Too Old to Trick or Treat Laws

Trick or Treat

There’s a viral story making the rounds about Chesapeake, Virginia and their ordinance against anyone over the age of 14 going out to Trick or Treat over Halloween. The city council passed the law which carries with it a fine of $250. People are outraged. I’ve written before how it’s within the purview of any local government to pass any law it wants. My problem with this law is that it creates criminals where there are none.

Most people think the government shouldn’t be out there checking on the age of children who are out on a Trick or Treat mission. I agree although, as I’ve written, it is certainly not a right granted by the Constitution of the United States and thus local municipalities can write laws banning the practice to people over a certain age.

The problem comes from why the law was written in the first place. In reading the article you find that way back in 1968 there were several Halloween pranks that went too far, including older children throwing firecrackers into the candy sacks of little Trick or Treaters. The ordinance was passed so that police could arrest those engaging in destructive behavior on Halloween.

The problem, for this Libertarian, is that engaging in mayhem is already against the law. Most municipalities have extensive rules and regulation on such things. If the law enforcement agents witnessed something like that happening, they already had plenty of legal backing for an arrest.

The good news is that the police in Chesapeake have engaged in incredible restraint in regards to this law. They have cited no one since it came into existence way back in 1970. I’m often critical of law enforcement officers here on this blog and I want to take time out to salute the fine women and men of Chesapeake who have shown wonderful judgement in refusing to enforce this stupid law. If only all police officers had such good sense.

The problem is the officers are allowing people to break the law every Halloween. I guarantee there are plenty of children over the legal age out there engaging in Trick or Treat candy collecting. This is where we get selective enforcement of the law and where police officers often run into charges of racism and other misbehavior.

The point is the law itself is stupid. It makes criminals of anyone over the age of 14 who wants to Trick or Treat. There are plenty of incredibly stupid laws on the books but, sadly, police don’t always ignore such ordinances.

If the city council of Chesapeake wants to prevent mayhem on Halloween, they need merely enforce existing laws preventing such. They do not need to create new laws and new criminals. This leads to far more trouble than the law was intended to stop.

Tom Liberman

TSA Bans Disney Thermal Detonator Soda Bottles

Thermal Detonator Soda Bottle

**** UPDATE ****

The TSA will allow the Disney Thermal Detonator Soda Bottles in stored luggage but not carry on.

**** END UPDATE ****

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) recently decided to ban people from bringing Disney Thermal Detonator Soda Bottles on planes because they apparently have a resemblance to hand-grenades. Why did this do this? Let’s examine the question.

The Thermal Detonator Soda Bottles are actually just soda bottles, not thermal detonators. They are designed to look like an explosive device set in the Star Wars universe and are being sold at Galaxy’s Edge, a themed area at Walt Disney World in Florida. The devices are rather neat looking and many people are keeping them after finishing the sugary beverage inside. Naturally, many of these people are travelers and want to bring them home.

The idea is that someone with the intention of committing a terrorist act might bring across a real weapon and claim that it is merely a toy, and in this way circumvent security guards. This appears to me to be patently nuts. Why would a terrorist disguise a bomb as something that looks like a bomb when they can disguise it as a barbie doll or any other plastic souvenir? The Thermal Detonator Soda Bottles are made of plastic, as are many things that don’t look like weapons.

The reality is the bottles don’t really look like a hand-grenade anyway. They look like a fictional weapon from the Star Wars universe. There are plenty of things that bear a vague resemblance to a weapon or a fictional weapon and are not banned by the TSA.

There are two other likely reasons the TSA has banned the Thermal Detonator Soda Bottles, at least in my opinion. The first is they enjoy hassling passengers. The second reason is they want to give people the illusion of safety without having to do any real work. The illusion of safety makes people feel better but doesn’t actually do anything to make their lives safer.

Does banning Thermal Detonator Soda Bottles make you any safer? No. Therefore, your freedom is being taken away for no discernable reason. And, you guessed it, I’m opposed.

Tom Liberman

Antonio Brown and the NFL Helmet Kerfuffle

NFL Helmet Antonio Brown

There’s in an interesting situation in the NFL involving wide receiver Antonio Brown’s desire to wear the NFL Helmet of his choice rather than that mandated by the league. Until this season the players were allowed to wear whatever helmet they wanted but new rules only allow certified NFL helmets to be used. Brown wants to wear the same helmet he’s worn for his entire career but the league prohibits doing so and therefore he is filing legal injunctions against the league.

Certainly, the league has the prerogative to dictate uniform requirements. Their new rules affected a number of players in the league including Tom Brady who has expressed displeasure with the situation but so far complied. To fully understand the situation, we have to delve more deeply into the history of the league and the nature of Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and the role concussions play in it.

CTE is a terrible disease which seems to occur largely in athletes who play contact sports like boxing, football, ice hockey, and others. Players suffering from the symptoms of the disease and other difficulties sued the league and have won more than a billion dollars in various settlements to date. The league long denied any connection between brain injury and repeated concussions despite strong evidence suggesting otherwise.

The motivation for the change is clear. The league wants to do everything in their power to defend themselves from future lawsuit but also to protect players by using NFL helmets believed to be best for preventing head injuries.

It seems clear Brown should want to use a better helmet for his own self-interest but it must be remembered hockey players long fought against having to wear helmets and facemasks including even goalies. They didn’t feel comfortable in the new equipment and thought it impaired their ability to perform. People often do things that are largely self-destructive and what is the role of an employer in preventing such behavior? That’s essentially the question with which we are dealing.

I think the NFL helmet rule is perfectly reasonable. They are a private entity making uniform rules for their employees. If the same thing was being forced on the NFL by a government agency, I might well have a different opinion on the subject. In addition, the right to wear whatever NFL helmet you want is not protected by the Constitution of the United States so the league does not fall afoul of that important document.

As a Libertarian I sympathize with Brown. I think it’s unfortunate he doesn’t get to wear the helmet of his choice but the reasons his employer are enforcing new rules are more than compelling, even if the new helmets prove ineffective in preventing brain injury.

Tom Liberman

Anand and Kramnik or Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Anand and Kramnik

In the chess world, which I enjoy although about which I’m aware my loyal fans are somewhat less enthusiastic, there is an interesting dichotomy in the behavior of two former world champions, Vladimir Kramnik and Viswanathan Anand. Anand is still playing top level chess while Kramnik decided to give up competitive chess. Whose decision is right and whose is wrong?

It is certain one must be a good decision while the other is bad because they are in opposition to each other. Is it proper to continue to play chess competitively when you were once world champion but have little or no chance of once against ascending those dizzying heights? Kramnik is five years younger than Anand but decided he’d had enough, while Anand is still playing and doing extremely well at top-level events.

Surely, we must decide one of the two is correct while the other made a terrible mistake. That is our job, after all. It is all but impossible that both adults are capable of making the best decision about their own life and that I shouldn’t be telling them how to go about living.

It’s impossible that Anand enjoys playing chess and feels he is a role-model for the many young Indian players who are making their presence known with some great chess. Therefore, the best decision for him was to keep playing the game he loves. No, I must inform him that his once greatness is gone and now, he must retire to save his dignity.

It is likewise quite clear that Kramnik, younger than Anand, still has some great chess in him. That just because he doesn’t enjoy playing as much and wants to pursue other avenues in his life is no reason to quit so young. I am just the person to tell him how to go about leading his life.

It’s impossible for mentally capable adults to make better decisions about their life than I can make for them. Frankly, I think the governments of India and Russia should interject themselves into this matter and pass a law forcing Anand to quit and Kramnik to return to the game. Or, wait, forcing them both to quit, or no, forcing them both to keep playing. Or something. We need government oversight; we need other people telling us how to lead our lives. Yes! I’m outraged at one of them, I’m not sure which, but there is wrongness here and it must be addressed! Who better to do it than me? Than the government?

Tom Liberman

Big Government Liberal Josh Hawley at it Again

Big Government

Once again big government liberals, Republicans that is, are proposing intrusive laws into an industry they barely understand. Senator Josh Hawley from my beloved home state of Missouri wants the federal government to tell Facebook how to arrange their page and limit you to thirty minutes of time on Facebook a day. Yay, saved by big government liberals again.

Hawley thinks endless scrolling and auto-playing advertisements play upon human addiction patterns and must be controlled by the government. His new bill in Congress goes so far as to force Facebook to inform you every thirty minutes that you’ve been on their site with a conspicuous pop-up, yes, I know, the bill rails against pop-ups but wants to enforce itself with pop-ups. Even if you specifically allow Facebook not to ban you after you’ve been on for more than thirty minutes, you’ll still get reminded about it if this law is passed.

Here is the reality about big government liberals. They are rampant in both the Republican and Democratic party and their goal is largely to legislate their perceived enemy out of business. Would you stand by if there was a law proposed about how many cigarettes you could smoke? How much alcohol you could drink in the privacy of your home? Why aren’t Hawley and his big government cohorts on board with sugary drink bans that play upon human addictions? Because the sugary drink companies aren’t in his crosshairs.

This is the problem with big government. It uses its power to attack perceived enemies rather than governing. This is why Libertarians rail against such, regardless of the good intentions espoused by the legislative branch. The more power we give government to control our personal lives, the more they will use it to hurt their foes, it matters not that they are Republicans or Democrats. There is only one party that largely wants to leave you to your own devices.

Libertarians trust you to spend as much time on Facebook as you want. They trust you to smoke as many cigarettes as you want, to drink as much alcohol and soda as you want, to purchase as many loot boxes in video games as you want; even if doing so is unhealthy or unwise. It’s your money, it’s your life, it’s your time; not mine. I absolutely do not know better how you should you lead your life than you do yourself. That’s the mantra we should all embrace. That’s the kind of women and men we should elect to avoid big government liberals of all political stripes taking away our freedom.

Cling to your big government party all you want, that’s your business, but don’t come crying to me when it’s your freedom they decide to take.

Tom Liberman

Nike and the Patriotic Shoe Flap

Patriotic Shoe

There’s a ridiculous news story flapping in the wind that gives me a chance to wax poetic about patriotic behavior, moral relativism, and general Libertarian ideology. It centers on the Nike company pulling a shoe with an old American flag on it. So-called patriotic politicians and others are slamming Nike for doing so, Nike’s reasoning being that a Nazi group has used that same symbol for their own rallies.

It’s an interesting situation because for the greater part of the history of the United States it was considered quite unpatriotic and disrespectful to wear the American flag on clothing. When the hippies in the 1960’s starting doing so it was the very same “patriotic” politicians, who today criticize Nike, then lambasting the counter-culture individuals for their horrible behavior. This displays, in no uncertain terms, moral relativism.

Basically, the idea of putting the American flag on clothing has gone from being unpatriotic to patriotic over the course of about fifty years. It’s interesting that those who most vehemently claimed it was disrespectful and unpatriotic now equally disparage Nike for not marketing the shoe. This is moral relativism. What was once immoral, or unpatriotic in this case, is now quite moral and patriotic. Wearing the American flag on your clothing is a symbol of being a patriot.

Another issue this particular flap bring to the forefront is the ideology of small government. For many years it was the mantra of the Republican party that government should not be involved in business decisions, or at least that involvement should be kept to a minimum. Meanwhile, Democrats insisted that government was necessary to curb the excesses of business leaders. Obviously, it is now Republicans threatening Nike with repercussions for their business decisions and Democrats insisting Nike should be allowed to do as they want.

For a Libertarian the answer is simple. Nike can make whatever decision they want and the governor of Arizona and the leader of the U.S. Senate are clearly big government Liberals in sheep’s clothing. Don’t like it? Reality hurts. The root problem stems from all the incentives businesses take from government in the first place which then gives said officials the feeling they have the right to tell companies how they should go about running their business. It seems simple to me, get out of it altogether. No tax breaks, no incentives, sink or swim on your business decisions.

Finally, as to the groups using the thirteen-star flag symbol to promote hatred and violence. Last I checked, this is a free country although perhaps I need to check again. They can use whatever symbol they want. Nike can market whatever shoe they want. People can wear whatever clothes they want. It’s not my business and it most certainly is not the government’s business.

Tom Liberman

Twenty-One to Purchase E-Cigarettes or Tobacco Products

E-Cigarettes

Senators Mitch McConnell and Tim Kaine are co-sponsoring a bill to increase the federally mandated age for people to purchase tobacco products and e-cigarettes to 21. It has bi-partisan support and is being done to protect the children so I expect it will pass. You’ll not be surprised to find I oppose such legislation.

I could talk about how e-cigarettes are not even a tobacco product by nature or how the federal age to purchase is already 18, the age at which we become legally adults. Instead I want to focus on the idea the federal government should have no control at all over what we voluntarily put into our bodies.

I can hear you now: but, Tom, it’s to protect the poor, innocent children. The federal government must save them from the terrible scourge of tobacco. They are too young to make a decision for themselves. They will ruin their lives if the federal government doesn’t step in to save them. You can’t be against saving children? Do you want children to die? Are you a cruel, heartless, child-murdering monster?

No, I’m a Libertarian. The Constitution of the United States grants the government certain powers and they do not have any outside those as decided by the courts. The Constitution is also quite clear about who has these rights. The Tenth Amendment to the Constitution declares explicitly that powers not delegated to it are for the States and the people to decide. Whether or not your child buys an e-cigarette or any form of tobacco is up to you to decide.

It seems so simple to me. If community wants to prevent a store from selling such products to people under 21, the local politicians can pass an ordinance to that effect. If they do so and the people are unhappy with that decision, they can make their opinions known in the next local election. If the state makes such a law then the municipality can counter it with a law allowing such merchants to sell e-cigarettes and tobacco products within the jurisdiction of their city.

There are specific limits to the Constitution of the United States and if the federal government is not granted the ability to pass a law in certain regards, then it falls to the States and to the people. It seems obvious to me that the entity closest in relation to the effect of the law should have precedent. This gives the greatest control to the people, where the framers largely wanted it.

Frankly, there should be no such law at all. If someone wants to purchase e-cigarettes or tobacco products it should be up to the local merchant if they want to sell them or not. If the people in a town don’t like it, their representatives can pass a law.

Another important thing to remember is that a ban on a particular product doesn’t generally have the effect of preventing people from purchasing it; it just creates a black market. Let’s imagine the federal law passes. Does anyone imagine there won’t instantly spring up a black market for 19 to 21-year-olds to purchase as many e-cigarettes or tobacco products as they want?

The only thing the law does is give power to the federal government over aspects of our lives they should not have. If we allow the federal government to tell a legal adult of 20 they can’t purchase an e-cigarette, and the state and local community has no right to override such a rule, then what power are we not granting it?

Tom Liberman

Enlightened Self-Interest and a Chateau le Pin Pomerol 2001

Chateau le Pin Pomerol 2001

There’s an interesting story making the rounds about a bottle of wine called Chateau le Pin Pomerol 2001 sold at Hawksmoor restaurant in Manchester, England. The Chateau le Pin Pomerol is a rare wine; a customer ordered a $300 bottle of a similar vintage but a mistake led to said customer being served the Chateau le Pin Pomerol which lists at $5,772.

That’s a significant loss for the restaurant although the price they charge is certainly less than that listed. In response, the restaurant put out a tweet expressing hope the customer enjoyed the finer vintage. They also explained the two bottles are quite similar and an employee made an honest mistake on a crowded evening.

I think this is a good chance to explain a subtle nuance in Libertarian philosophy; which many people mistakenly think is all about earning more money, even many Libertarians themselves. It’s not about the money even though money is used as a scorekeeper to some degree.

The owners of Hawksmoor had a choice when they found out about the mistake. They could have attempted to charge the customer the difference. They could have docked the wages of the employee for the mistake. Both of these actions would seem to fit in with the perceived Libertarian philosophy of making as much money as possible.

The reality is, naturally, quite different. What is in the enlightened self-interest of the Hawksmoor? Alienating a customer or losing presumably a good employee? Certainly, the media coverage they get for accepting the mistake and wishing all parties well is worth more than the loss garnered by putting out the Chateau Le Pin Pomerol. It seems quite obvious to me their actions will not only result in more revenue in the long run, but even this is really not enlightened self-interest.

The real beneficiaries of this acceptance of the mistake are not the employee and the customer but the owners who made the decision. I cannot say for certain why management decided to behave in such a way but I’d like to think it is because they respect themselves.

A mistake was made, it happens, I understand that I also make poor decisions, that my errors affect others in negative way both personally and financially. One of my loyal customers got an amazing treat and I’m happy for them even though it cost me some money. My employee probably feels terrible about what happened and piling on isn’t going to make her or him a better person. A pat on the back and an understanding smile makes the world a better place and me a better person.

It seems to me many people are eager to lay blame, to lash out loudly against the stupidity of those who disagree, to attempt to gain retribution against those who make mistakes, to emotionally punish and hurt anyone who dares disagree. All of these actions make you a worse person. They tear you down because you know, somewhere deep inside, how awful you are being.

Being a decent human being is enlightened self-interest and so was smiling at the mistaken bottle of Chateau le Pin Pomerol 2001.

Tom Liberman

Tiger Woods and the Wrongful Death Suit

Tiger Woods Lawsuit

There’s a story in the news about Tiger Woods and his involvement in the death of Nicholas Immesberger I find interesting. Woods owns a restaurant in Jupiter, Florida called The Woods Jupiter, and Immesberger worked there. He was drinking during his shift and afterwards and died when his car overturned later that night. His blood alcohol content was more than three times the legal limit when he died.

At issue is the Florida statute which holds a person liable for damages if they knowingly serve someone who is habitually addicted to alcohol. Immesberger attended Alcoholic Anonymous meetings in the past and had crashed his car previously while drunk. The people who worked with Immesberger knew of this and thus are potentially liable for the harm caused.

Woods owns the establishment and his girlfriend, who is the general manager of the bar and restaurant, drank with Immesberger a few nights before the fatal accident. Therefore, the lawsuit seeks to hold them accountable for the death even though neither of them actually served drinks to Immesberger the night of his death.

Many states have laws fairly similar to Florida in that it is illegal to serve someone who is a known alcoholic or who is obviously quite intoxicated. I personally agree doing so is not a particularly kind thing. If a person is stumbling drunk, she or he probably shouldn’t be served any more alcohol. If a person is an alcoholic, it would be somewhat of a service to refuse to provide drinks to her or him. That being said, I don’t think either action should be a matter for the state to adjudicate.

There are many problems with the law but the first and foremost from this Libertarian’s perspective is that it largely absolves the drunkard from responsibility. If a person chooses to drink to the point of intoxication and then hurts or kills someone else, or themselves, in an accident; that is completely the responsibility of said person. The statute seeks to put accountability on the server.

Another enormous issue is the law, by its very nature, is going to be applied unevenly and can easily be used by the state to persecute perceived enemies. It is quite certain people habitually addicted to alcohol are served in such establishments every minute of every day. Oftentimes it is quite well known the person has a problem. Basically, prosecutors get to choose when and if they are going to use the law.

The purpose of the law is an attempt to get people to stop serving alcoholics. A noble resolve but a clear attempt at social engineering. Good intentions are often the precursors of bad laws. Immesberger is dead because he chose to drink and drive.

If you think the lawsuit is egregious and without merit then you necessarily think the law is such. The letter of the law indicates at least the bartenders are liable if not Woods and the general manager.

I certainly think the employees of The Woods Jupiter should not have served him so much alcohol over the course of the day and evening. They should not have stood by while he drove off. That’s a moral failing, not a legal one.

Tom Liberman

Alyssa Milano and Why a Sex Strike is Just Like Prohibition

Sex Strike

Actress Alyssa Milano is upset various states are creating prohibitions to abortion and wants her fellow women to deny men access to sex, a Sex Strike. This so-called solution is essentially the same logic people use for the war on the drugs, prohibition, and an attempt to ban Loot Boxes in video games. It’s punishing everyone for the sins of a few.

The state of Georgia, and several others, are passing what are called Heartbeat Laws in which an abortion is made illegal as soon as the fetus’s heartbeat is detected. Seeing as this detection can occur before a woman even realizes she is pregnant it essentially makes abortion completely illegal. Milano is being called out for a number of problems with her Sex Strike but I’d like to focus on the one more associated with my own Libertarian beliefs.

I’ll let others spend time explaining to Milano that a Sex Strike is a negative for women who enjoy sex, which, my limited experience tells me, is damn near all of them. It suggests women should essentially extort men for legislative favors in exchange for sex. It simply ignores homosexual men, asexual men, and lesbians altogether because, I guess, they don’t count. In addition, a fairly healthy percentage of women voted for and support these laws, so I’m not sure how the plan is going to work in that regard.

My problem is simply that you are attempting to punish an entire category of people because some of them are doing something you don’t like. There are a great number of men who support a woman’s right to have an abortion. The plan to go on a Sex Strike punishes those men indiscriminately for nothing they have done or even support. Some of those men voted directly against the bans in various states and certainly, many of them support politicians who actively work against such laws.

This logic is the same as behind our failed and violently destructive War on Drugs. Some people abuse drugs and therefore we must restrict them for all. Some people abuse alcohol and therefore we need Prohibition. Some people misuse guns and therefore they must be restricted for all. This lack of critical thinking is faulty and exhibited on both the Democratic and Republican side of the political fence.

Basically, you are calling for a lot of people to lose their freedom because other people are doing something you don’t like. It’s a vicious way of thinking. I’ll pass a draconian law, Sex Strike, in the hopes people will cave to my demands in order to avoid the effects, lack of sex, of the legislation. I want to make a whole bunch of people suffer in order to get my way. That’s not cool.

How about you organize and get women and men elected who support your point of view? Or is that too much to ask?

Tom Liberman

Loot Boxes to be Outlawed by the Federal Government

Loot Boxes

Once again, an overreaching, big government loving politician is trying to intrude into the lives of citizens, this time by banning so-called loot boxes. The Senator in question happens to be Republican Josh Hawley from my beloved home state of Missouri. I have one thing to say but I can’t say it or the FCC will fine me. Poop on you, Senator Hawley and I’ll be happy to tell you why.

Loot Boxes are in game transactions where game players can purchase various things. Games like Fortnite, Candy Crush, and many others rely on these purchases for revenue. The games are otherwise free to download and play. People make the purchases for a variety of things like cosmetic skins to make their character look cool, extra items to help progress the game, and things of that nature.

Senator Hawley uses the fact that children are part of the market for such games as an excuse to foist his morality upon us. We must save the children he says; ignoring the fact that the majority of people who play the games and spend money on them are over 18. Ignoring the fact that children can’t make such purchases without a credit card on which their parents can easily place limits. No, good old big government Senator Hawley thinks he knows best how we should lead our lives and isn’t at all shy about forcing us to do it by his rules.

If Senator Hawley is successful then games like Fortnite, which have generated an enormous amount of revenue for not only the makers of the game but many ancillary companies and millions of hours of fun for willing gamers, will no longer be free to play. Double poop and a Libertarian pox upon thee!

If someone wants to pump money into a video game then it’s their right to do so. If a kid does so then it’s up to that child’s parents to control their spending. It is absolutely, positively, not the government’s job to protect us from spending money on video games.

You, Senator Hawley and all the rest like you, are not our guardians. You do not get to dictate how we lead our lives or how we spend our money. It’s this paternalistic gobbledygook that created the entire overreaching, nanny state in which we currently reside. There is a law against everything and every citizen is a criminal. The state simply gets to decide who to arrest and when.

If I don’t want to pay a microtransaction on loot boxes then I won’t do so. If I don’t want my non-existent child to do so then I’ll restrict her or his credit card. Get out of my personal life, Senator Hawley.

Tom Liberman

Why is Human Composting Illegal in the First Place?

Human Composting

The State of Washington is poised to make Human Composting legal. Human Composting is a method of disposing of a corpse by simply covering it with compostable materials where it is broken down over the course of a month or two. The process is currently illegal in most states and this Libertarian asks the obvious question, why?

I’m of the opinion that the ban on any procedure other than burial or cremation speaks to the heart of the idea of limited government and reasonable regulation. I think it’s perfectly rational to have restrictions on how to properly dispose of a human corpse. Dumping a body along a main thoroughfare is clearly something against the general interests of the people. Government officials have a responsibility to carry out the will of the people and while someone might find it convenient to throw grandma’s body onto the highway, most of us will be severely inconvenienced by such an action.

The problem is the regulation that prevents any other method except those approved by the state. Instead the limitations should be much vaguer and allow people the freedom to dispose of their loved ones in a variety of ways. The regulation could simply read that corpses should be disposed of in designated regions in a manner that doesn’t inconvenience others. That way people would be free to conduct the process as they saw fit with the minor limitations as stated. Judges could make common sense rulings in regards to those who failed to obey the law.

A regulation so worded would allow Human Composting without any sort of government intervention. We wouldn’t need someone to sponsor a bill, to lobby politicians, or to fight against the existing purveyors of cremation and burial who have a vested interest in preventing the legalization of Human Composting as an economic threat.

This is what Libertarians mean when we speak of limited government. We don’t advocate anarchy and the dumping of human corpses wherever might be convenient. The problem is that regulations are so specific they make doing business impossible unless you bribe politicians into passing rules that benefit your company. This is Crony Capitalism and it is rampant in our nation from Federal to State to Local government.

Ask yourself, why is Human Composting illegal? It’s a perfectly reasonable method of disposing of a corpse and, frankly, the choice I think many people would make if given the option. I know I do.

Tom Liberman

Why Does the Justice Department Care about the Academy Awards?

Academy Awards

The United States Justice Department just warned the Motion Picture Academy that a proposed rule change about eligibility to receive Academy Awards might result in Anti-Trust legal ramifications. Really? This is what the Justice Department of the United States of America is spending their time doing? Threatening award ceremonies about how they decide eligibility? I’ll give you a small hint, the executives of Amazon and Netflix are opposed to the changes and they just might have a dollar or two spend.

First, let’s examine what is being proposed. With the advent and enormous growth of streaming services there are more and more movies spending little or no time in the theaters. They are developed and sold directly for television. Recently the Netflix film Roma received a nomination for Best Picture and this triggered a response from the Academy and particularly influential filmmaker Steven Spielberg. They believe such films should be eligible for Emmy Awards but not Academy Awards. The idea being that the Academy Awards are for movies while the Emmy Awards are for television.

I think there are argument to be made both ways. The made for streaming movies are not in the theaters for any appreciable amount of time, mostly just so they can be eligible for movie awards. However, they are in the traditional movie format and home theaters are more and more becoming a venue for audiences to view first run movies.

We can argue back and forth about whether or not such productions are movies or television shows but it’s beyond my comprehension that the Justice Departments thinks they have a say in this matter. A major award certainly increases publicity and thus revenue for a particular show or movie but it is up to the agency that runs the ceremony to decide upon the rules for inclusion. Just because they choose to exclude a group isn’t an anti-trust violation. They are not engaged in collusion, price-fixing, bid-rigging, or even group boycotting which is, I suspect, the justification for the warning.

Group boycotting is when several companies refuse to do business with a third party unless they stop doing business with a competitor. An example would be a clothing store that refused to purchase a particular line because it was being sold to a competitor of that business.

Despite any Justice Department claims to the contrary, what it is doing is damning in the eyes of this Libertarian. The government is attempting to flex its muscles at the behest of bribes, that is to say campaign contributions and lobbyist gifts, to force an independent company to do business in a way that is favorable to a third party, in this case Amazon and Netflix.

This is a stark example of Crony Capitalism. The government decides how a company does business. It’s destroying the capitalistic spirt of our nation and I’ve written about it elsewhere.

Out, out, foul government. Back to your closet where you belong.

Tom Liberman

Jussie Smollett and Small Government Collide

Jussie Smollett

If you hadn’t heard the news that charges against Jussie Smollett for filing a false police report were dropped then you aren’t paying attention. The case tickled the fancies of the two main sides in our political spectrum and unfolding events proved interesting to this Libertarian. I’ll review for those not fully up on the Smollett case.

Smollett reported being physically assaulted during which racial insults were used and a noose was placed around his neck. In the course of the investigation Chicago police eventually determined that Smollett actually paid his supposed attackers presumably in some sort of publicity scheme. After the case was turned over to prosecutors, they dropped charges when Smollett agreed to forfeit his bond money.

Now for the Libertarian take on matters. After reports of the original assault, democrats largely called for the Federal Bureau of Investigation to step in and treat it as a hate crime. When the evidence began to shift, they fell silent. Meanwhile, Republicans had no interest in the federal government getting involved in a local assault case. When charges were dropped, they immediately wanted federal involvement to punish Smollett for his crimes.

This is essentially a microcosm of the belief system of the people associated with our two main political parties. They want as much federal intervention in your life as possible as long as they are punishing or rewarding people they consider enemies or friends. When such federal intervention goes against their interests, they immediately fall silent. This is the problem with giving federal and even state government power over such matters. It is only a matter of time before someone uses that power to punish enemies or reward allies. Both are bad.

Assault is assault whether or not someone hated the victim because they are part of a particular group. I’m completely opposed to hate crimes in general and the local police should handle such matters. Likewise, decisions to prosecute or not should be left completely up to the prosecuting attorney in the particular municipality. They can best determine what should be done, not an overreaching federal government intent on punishing perceived enemies.

I’m certainly not pretending that injustice doesn’t happen. That a prosecuting attorney in a case might give preferential treatment to a friend or use her or his power to punish an enemy. We have a remedy for such incidents and it’s called the Judicial Branch. All is not perfect and corrupt officials do considerable harm at the local and state level, I admit as much. Still, it is my opinion the harm they can inflict locally pales in comparison to the harm that can be done by federal authorities with unlimited funds and a grudge.

As things stand, it appears to me that Democrats and Republicans alike consider federal power a useful bludgeon to be used indiscriminately to reward and punish. I disagree.

Tom Liberman

Stormy Daniels Brings down the Vice Unit in Columbus

stormy daniels

Back in July of 2018 a woman with the stage name of Stormy Daniels was arrested for non-sexual touching in a strip club in Columbus, Ohio. I wrote an article at the time expressing my Libertarian outrage at the event and now the entire vice unit that ran the operation has been disbanded because of a series of events that sadly do not boggle the mind; frankly, it’s the sort of behavior I expect out of law enforcement agents these days, and that’s a tragic thing.

You can read about the incident with Stormy Daniels that caused the vice unit to come under scrutiny in my original blog so I won’t reiterate it here. The tragedy currently unfolding sadly reinforces my opinion of the continuing downfall of law enforcement to an agency of oppression.

Officer Andrew K. Mitchell is under indictment for any number of abuses he allegedly committed during his thirty-year career as an officer. He is accused of forcing women in custody to provide sexual services in exchange for release. Two other members of the former unit are under investigation for similar activities. The entire unit blatantly disregarded the prosecutor’s office that warned them specifically against the sort of behavior they engaged in during the arrest of Stormy Daniels.

Mitchell also apparently owns properties in which he extorted tenants for sex in exchange for a discount on their rent. In addition, he killed a woman in August 2018 in which he and a fellow officer claimed she attacked them.

This is police enforcement in the era of the War on Drugs. It’s the police versus the community rather than the police with the community. There was a time this wasn’t the case and I’m sure there are plenty of officers out there who don’t behave this way. The reality is tragic for communities and law enforcement.

The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way. If we ended the War on Drugs, removed moronic laws from the books, and essentially allowed adults to do as they pleased within reason, the relationship between law enforcement and we the people would begin to be repaired. There is also good news in that more and more law enforcement agencies are recognizing the rift that exists and taking concrete steps to improve the situation.

Right here in my hometown of St. Louis, MO the police and local communities are engaged in a terrific program in which officers play chess with young students.

I recognize that my statements in these blogs can be misconstrued as anti-law enforcement. Nothing could be further from my intent. What I want is for law enforcement officers to be seen as a force of good in the communities they serve, not the enemy. Also, for such officers to view the citizens as people to befriend and protect, not as cash meat bags to be used and discarded.

The fact the vice squad is being dismantled is a good thing and the role Stormy Daniels had in it is to be applauded. It’s just a sad statement of fact that it took such a high-profile incident to expose the vile underbelly that has been consuming law enforcement for the last thirty plus years.

Reality often hurts but it is better to expose a painful truth than allow a lie to grow and fester.

Tom Liberman

Why the Government should not Ground 737 MAX Planes

737 MAX
Boeing 737-MAX8-200 K66201

The Federal Aviation Administration, at the behest of President Trump, has grounded Boeing 737 MAX airplanes because of two accidents over the last five months involving such planes. There is not yet evidence to suggest the crashes are related to one another or a problem with the plane but the public perception is that there is such a correlation. My question today is if the government should mandate airlines stop flying the planes?

Most of Europe, China, Canada, Panama and some other countries had already mandated various airlines stop flying the planes while other nations largely left the decision up to the companies. The first question you might ask yourself is how the United States federal government has the power to dictate to a private company which planes to fly. I discussed much of their reasoning in a blog back in May of 2017. I won’t go into details but if you want to learn more please peruse that article.

Certainly, people are afraid. Southwest Airline is the largest user of the 737 MAX planes with 34 of them and they are offering customers a chance to change flights to a different plane free of charge. This is an example of capitalism, without government interference, in action. If enough people refuse to fly on the 737 MAX planes it is fairly obvious that Southwest and other airlines would stop using them until some sort of safety check was in place.

It is clear the 737 MAX planes have flown many times without incident since they began service in May of 2017. However, two accidents within half a year does bring into question the plane’s general safety. This brings us to the topic at hand. It is better for the government to mandate the stoppage or to let each airline make the decision independently of oversight?

No one was calling for the plane to be grounded before the second accident so neither of those tragedies would have been prevented by a grounding. After the second accident the airlines were largely offering people a chance to fly on different planes so the net result of the grounding is relatively small and I suspect if enough people changed flights the airlines would have grounded the planes on their own. The practical difference is fairly small although I’m sure that would come as no comfort to the families of victims if there is a third crash.

I absolutely prefer letting each airline make their own decision about the 737 MAX. The reason is there is potential for government malfeasance. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to suggest that politicians, all the way up to and including the president, might have a grudge against one company or another and use this power to influence profits. This is Crony Capitalism at its worst.

I recognize this is a special circumstance to some degree but I’m largely against the government interfering in business decisions and that goes for this situation as well. I don’t think this grounding makes anyone safer and it further cements the idea that government has and should use this sort of power. That is a danger in itself.

Tom Liberman

Outlawing Fornication in Utah

Fornication

Legislators of Utah recently repealed a law that made having sex outside of marriage a crime, fornication. Interestingly, when the United States was founded no such laws existed but eventually sixteen states added them to the books. Punishment was rarely imposed and the Supreme Court largely made them unenforceable. Still, I wanted to examine the idea behind them and the danger they represent.

It’s pretty much summed up by the words of one of the Utah legislators against the repeal. Basically, Representative Kevin Stratton says that what is legal is below what is moral, and fornication is immoral. Far below, in his own words. I would guess there are people across the country who feel this same way, I would guess largely religious people. What Stratton is saying is that it’s true we cannot legally enforce the moral codes as laid about by various religious texts, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. Thus, he voted, along with 31 other members of the Utah House, against the repeal.

This is the sort of thinking that has long held sway in both major parties. I think I know what is best for you and, when I have a majority position, I’m going to force you to do it against threat of criminal prosecution. In this case it’s certainly Republican based but I can offer examples of Democrats doing the same thing whether it be vaping or drinking sugary soda. Either way, it’s simply you telling someone else how to lead their life.

We must be cautious about how many things we make against the law or we will essentially turn our entire population in criminal. Oh, too late, we’ve already done it. There are so many traffic and drug laws I would guess that hardly a day goes by without everyone committing a crime of one nature or another. Here in my home state of Missouri, it’s illegal to use the wrong side of a crosswalk while crossing a street.

Imagine if the Supreme Court had decided it was perfectly acceptable to prosecute people for fornication. How many of you would be in jail? How many of you would have lost your freedom for having the audacity to believe you were actually free? Every time a law like this makes it onto the books, we put law enforcement officers in a position to selectively enforce their laws and that inevitably leads to inequity against whatever group is perceived to be the enemy. This is a danger to us all, because, eventually, someone who doesn’t like the way we conduct our lives is going to have the majority.

At some point a person is going to be in a position of power who doesn’t like something that you do and try to make it illegal. This is where the Constitution of the United States and its final arbiter, the Supreme Court, comes into play. They can strike down any law they believe violates the Constitution. Hooray!

We have limits expressed by the Constitution that people of both political parties really like and others that they hate. I find the Second and Fourth Amendments illustrate this nicely and I have a blog addressing that issue if you want to read it.

The point here is that Utah has, until the Governor signs the new legislation, a law that was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. It is unenforceable both legally and pragmatically. Yet, some people want it still on the books. If that doesn’t make you appreciate the Constitution, all of it, then we are not of like minds.

Tom Liberman

Philadelphia Bans Cashless Stores and Why It is Silly

Cashless Stores

The idea of Cashless stores has been around for a while now but with Amazon set to open a series of Amazon Go outlets around the country it’s getting more news. The city of Philadelphia has now passed a law making in mandatory for most retail stores to accept cash. Cashless stores are also banned in the state of Massachusetts with similar bans being considered in New York and New Jersey. Why is all this happening and will the legislative efforts solve the issues or make them worse?

The reason retail outlets want to go cashless is because they can streamline their operations. They don’t need cashiers to make change, count cash, or risk being robbed while delivering bags of money to the bank. A quick swipe and you’re out of the store.

The reason politicians want to ban it is because such cashless stores inordinately affect the poor. People from lower income classes don’t always have credit cards or debit cards or smart phones. This means that if every grocery store in a particular region had become a cashless store, those people would not be able to purchase groceries.

It’s important to understand that both of these arguments are absolutely true. If retail outlets streamline their processes that translates to savings for consumers. If poor people are unable to purchase basic necessities that means suffering for them. We like lower prices but we don’t like suffering. The deciding factor then becomes if the proposed legislation is going to alleviate the problem it purports to solve.

Retail outlets want your money. They want rich people’s money and they want poor people’s money. There are a good number of poor people in this country and if grocery outlets shut them out then the company itself will certainly suffer. This is something the business fully understands, better than any politician I’d guess. They know the numbers. Because of this knowledge, retailers like Amazon now offer lower cost membership to low-income families enabling them to make purchase. I’d guess any grocery store in a low-income area would immediately make provisions to the do the same, they don’t want to lose out on all that business.

If a business is able to offer lower prices through modern business models, and we need look no further than Amazon and Walmart to see this, then people save money, everyone who purchases anything saves money. This includes poor people who will, if they want to purchase something at a cashless store, have to pay some amount for a debit card or a membership.

It’s my opinion in the end the poor person is going to save money by entering into the new business model, but I don’t see it as worse than a break-even proposition. That being the case, the legislation is putting an undue burden on the business, it is politicians sticking their noses in and creating laws that don’t help anyone.

The point of a law is help enforce a just system. When it the law does not do so, it shouldn’t be there at all.

Tom Liberman

Why Did a Man Like Robert Kraft Solicit a Prostitute?

Robert Kraft

A fellow by the name of Robert Kraft who has a few billion dollars to his name and owns the 2018 Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots was taped by police in a brothel with a prostitute. Out and about at my gym and in the general public the question on everyone’s lips seems to be: Why would such a man pay for an $80 sex act from a prostitute?

The conversations I’ve overheard generally follow a similar line. Kraft is a billionaire in a high-profile position in life and probably has his pick and choice of willing women, besides his wife, who would be happy to give him sexual satisfaction. What possible motivation could he have for seeking gratification at such a place? Then those having the conversation proceed to speculate on any number of reasons why it happened. Perhaps he likes taking risks. Perhaps he likes Asian women. Perhaps he wanted to be caught. The possibilities go on and on but I have a simple answer.

Kraft did it because he wanted to do it. It’s his business and none of mine and none of yours. This is not coming from some Patriots fan-boi, believe me. This is coming from a Libertarian perspective that understands the problems with laws against prostitution as a whole.

The reason Kraft was caught by the police is the establishment in question is accused of bringing women from Asian countries to the United States under false pretenses and forcing them to work in the sex trade. This is a problem but it’s an issue largely created by making prostitution illegal in the first place.

If prostitution was not against the law, women who were so treated would likely go to the police as quickly as they could. If the sex trade was established like Starbucks then it would be regulated and managed by our judicial branch and their law enforcement arm. Personally, I think Kraft desiring sexual gratification for $80 makes more sense than his spending $8.00 for a cup of coffee but if he wants to do either it’s just not my business.

It’s important to understand that legalizing prostitution will not stop people from being exploited. There is no single solution to the world’s ills. The best strategy is to implement a pragmatic and realistic solution that will create as good a situation as possible. In this particular case, the Libertarian issue with Kraft soliciting prostitutes is that the women were potentially doing something against their will. If they were happy to take Kraft’s money and provide him with sexual gratification then it is not my business, it’s not your business, and it certainly should not be the business of the state.

Why did a man like Kraft solicit prostitutes? Stop caring and you’ll make the world a better place.

Tom Liberman

Suboxone Film Case Explains Drug Prices in a Nutshell

Suboxone Film

The United States Supreme Court just ruled that a drug called Suboxone Film, made by a company called Indivior, can no longer exist as a monopoly. Suboxone Film is used to treat opioid addicts and generated over a billion dollars in revenue for Indivior last year. That company has been fighting in the courts to keep generic, cheaper, versions of the drug unavailable. They lost.

I think a quote from spokespeople from Indivior pretty much explains the horrific situation we currently have in the United States when it comes to expensive medication. In arguing before the court, the company’s legal team stated: An entire business, and the jobs and livelihoods that depend on it, will be in peril.

Basically, what they are saying is that if a generic drug that does the same thing but at a far cheaper price were to be introduced it would hurt the company. This is actually quite true. However, it is not the government’s job to protect a company from being run out of business by competition, although that message has largely been lost when it comes to the Food and Drug Administration and our nation as a whole.

The government makes it incredibly difficult to introduce generic drugs in a number of ways and this leads to a lack of competition. The FDA is essentially a tool used by established pharmaceutical companies to make it difficult for competitors to gain a foothold in the market. The loser in all of this is the people of the United States.

Indivior says that if Dr. Reddy’s Laboratory is allowed to introduce their generic substitute for Suboxone Film to the market then they themselves will introduce their own authorized generic. If that doesn’t tell you all you need to know then I’m not sure you will ever be convinced. Indivior has been more than able to introduce a cheap generic version of Suboxone Film for who knows how long. They haven’t done so because the United States has prevented competition. They say quite explicitly that if there is actual competition, they will introduce a cheap generic.

In the meantime, the people of the United States have been forced to buy an expensive drug in lieu of the cheaper substitute. This process subverts the glorious benefit of capitalism that Libertarians like myself extoll. If the market is allowed to operate largely in a free fashion then competition benefits everyone. It is when the government gets overly involved that everything gets messed up.

It’s important to understand that the FDA and the United States government as a whole are hurting us all the while claiming it is for our own protection. I’m not completely opposed to running trials for drugs to ensure their safety before allowing them to market, the problem is that the FDA isn’t doing that anymore. They are largely working for established companies and suppressing competition. They do this because they are bribed with fancy conferences, vacations for their families, and other benefits.

It took a lawsuit that made it all the way to the Supreme Court to change this particular instance and that should also tell you something. The case of Suboxone Film simply proves my point.

Tom Liberman