Saturday, June 20, 2015

2 Paragraphs 4 Liberty: #14 “Liberty and Traffic Courts”

Screen Shot 2012-06-01 at 1.05.41 PM  During my 25 years as a trial court judge I was able to observe the continual devolution of the traffic courts from an emphasis upon safety on our streets and highways to a revenue-gathering machine.  Shame on us all!  In California this has, among other things, taken the form of “penalty assessments.”   These are payments that cannot be waived or excused by the judges, and are added on to all traffic fines for such things as courthouse security, the law library fund and paying for child care services at the courthouse.  All of these are important, but today in Orange County, a $100 fine will carry an additional $390 in penalty assessments, and this really throws a large additional burden upon people who are mostly on the low end of the economic scale.  In other words, Liberty as a function of basic fairness is being jeopardized.

Another example of Liberty at risk is the California Highway Patrol’s 11-99 Foundation which, at the very least, gives the appearance of Traffic Justice for Sale.  The charity itself is worthwhile, since it assists families of injured and deceased CHP officers.  The problem comes with the “benefits of membership.”  As an example, for a $2,500 donation, the donor receives a plaque, license plate frame that says “Member, CHP 11-99 Foundation,” and a wallet with a badge placed just opposite where one’s driver’s license would be carried.  The inescapable message this brings is favoritism on the highway for people who have made donations.  Why otherwise would these articles be provided?  All judges know that we are required to provide two important services to the public: justice, and also of equal importance, the appearance of justice.  But these two situations are working against both principles, and there is nothing that judges can do about them.  Liberty requires better!

(Next post: Liberty and the Presidential Debates)

Judge Jim Gray (Ret.)

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Saturday, June 6, 2015



Reality: Although government does perform some necessary services, like military and police

protection and a judiciary to enforce our laws, and provides an infrastructure like highways and dams,

that facilitates the production of wealth, it almost never creates wealth itself.  Instead, government

takes large amounts of resources away from people and businesses, keeps a big part for itself, and re-

distributes the rest.  So increasing government spending does not spur economic growth  – mostly it is

the reverse.

Reality:  Since almost all wealth is created by the private sector, the more jobs there are in the

private sector, the more economic growth our country will realize.

Reality:  Employers in the private sector will not hire new workers (or retain present ones)

unless those workers cost less than the income they produce.  Thus the old saying “You can’t fake

reality” is true, although I would add that you can’t fake reality forever.

All of this means that if government imposes market artificialities upon employers – who are

there to make a profit – they will do one of five things for their own health or even survival:  try to work

around or avoid the mandates; cut expenses, usually by reducing their labor force and often by replacing

the workers with machines; increase their prices if they can still stay in business by doing so; move to

locations that do not require those rules, if they can; or simply go out of business.  This analysis applies

to things like minimum wage laws, increased union wages, healthcare mandates and legions of intrusive

and complicated government regulations.

Consider customer self-checkout stations now found in many retail stores, computerized robots

in automobile assembly plants, and automatic crop-picking machines.  All of these have been

implemented to reduce those companies’ labor expenses, because those labor costs were greater than

using the machines.  Yes, the workers who were fortunate enough to retain their jobs make more

money, but the ones who are less productive lost their jobs completely.

Is this result heartless?  Are these employers greedy?  Those are the wrong questions to ask.

The right question is: Is this reality?  And the answer is yes it is – and that reality will not change.

My friend the late David Sills, who was the presiding justice of the Court of Appeal in Orange

County, told a story a long time ago about what he had observed during his trip to the Soviet Union.  He

was staying in the best hotel in Moscow, where he noticed that a worker was assigned to vacuum the

rug in the lobby.  So that is what the worker did: Every morning he plugged in his vacuum cleaner,

turned on the switch and vacuumed the rug.  Unfortunately, the vacuum cleaner had broken a long time

before, and there were no spare parts.  Nevertheless, the worker continued to do what he was assigned.

Justice Sills forecast that no society that would tolerate such conduct could survive – and he was proved

to be right.  With so much interference in the marketplace by our government, in many ways we are

headed in the same direction.

The most positive thing about laws such as those setting minimum wages is that they make

government lawmakers feel better about themselves.  But that should not be the case, because those

laws penalize many of the very people the lawmakers are trying to help, who are mostly low-wage and

unskilled workers.

If lawmakers cared about unskilled workers at the low end of productivity, they would repeal all

minimum wage laws, and address their situation by other means.  That would result in more workers

being hired, thus giving more people an opportunity to get a job – particularly the younger ones who are

entering the workforce for the first time.  This would, in turn, give all of these workers an opportunity to

learn and demonstrate the positive work ethic of showing up on time and being reliable and cheerful, as

well as the pride of earning a paycheck.  Then the reality for most of those workers who learn and

display that work ethic would be that, with time, they would either be given a pay raise because they

would bring more value to their employer, or they would find work at another company and be paid

more according to their increased value.

There would also be another important result from this approach: Those workers would see

firsthand how they could profit by furthering their education.

All of this would also benefit society because, for example, it would be more productive

sociologically for society to have 100 people working at $10 per hour, than having 65 people working at

$15 per hour.  This would be particularly true in poor urban neighborhoods, where unemployment and

the lack of opportunity are pervasive, which, in turn, foster increased crime and despair.  And greater

employment is the only realistic remedy for that problem.

Finally, if it must, society can address welfare through a program of a “negative income tax.”

This means that, with these numbers only being used for purposes of illustration, everyone with a Social

Security card would be entitled to receive a stipend of $15,000 per year from the government.  Then this

stipend would be reduced by 50 cents for every dollar each person earned, up to earnings of $30,000

per year.  Thus people who earn less than $30,000 would be subsidized; those who earn exactly that

amount would receive nothing but pay no taxes, and those who earn more would only pay taxes on

money they earn above that amount.

Obviously there would be many wrinkles to iron out in a program of this kind but, overall, since

this approach would entirely replace the bureaucracy, arbitrariness and expense of the welfare system,

it would generally be beneficial for all concerned.  And not only would it be a simplified, more fair and

less bureaucratic system, it would have the critically important factor of always furnishing an economic

incentive for people to earn the extra dollar.

Yes, there must be some government regulation of the marketplace, but those regulations

should not be nearly as intrusive or complicated as they are now.  Why?  Because they add huge

government bureaucracies and expenses without achieving their desired effect.  And they never will

until they more fully take into account economic realities.  And you can’t fake reality forever.

James P. Gray is a retired judge of the Orange County Superior Court, the author of “A

Voter’s Handbook: Effective Solutions to America’s Problems” (The Forum Press, 2010) and the

2012 Libertarian candidate for vice president, along with New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson as

the candidate for president.

Please forward this on to your circle of friends for their consideration.  And by the way, now I am on Facebook at Facebook at, LinkedIn at, and Twitter with username as @judgejamesgray, or Please visit these cites, and pass them along to your social world.

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Thursday, June 4, 2015

2 Paragraphs 4 Liberty: #13 “Liberty and the Presidential Debates”

Jim-Gray_Waterwark-11-600x600The Presidential Debates are rigged so that only the candidates from the Republican and Democratic Parties can participate.  Previously when the debates were run by the League of Women Voters, candidates from any political parties that were on the ballots in enough states technically to win the presidency would be invited to participate in the presidential debates.  But the League was frozen out of the process by the high-ranking Republicans and Democrats on the Commission.  So now those two parties completely control the Commission, and have changed the criterion to invite only the candidates who show fifteen percent ratings in five national polls.  (And they don’t even name the polls until after the invitations are issued.)  Of course, this is intentionally unreachable, because most polls don’t even carry candidates beyond Democrats and Republicans.  The two parties also exclusively control other important things like who the moderator will be, the issues that will be discussed, how long the candidates will have to answer the questions and whether follow-up questions will be allowed.

The League withdrew its participation when these changes were implemented.  But itdidn’t go out quietly, because the League issued a public statement that it would not be involved in the “hoodwinking of America.”  And America has been hoodwinked ever since.  Liberty demands that this fraud on the voters be reversed!  The most important event in a presidential election is the debates.  Not only do the debates give a legitimacy and viability to all candidates who participate, it also largely controls the issues that will be presented to the public.  Of course, if the debate criteria are changed, the two main parties will lose their monopoly power – but the voters will win.  What do you think is more important?  That is why is sponsoring a lawsuit against the Commission and the two main parties to reverse these criteria and make more information available to the American voters.  If you wish to help to strike a blow for Liberty, please support this lawsuit.  It is probably the most important investment anyone could make in the future of our great country!

(Next post: Liberty and Marriage Equality)

Judge Jim Gray (Ret.)

Please forward this on to your circle of friends for their consideration.  And by the way, now I am on Facebook at Facebook at, LinkedIn at, and Twitter with username as @judgejamesgray, or  Please visit these cites, and pass them along to your social world.

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