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Participation in the November 9 “participatory process” in Catalonia exceeded my expectations. According to reports, 2.3 million people participated in a nonbinding vote organized by volunteers, a figure that would amount to over 40% of the electorate. (No electoral roll was used for this election because of Spanish Constitutional Court rulings prohibiting the support of the Catalan government; voters had to show identification in order to vote.)

Of those who voted, 81% supported “Yes-Yes” (yes to Catalan statehood, yes to Catalan independence), 10% went “Yes-No,” and 4.5% voted “No.” Gràfic dades 3Many voters who would have otherwise voted “No” boycotted the process entirely. Still, in the last Catalan election, 3.6 million votes were cast. We could take that number to be a rough estimate of those who would actually turn out to vote in a binding referendum. Since over 1.8 million voters went for Yes-Yes in a purely nonbinding show of support, we can confidently predict that a binding referendum would yield a clear majority in favor of independence.

Another data point in favor of this conclusion is that just under 1.9 million voters voted in favor of Catalonia’s proposed new statute of autonomy in 2006, which was 73% of those voting. A binding referendum on independence would surely attract higher negative turnout, but there is no way around the conclusion that support for independence could well reach 55 or even 60% in such a vote.

What next? Catalan President Artur Mas said in a speech after the vote results were announced that he would pursue negotiations over a legally binding referendum with the Spanish state. But what will happen when the Spanish state refuses to negotiate with him, as it will assuredly do? Mas seems to be leaving the door open to a prolonged period of stasis, which is exactly what the Spanish government wants, thinking as they apparently do that the Catalans will eventually “return to sanity” if they simply wait long enough. On the other hand, he could simply be giving the Spanish government one last chance to negotiate, and if that fails, to go ahead with an extraconstitutional plan, such as the “plebiscitary election” favored by the Catalan Republican Left.

While Republicans nationally enjoyed a wave election, Republican federal candidates in New Hampshire underperformed relative to other states. Scott Brown lost very narrowly to incumbent Jeanne Shaheen, dogged throughout the campaign with the “carpetbagger” label. The highly conservative, hawkish Marilinda Garcia also lost in the second congressional district, my district and the more left-leaning one in the state. The governor’s race was close, but first-term incumbent Maggie Hassan pulled it out. That result was not surprising, since first-term governors in New Hampshire rarely lose (a term is just two years), and her opponent Walt Havenstein had low name recognition and also faced carpetbagging accusations, having just moved back to New Hampshire from Maryland.

At the state legislative level, however, the GOP did much better. They took over the executive council and state house and extended their lead in the senate. Lacking veto-proof majorities, however, they will need to work with Governor Hassan to accomplish anything.

Libertarians did rather well in this election as well. Of the 116 New Hampshire Liberty Alliance-endorsed candidates in this election, 86 won. Not all of those 86 are real libertarians. The NHLA has a mechanistic scoring system for endorsements: as long as you vote 80% pro-liberty on the roll-call votes they track (or for challengers, are 80% pro-liberty in your questionnaire answers), you are endorsed. Since most roll-call votes are economic liberty issues rather than personal liberty issues, traditional conservatives often do extremely well on NHLA ratings. Still, a very sizeable chunk of the next state house – around 20% – will be quite liberty-friendly.

Unfortunately, four very solid libertarian incumbents lost: three by extremely narrow margins and one by a wide margin because of a Republican wave in his district (he is a Democrat). One metric some people are interested in is the number of Free State Project early movers who won races. I can say that the number is more than half of those who made it past their primaries, and a new record. I can also say that this list is both wrong and too short (warning: click link only if you have a strong stomach for paranoia and/or enjoy schadenfreude).

Other interesting stories from the election… There is a rather unhinged (and I don’t use that term lightly) Free Stater hater in Bedford, a wealthy restauranteur and sometime Republican bigshot, who did everything he could to defeat a Republican incumbent state senator, Andy Sanborn, because he was friendly with Free Staters. In the end, Sanborn defeated his opponent by a far wider margin than he had in 2012 (the 2014 was a rematch of the two).

The Dems sent out last-minute mailers to just about every competitive house district (judging from reports), accusing all the Republican candidates of supporting the “ultra-extreme Free State Project.” That didn’t work out too well for them: the GOP has at least 235 seats in the new state house (out of 400), with three ties (yes, ties) still to be resolved.

In a slightly Republican-leaning state senate district that had gone to a Democrat in ’12, an insurgent candidate, Kevin Avard, who spent only about $6000 on the race, upended the incumbent. Avard is a libertarianish conservative, which will make for about three of that breed now in the senate (plus Sanborn and John Reagan).

So what can we expect from the next legislature? The Continue Reading »

Gordon Tullock, RIP

Gordon Tullock, one of the leading figures in Public Choice, died yesterday at the age of 92. As James Bovard notes: “Since he had perennially scoffed at the notion that voting is worthwhile, it is ironic that he cashed in his chips on Election Day. But since he was living in Illinois at the time of his death, he probably voted anyhow.”

The Next Congress

Democrats are increasingly pessimistic about holding the Senate. As Greg Sargent notes in the Washington Post:

with Democrats narrowly favored in New Hampshire and North Carolina, the route to 50 seats will probably also require Democratic wins in Colorado and Iowa at the outset, followed by a surprise pickup elsewhere. This is not impossible. But it’s difficult.

After the recounts, runoffs, and lawsuits have run their course, it looks like the GOP will control both chambers.

What then? The Editorial Board of the New York Times predicts a continuation of obstructionism.

It’s not just that they are committed to time-wasting, obstructionist promises like repeal of health care reform, which everyone knows President Obama would veto. The bigger problem is that the party’s leaders have continually proved unable to resist pressure from the radical right, which may very well grow in the next session of Congress.

The conclusion: “It’s hard to imagine a Congress less productive than this one, but obstructionism could actually get worse if a new majority took hold.”

Yet, imagine if a Democratic President and a Republican Congress could actually work together to produce meaningful reforms? Rather than obstructionism, perhaps it would feel a lot like the 1995-2000 period, one that brought an expansion of trade, entitlement reform, and a balanced budget. There is an interesting piece on Politico that asks several prominent scholars and past/present policymakers where there may be room for bipartisan agreements before the 2016 elections. Among the eleven “bipartisan ideas that might actually pass,” the most consequential would be:

  • Rehabilitate our prison laws (presented by Rand Paul, who provides a brief discussion of his REDEEM Act)
  • Stop bulk data collection (discussed by Sen. Patrick Leahy, coauthor of the USA FREEDOM Act)
  • Immigration reform (identified by Jon Huntsman and Lee Hamilton)
  • New Trade Promotion Authority ( presented by Robert Zoellick)

There are others that I am less enthusiastic about (e.g., increased military funding, advocated by—surprise, surprise—William Kristol) and a few I might have hoped for but were absent (e.g., progressive indexing in Social Security, the elimination of most tax expenditures). The key point: unified GOP control of the Congress could open the door to a productive period of significant reform. It has happened before.

Any predictions about Tuesday’s results and the long-term ramifications?

Registration for the next New Hampshire Liberty Forum is now open. It will take place March 5-8, 2015 in Manchester, N.H. Sponsored by the Free State Project, the Forum is an excellent opportunity to find out what is going on in the burgeoning liberty movement in New Hampshire. At this year’s forum, in addition to headliners Patrick Byrne (overstock.com CEO), Jeffrey Tucker (FEE, Liberty.me), and Sheriff Mack, Liberty Forum will feature David Boaz (Cato), Walter Block (Loyola), former Pileite James Otteson (Wake Forest), and friend of Pileus William Ruger (CKI, Texas State). And that’s just the start – I’m helping to put together some of the workshops and panels, and we have some interesting and unusual speakers yet to be confirmed. Like the last PorcFest, this year’s Liberty Forum will focus on interactive events and workshops showcasing what’s happening now in New Hampshire and planning for the future.

This year’s event takes place at a new venue, the Manchester Radisson, which is the largest conference center in the state. We simply outgrew the Nashua Crowne Plaza. Expect 500-700 attendees this year. In some ways, it will feel like a much smaller, more intimate conference because of the breakout sessions and social mixers scattered throughout the schedule.

Hope to see you there!

The New York Times had piece this weekend on the IRS and asset forfeiture:

Using a law designed to catch drug traffickers, racketeers and terrorists by tracking their cash, the government has gone after run-of-the-mill business owners and wage earners without so much as an allegation that they have committed serious crimes. The government can take the money without ever filing a criminal complaint, and the owners are left to prove they are innocent. Many give up.

In the kind of logic that only passes as logic when backed with the authority of the state:

Under the Bank Secrecy Act, banks and other financial institutions must report cash deposits greater than $10,000. But since many criminals are aware of that requirement, banks also are supposed to report any suspicious transactions, including deposit patterns below $10,000.

So deposits of over $10,000 are suspicious. Since criminals know that, deposits of under $10,000 are also suspicious. And suspicion—not proof of a criminal act—is sufficient for a seizure warrant. You can prove your innocence, of course. But that can be a daunting challenge once you have been stripped of your resources.

The one consolation—as of today, the IRS doesn’t have drones.

Friday Links

Federal revenues ($3.02 trillion) for fiscal year 2014 are above estimates and have set a new record. Another record: $4 billion spent in the 2014 midterms. Question: are there no limits to how much one might spend to earn the right to spend?

Republicans support entitlement reform, unless they don’t (which is the case as elections approach). Yet, there is hope for bipartisanship on one Social Security reform.

The return of the master? Not Keynes, but Alvin Hansen and secular stagnation, or at least that is one fear.

There is now Ebola in New York. Even though the number of cases of Ebola contracted in the US still lags behind the number of men who have married Kim Kardashian.

Rand Paul makes a major foreign policy speech on “conservative realism.” The text is here.

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