adoption of the EU’s single currency.

“I don’t want to think about what this crisis would mean for Portugal is we weren’t in the euro zone.”

Ibero-American heads of state and government wrapped up their three-day meeting Friday by inking a slew of accords in areas including health and employment, the two flagship themes of the San Salvador summit.

The bloc’s next summit takes place in 2009 in Cascais, Portugal under the banner ‘Innovation and New Technologies’ at a venue to be announced by Prime Minister Sócrates at the close of the El Salvador gathering.

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