Monthly Archives: May 2013

Government Power, Individual Rights, and the IRS

The IRS has jumped into the news recently as it has come to light that for 18 months, the agency decided to target political organizations based on name and ideology to delay their applications for tax exempt status.  This event provides a fascinating real life demonstration of how governmental power inherently comes at the cost of individual freedom.   As noted by the New York Times, the IRS is not an independent agency, but its function within the Treasury Department is about as untouched as it can be. This abuse of power was not the result of some large conspiracy; it occurred among simple government employees without outside help.

Which leads us to a more important truth; even government employees isolated from greater political influence can succumb to the urge to abuse their power simply because the opportunity exists.  The result here is a combination of attacks on both property and personal rights, which also illustrates something libertarians and classical liberals have argued for a long time, that property rights and and civil liberties are inseparable, and nowhere is that better demonstrated than here. By reducing the ability of individuals to do what they want with their own money and forcing them to submit to government oversight, the ability of citizens to participate in the political process was diminished.  While the result was a violation of free speech, it could only arise because property rights were curtailed in favor of government power.

And this pattern repeats itself almost everywhere, even if this was the only time we have heard about abuses recently.  Some of the most intrusive parts of the Patriot Act involve the coercion of banks to spy on their clients to check for money laundering activity.  Banks that did a bad job of identifying clients who were engaged in money laundering could have mergers and acquisitions blocked by the Treasury Department under the Patriot Act.  Again here we see a use of government power to infringe on property rights in order to take away the civil liberties of citizens without due process.  Now certainly we could hope that the Justice Department and government agencies would target only criminals, but this news story about the IRS seems to indicate that political targeting could occur without any actual politicians being involved. And of course, American history has plenty of evidence of governmental targeting on ideological grounds.  With the end of the Cold War, the targets have shifted from Communists to Arabs or Muslims, but the point remains.

Government power is dangerous. It is a tool that is often looked at to solve many problems, but it is coarse and unwieldy.  This power needs to be given grudgingly, if at all, and carefully overseen. When it has grown out of control, as it most certainly has today, we need to focus harder on reeling it back in before we look to government to take on more responsibility.

Does Tom Thibodeau work his players too hard?

Last night, the Heat held the Bulls to their lowest point total ever in a postseason game (65), as well as lowest field goal percentage ever (25.7%).  And this happened while Dwyane Wade has bone bruises on his left knee. After the game Wade spoke with the media: “When you have a [bone] bruise, you try to move the kneecap over so it won’t rub When you get into game sweat you have to re-tape it a bit.” Ouch.

But speaking of injuries, the clearest cause of the Bulls’ troubles has been the plethora of health problems their team is facing. Derek Rose has been out for a year, and Luol Deng has been sidelined after a health scare relating to a spinal tap he had done.  Until recently, Joakim Noah was sidelined with plantar fasciitis.  Kirk Hinrich’s calf has been bothering him for a while now. Derek Rose has been cleared medically to play for months now, but has yet to play in a real game.

Is it possible that Bulls Coach Thibodeau worked his players too hard this year? It’s certainly a possibility.  Thibodeau’s trademark defensive strategy is one of the best in the league, and in the past 2 years prior, with a healthy Rose, the Bulls obtained the top record in the East.  It’s undisputed that the Bulls push themselves hard in every game, but could that strategy backfire?  Injuries are a function of exhaustion, age, and randomness.  The Lakers this year certainly saw the results of a combined ancient team with a lack of depth. Almost every player on the Lakers saw time on the bench due to injury, not least of all Kobe Bryant’s crushing torn ligament at the end of the season after the 35 year old had been playing minutes in the high 30s all year.

But the Bulls are not an old team, especially in comparison to the Heat, which leaves exhaustion and randomness. The injury to Derek Rose could be a source of extra minutes to other Bulls players this past year, resulting in them being more injury prone. And Tom Thibodeau has a history of pushing his players hard in the regular season. On the other hand, Luol Deng’s injury was a medical freak accident which could not have been foreseen.  And sometimes injuries just pile up and there isn’t a lot to be done.

If it is random, then it is likely we will see the Bulls be much better next year, especially if/when Derek Rose returns.  But if the Bulls continue to fall short due to injuries, there may be a deeper root of the problem.