Economics

Letters

Divided in Nevada, fear of a unified government, Idiocracy now!

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Divided in Nevada

Is Nevada America's most libertarian state? David Weigel claims it is ("Divided in Nevada," November), but I'm not convinced. Sure, the legalized prostitution angle makes it more libertarian than, say, Utah. Prostitution in Nevada, however, isn't legal statewide. And the fees to open a brothel usually aren't cheap.

Then there's Nevada's general sales tax and its mandatory adult seat belt and helmet laws. Not to mention Clark County's requirement that law-abiding residents register handguns and a statewide law mandating that citizens get a concealed carry permit.

Is it a surprise that many libertarian-leaning Nevada residents were skeptical of voting for moralist-turned-"libertarian" Bob Barr?

On the flip side, prostitution isn't legal in New Hampshire, but it has no sales tax or income tax. The state also has no adult helmet or seat belt laws. When it comes to firearms, there is no licensing requirement and no mandate for law-abiding residents to obtain concealed carry permits. It's not Nevada, but that sounds more like a libertarian state to me!

Pete Ponzetti
Grand Blanc, MI

Fear of a Unified Government

Veronique de Rugy tells us that Ronald Reagan shows up as one of the big presidential spenders ("Fear of a Unified Government," November). She makes no distinction between budgets submitted by the president to Congress and budgets created and passed by Congress. The budgets submitted by Reagan were consistently smaller than budgets reported out by the Democratic Congress. In fact, I recall seeing Majority Leader Tip O'Neill on television standing on the steps of the U.S. Capitol and boasting to reporters that Reagan's budget would be dead on arrival when it reached Congress.

Congress has far more control over the budget than the president. Yet revisionist historians continue to tag presidents with all of the budgets' excesses and shortcomings, regardless of congressional action.

Darrel Lachel
La Mesa, CA

Veronique de Rugy replies: While I agree that Congress has a great deal of control over the budget process, it is hard to argue that it "has far more control over the budget than the president." Reagan didn't get all of the domestic cuts he asked for (though he did manage to get an impressive 10 percent cut in real nonmilitary spending—$26 billion over eight years). But it is no secret that Reagan came to Washington committed to increasing the Pentagon's budget dramatically. He battled hard with Congress to increase defense spending by 41 percent in real terms.

Even if Reagan had managed to get all the non-Pentagon cuts he wanted—about $52 billion—the amount would have paled in comparison to Reagandriven military spending increases: $116 billion in real terms. In fact, according to reports at the time, the president was far more interested in fighting for his tax cuts and defense spending hikes than he ever was in cutting domestic spending.

Idiocracy Now!

I think David Weigel was expecting too much from the movie Swing Vote ("Idiocracy Now!," November). If you want movies that are high-level commentary on the state of the world from a libertarian perspective, then you should only attend movies that are previewed at the offices of reason or at the Cato Institute. Swing Vote is not on my list of the 10 best movies, but it is on my 20 best movies list.

Scott Lieberman
San Jose, CA

David Weigel replies: If I had seen only 21 movies in my life, then I too could place Swing Vote in my all-time top 20. (It would help if one of the other movies was Batman and Robin.) But I don't think I could have spared myself any heartbreak by only seeing movies with a think-tank ideological seal of approval. The premiere I saw was sponsored by Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform. It was a conservative crowd. The movie was the exact opposite—a treacly, hopeful message that if Americans got their heads together, they'd demand a better welfare state from their leaders.

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