The Bleating of a Conservative about Taxes Funding Our Communities

Taxes Funding Our Communities

The other day on Social Media one of my self-proclaimed Conservative friends posted a missive about taxes funding our communities. After I cleaned the vomit from my mouth, I decided to write an article about why this is utter insanity rather than berate said bleating Republican in a scathing reply.

You see, loyal readers, my social media friend can certainly call himself a Conservative but his attitude about taxes funding our communities shows his true colors as nothing more than an odious Republican who long ago gave up on all but the word Conservative.

The post in question was in regards to a mall that had long ago lost most of their stores through natural economic forces, a process I discuss in other blogs. The space was being used as a sporting venue for citizens to play games. My self-proclaimed Conservative friend wrote: It is a frequent re-purpose but sad for the economy. The drop in property value, lower property taxes, and less sales taxes to fund our communities.

The mere idea that it should be taxes funding our communities, let alone the delusion they are actually funding our communities is the worst sort of liberalism. Taxes do not fund our communities. They are collected by the government in order to provide services for the citizens. The community funds the government not the other way around.

Government does not build the roads. Roads, pipes, electric lines, green spaces, security, and fire protection is built because of our needs. Yes, the government uses funds collected through taxes to pay construction companies, police officers, and others but that is not funding our communities that is merely streamlining from a central point.

Let me illustrate with the example of the original social media post. My self-proclaimed conservative friend laments the loss of tax revenue from giant malls that no one has an interest in going to anymore. Doesn’t that say it all. Darn it, I can’t steal your money to prop up a business endeavor no one wants while paying myself a hefty salary to do so. Why should we pay taxes for utilities, roads, parking lots, emergency services, and a myriad of other things that go to a place no one uses anymore? Hint, we shouldn’t.

That’s the misguided role of government in a declining nation. To prop itself up with money stolen from citizens for things they don’t even want and certainly don’t need.

We want roads that go places useful to us. When a sales tax isn’t collected because no one is going to the store, that’s not a bad thing. That’s not a loss to the community. It’s a natural economic impact and the idea government is responsible for that store in the first place is misguided at the least. We were responsible for the store’s existence and now we don’t need it anymore. Good riddance.

It’s ass-backwards what my so-called Conservative friend advocates. It is not taxes funding our communities. It is our communities funding government and we should only fund what we need, not its bloated and endlessly empty belly.

Tom Liberman

Everything Wrong with a Bigfoot Hunting Season

Bigfoot Hunting Season

Oklahoma state representative Justin Humphrey filed a bill to open a Bigfoot Hunting season and people are apparently angry about it. Why are they angry? Because Bigfoot might be killed in the Bigfoot Hunting season. Well, there are quite a few things wrong here and I’m the fellow to tell you about it.

It’s fairly difficult trying to pick a place to start. Shall I succumb to my Libertarian outrage and focus on government involvement in something it has no justification? Perhaps I should start with the stupidity that are people concerned with disrupting the non-existent lifestyle of a mythical creature.

I don’t want to bog down in a debunking article talking about fossil evidence, climate, food source, genetic stability in a small population, or other common arguments about why Bigfoot cannot exist. I’ve already written about why people are prone to believing such nonsense.

Anyone who is outraged that Humphrey wants to institute a Bigfoot Hunting season because they are worried about the safety and well-being of such creatures is an idiot.

Then there is Humphrey and those who think this is a good idea to generate tourism and revenue to the state of Oklahoma. This group of people are completely wrong but in a different way. Humphrey is a representative of the state of Oklahoma and a government official. He should not be generating revenue for the state by selling hunting licenses for a mythical creature. That’s something private industry should be doing.

What, what, what? You ask. That’s right, I have no problem with the scheme as a whole, if people want spend their money on hunting licenses for a mythical creature, that’s their business. If some private entrepreneur wants to cash in on this myth, great, have at it. I approve wholeheartedly. People spend their money on a lot of stupid things and my role-playing games and video games certainly strike many as a waste of money. I enjoy it, I’ll keep spending my money as I see fit.

Obviously, the company so involved needs to make sure they use private property for their fun, ensure no one is using a working firearm, and pay for insurance in the inevitable eventuality that some idiot trips over a log and breaks their neck. That’s all part and parcel of living in a free society.

When government is the one to institute such activities, it has gone far beyond its intended role. Humphrey completely misunderstands the role of government in society and he is not alone. Government officials think they are in the business of generating revenue rather than serving citizens. Most of their schemes involve getting money and if they happen to help the citizens, well, that’s a nice bonus.

It’s a government run Disney Land, nothing more and nothing less.

Tom Liberman

Government Money Well Spent for the SS United States?

SS United States

Back in 1952 U.S. taxpayers footed a $50 million dollar bill to build the SS United States and it gives me an opportunity to examine the value of government spending. Was it worth it to taxpayers to get the SS United States or was it a giant boondoggle with no value?

At the time of construction there was a competition called the Blue Riband for the fastest passenger liner to regularly cross the Atlantic Ocean and the SS United States was built with this award at least partially in mind. Aluminium was used extensively in the design lightening the weight and it was equipped with extremely powerful engines, making it almost certain to receive the award. Upon completion it did so, as expected, in both the eastbound and westbound directions.

However, with the advent of air travel, the financial feasibility of luxury liners diminished to almost nothing and the SS United States was soon unprofitable and eventually pulled from duty in 1969. Since then, the ship has cost various owners enormous sums of money; thankfully not tax-payers although such money was requested on multiple occasions.

For $50 million dollars the United States got a couple of awards that soon drifted into obscurity and seventeen years of presumably moderately profitable service for the owners, who provided the remaining $28 million in financing.

Was it worth it? That’s my question today. The only reason the United States government got involved in the project was for the prestige. Yes, they made noise about it being able to be converted into a troop ship but I’m interested in reality, not government gibberish designed to fabricate a reason for the way they do business.

Was a couple of awards worth $50 million? This question goes to the heart of a great deal of expenditures made by the U.S. government. The entirety of the manned space program as it currently exists is justified by the same logic.

It’s quite clear to me this money was wasted on a project that had little value to the tax-payers who footed the bill. Was it a source of pride? Sure. Did it help the ship workers at Newport News understand how to work with aluminium? Yes. These are not reasons enough, in my opinion; although I’d like to hear what you think as well.

Did tax-payers get value for their $50 in building the SS United States?

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Tom Liberman

Jared Kushner and Black People wanting Success

Jared Kushner

Jared Kushner recently implied one of the reasons black people have struggled in the United States is they don’t want to be successful. His exact words were … but he (Trump) can’t want them to be successful more than they want to be successful. The question this Libertarian asks is: how do we define success?

I’m sure Jared Kushner and others will be spinning his comments one way or the other and that’s fine. However, there is no doubt in my mind Jared Kushner was simply repeating a line I’ve oft heard before. Black people have only themselves to blame for their lack of success in the United States. It’s a refrain that ignores a great deal of reality and, conveniently, absolves white people from any blame in the matter.

Now, I’m a white guy. Let’s get that out of the way. I don’t know what it’s like to be a black person nor can I speak for them on this subject. I’m merely giving my thoughts on it and I have at least the background of a racially mixed primary and secondary education to support me.

When Jared Kushner talks about black people having to want to succeed, he’s talking about himself, not black people. How he defines success, how his wealthy New Jersey father defines success, how his culturally Jewish heritage defines success. This is not the same as many other people and cultures.

The inherent problem with this attitude is it makes huge assumptions about the personal desires of other people and the cultural mores they value.

I think it’s safe to say black people have compelling reasons for not wanting to seek success the way a largely white America and Jared Kushner define such. We don’t even need to bring up the subject of slavery. Black people today are oppressed by white people overtly and covertly. One of the hidden oppressions is on full demonstration when Jared Kushner speaks on the subject. You must succeed the way I define it, otherwise it isn’t success. That’s his inference and black people have been hearing that for a long, long time. Many of them aren’t buying it and who can blame them?

Recently a person whose own background and culture strongly resemble that of Jared Kushner, Ben Shapiro, wrote that rap isn’t music. Presumably people who make great rap songs that others enjoy are not successful in his imagination. That’s the problem with trying to define how other people should view success.

For some people having a country house with a big yard to mow and some chickens is success. For others going billions of dollars into debt to purchase real-estate holdings and not paying any taxes is their version of success. For me success is defined by writing books that few people purchase. There is no one path to success and when we try to force our version of it on others, we are being presumptuous.

The fact Jared Kushner thinks he knows how black people should view success is part and parcel of the entire problem. People resent such a patronizing attitude.

It is impossible for irony to be more on display when Kushner goes on to blame black people for protesting the murder of George Floyd by crying on Instagram but not offering solutions. Kushner says you solve problems with solutions. Jared Kushner, instead of telling black people they just need to want to have success, maybe you should offer a practical and pragmatic solution, instead of crying to Fox News.

Tom Liberman

Jacksonville Strippers and the Case Justice Ginsburg will Never Hear

Jacksonville Strippers

There’s an interesting legal case involving Jacksonville Strippers and I thought with the news of Justice Ginsburg’s passing it would be something that might interest her and certainly does me. In Florida a new law prevents Jacksonville strippers from being under the age of 21 in clubs that do not serve alcohol. This city ordinance is being challenged as unconstitutional and might, if pursued diligently, end up in the Supreme Court.

Justice Ginsburg spent her life championing the cause of women and Jacksonville strippers are in that category. The justification for the law is that women under twenty-one are closer in age to the current limit of eighteen, that the closer a woman is to eighteen, the more likely she is to be unduly influenced into a career she does not want.

In Jacksonville the city representatives decided all strippers must be fingerprinted and licensed before they can pursue their profession. They also came to the conclusion they would not issue such licenses to anyone under twenty-one. They do this in the name of stopping “sex trafficking”.

The reality is relatively simple, for whatever reason we’ve established eighteen is the age when citizens are legally adults and can largely make their own decisions. If someone is eighteen, they can have sex with whomever they want, they can take their clothes off for money, they can model in a skimpy swimsuit, they can do anything any other adult can do and the government should not get involved, no matter how repugnant we, personally, might find the situation.

You’ll notice the do-gooder city hall members in Jacksonville have not asked to fingerprint and license members of the University of North Florida Osprey Division I football team. These young men are playing a violent game and run an enormous risk of personal injury but no one seems all that concerned about their welfare, despite them being under twenty-one. I’m sure you find that as surprising as me, as in not at all.

Today’s question is What Would Ruth Do? Justice Ginsburg lived a life actively and vigorously fighting for women to have the same rights as men in this world of ours, that includes Jacksonville Strippers. Once we’ve decided the legal age of adulthood is eighteen, we must not start picking and choosing particular professions and genders to protect from their own decisions. This is Big Brother at his worst, picking on adult women because Big Brother knows better how to lead their life than they do themselves.

Big Brother says young women are too weak of mind, too easily preyed upon, and we must protect them. Big Brother is, as usual, wrong.

The question is easily answered for me. What about you?

What would Justice Ginsburg Decide in this case?

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Tom Liberman

Comrade Trump does not Compute for Either Party

Comrade Trump

Comrade Trump made a statement the other day that was so outlandishly Communistic and Socialistic that neither party wants to talk about it at all. This pretty much sums up the state of the Democratic and Republican parties completely. Let me explain.

Apparently, Comrade Trump is angry at TikTok and there is speculation it is because one of its prominent members makes fun of Comrade Trump on a regular basis or that apparently users duped his campaign into overstating attendance at a rally. In any case, the fact that Comrade Trump is angry is indisputable. He is trying to force the Chinese owners of TikTok, ByteDance, to sell their U.S. operations to a company based in this country or he threatens to ban their services entirely, which is only the first part of the insanity.

If ByteDance manages to sell TikTok, Comrade Trump thinks that a significant percentage of the sale should be paid directly into the United States Treasury. His reasoning being that U.S. citizens by the tens of millions use TikTok and contribute to its profits and therefore its eventual sale price. Comrade Trump uses the wholly misguided National Emergencies Act to suggest almost anything he does is in the name of national security.

Here is where it gets, to use a term favorited by said president, pathetic. What Comrade Trump is suggesting is nothing short of communism. The all-powerful state can force a private company to sell its assets and take a portion of the price paid for that sale.

If Bernie Sanders was making this suggestion his many Socialist and Democratic supporters would cheer loudly and praise him for funneling corporate profits to the people upon whose backs those profits were reportedly earned. CNN would be trying to justify the madness in some sort of Constitutional twisting that makes a pretzel look like an arrow.

Likewise, if Sanders were to make said statement, my Republican, supposed business loving, friends would likely have some sort of apoplectic fit their screaming, ranting, and shouting would be so virulent as to cause dogs to flee and seek shelter under the bed. Fox news would be declaring the end of the world and you’d see pictures of the Constitution burning on their sensationalistic newscasts.

None of this is, of course, happening. Comrade Trump pretends to be a Republican so those aligned with him dare not express the outrage his turn to communism fully deserves. Meanwhile, those who support such misguided policies cannot, under any circumstances, suggest that he has at least one aim in alignment with their own goals.

Welcome to our failing country. Enjoy the comedy.

Tom Liberman

Why the President can Fire the CEO of the TVA

TVA

I just read a story about the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and the fact President Trump fired its CEO and one board member. My first reaction was, what what what? How can a political entity fire the CEO of the TVA? It turns out the TVA is owned by the Federal Government although it receives no tax dollars and acts almost exclusively just like a private company. So, my second question is, what what what?

Where is my Time Travel Hat? I have to get to the bottom of this immediately. Did I leave it in the freezer again? No. In the tax document drawer? No. Ah, there it is in the Gloomhaven Box, how did it get there? Oh well, let’s see, still fits, spin three times, fancy colors, bright lights, dizzy spell, and, where am I?

Is that President Franklin Roosevelt over there? What is he saying, selfish purposes, let’s listen in: Never shall the federal government part with its sovereignty or with its control of its power resources while I’m president of the United States. Hmm, so he’s upset that public utilities are charging high prices. He wants the government to be in charge of electricity generation. Look at all the people applauding him including Republican Senator George Norris who just blocked Henry Ford from building a private dam and utility to modernize the Tennessee Valley.

I can’t believe I’m actually watching President Roosevelt signing the TVA Act which legally prevents competition in the valley. Only the government can build power plants and dams. Oh, I see, look there, in the back room, the politicians know the dams are going to flood out tens of thousands of residents, Native American sacred sites, so they are giving TVA Eminent Domain powers to simply kick people off who refuse to sell. Smart!

Oh, look there, is that Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan lambasting the power of the TVA and the fact government controls it instead of private industry, it sure is. Look there, they have their own police force! A net income of $1.12 billion in 2018. They’ve been profitable since 1977.

Uh oh, energy running low, flashing lights, and I’m back home. Whew. Another successful trip. What did we learn? The government shouldn’t own industries like the TVA for a number of reasons, one of them is politicians will feel free to intervene in business decisions for which they should have no authority whatsoever.

Why does President Trump have the authority to fire the CEO of the TVA? Because the government created a monopoly and crushed any chance for private industry competition.

How does the Supreme Court justify this Socialism? The Commerce Clause which allows the regulation of streams to keep them navigable and the War Powers Act because electricity is sometimes used in the creation of munitions. Seriously? I ask. Seriously?

Tom Liberman

The Airline Industry is a Gigantic Government Boondoggle

Airline Industry

The Airline Industry in the United States was largely brought into existence and continues to be propped up by your tax dollars. It now looks like another $54 billion is going to be spent to keep it going. Yikes. Why are we propping up an industry that has largely failed to be profitable since its inception?

To fully understand how much of your tax dollars have gone into the airline industry we have to go back to the beginning. The Contract Air Mail Act of 1925 essentially allowed airlines to exist and they would not have turned a profit if not for government contracts. Since then the airline industry has continued to be largely dependent on the government for survival.

Without government contracts, military and government passengers paid for by you, employees trained at taxpayer expense, military breakthroughs in aviation, funding for research, the Essential Air Service, propping the industry up after the 9-11 terrorist attacks, ongoing payments to maintain staff and service airports, the industry would not exist in its current form.

In addition, the result of all these tax dollars put into the airline industry by the government was the utter destruction of the profitable and highly used passenger rail system that largely no longer exists in the United States but is functioning with great success in almost every other country in the world.

So, now, after all this, we are being asked to once again save the airline industry from bankruptcy. Hey, how about we let the unprofitable airlines fail, allow autonomous cars to transport us relatively short distances on our own schedule, and rebuild the passenger rail system without tax dollars? Those airlines that can run profitably without taxpayer dollars will do so.

Your tax dollars are the only reason many small airports across the country exist. That’s what the Essential Air Service act ensures. The government keeps small airports open even though they have no hope of ever being financially independent.

We never should have used tax payer dollars and government mandates to create the airline industry and now, all these years later, we’re continuing to pay for that mistake. Let’s put a stop to it, now is the opportunity to do so.

The mantra of a Libertarian: Let them fail.

Tom Liberman

Garrison Brothers Whiskey and Governor Perry

Garrison Brothers Whiskey

I attended an event at the whiskey place down the street, Gamlin Whiskey House, to learn about Garrison Brothers Whiskey and during the talk found yet another reason to hate government. One of the Garrison brothers mentioned that it was illegal to distill whiskey in Texas when he and his brother started up their business. Only the personal intervention of Governor Perry allowed it to take place. You’d imagine I’m happy about that but you’d be wrong and I’m here to explain why.

Apparently, the Garrison lads were learning how to distill in those early years but not actually selling any product. They knew what they were doing was illegal in the state of Texas but nobody really cared as they weren’t in a commercial business.

The distillery is located in Hye, Texas which is not far from the state capital of Austin. This means that Perry happened across it one day. Perry also happens to be a whiskey drinker. Imagine, if you will, that the Garrison Brothers distillery was not located near Austin, that Perry was a teetotaler, that Perry’s wife had bad romance with one of the brothers. Where would Garrison Brothers be then? That’s the root of the problem.

Yes, it’s nice that the government of Texas allowed the Garrison Brothers to legally distill and sell their whiskey. However, it’s awful that the government is in a position to allow or disallow such activity. The Garrison Brothers should be able to distill their whiskey and sell it with or without government support. You only have to look at the horse meat industry to understand the government can put anyone out of business, at any time, with the stroke of a pen.

Certainly, the government has the right to obtain a sample of the whiskey, send it to a laboratory, analyze it, and publish the result of that analysis. Let the public know if the whiskey has so much alcohol that it is toxic. If the whiskey is toxic then the law enforcement arm of the government can spring into action.

Whiskey reviewers have the right to purchase the whiskey and assign it a grade and the government should be able to do the same thing.

The whiskey, you ask? It’s made with high desert water from Texas and local produce so it has a different overall feel than Kentucky or Tennessee whiskey. It is softer in the mouth and doesn’t have that immediate striking feel on the tongue and roof of the mouth but has a lingering and lovely flavor on the side of the mouth and down the throat.

My recommendation? Next time you go whiskey shopping, purchase a bottle. You might find it becomes a go to brand or you might not find it to your taste. That’s a choice for you to make, not the government.

Tom Liberman

Cheap Razor Blades Saved by the FTC

Cheap Razor Blades

******* UPDATE *****

Edgewell dropped their attempt to purchase Harry’s. Congratulations big government lovers, the FTC has saved us.

**** END ******

The Federal Trade Commission is attempting to save cheap razor blades by preventing Edgewell Personal Care from purchasing Harry’s. Harry’s sells such blades along with other products. The government apparently considers Harry’s an industry disrupter and feels the need to step in and prevent the sale, which the owner of Harry’s deems necessary because the company is not profitable.

Yay, the government has come to save my cheap razor blades. The original low-priced razor companies; Dollar Shave Club and Walker and Company, were already purchased by larger razor manufacturers leaving only Harry’s to compete against the giants.

Let’s examine what’s really happening here. Why is Harry’s not profitable to begin with? Maybe because they sell razors so cheaply? It’s entirely possible Harry’s and the other sellers planned, from the very beginning, to sell out to the big names in industry. The principals knew their companies weren’t going to be profitable but wanted the bonanza at the end of the tunnel. If that is the case, then the FTC is preventing them from achieving this goal. It is undeniably true the owners of Harry’s want to sell and they are being prevented from doing so by the government.

The broader question, from a Libertarian perspective, does preventing the sale of Harry’s leave consumers better off? Does the government have a role to play thanks to the Anti-Trust laws established in the Constitution of the United States?

The answer is not easy to deduce. It is absolutely true that Harry’s is an industry disrupter because they sell cheap razor blades significantly below the price of the established companies. However, if their goal was to sell out in the long run, this action by the FTC actually prevents other start-ups from doing the same thing. If they can’t sell their companies and they know their business model is unsustainable, they will not bother starting up in the first place. If, on the other hand, they could make a profit selling the cheap razor blades, they would stay in business without being absorbed by a larger company.

Now, it is possible they are just poorly run businesses and blades at that price could be sold for a profit but the evidence we’ve seen so far doesn’t indicate as much. Therefore, it seems to me, the government shouldn’t be propping up companies that sell products at prices that are unsustainable simply because such is good for consumers.

This is, in essence, socialism. It’s almost as if the government themselves are selling us cheap razor blades which they purchase with our tax dollars. If I didn’t know better, I’d guess the government will eventually bail out Harry’s so they can keep selling us cheap razor blades, but, nah, that could never happen.

Tom Liberman

Tariffs on Cheap Chinese Mattresses

Cheap Chinese Mattresses

In the last few years a product called Bed-in-a-Box has roiled the United States mattress making markets and allowed for the shipping of cheap Chinese mattresses. Prior to the Bed-in-a-Box model is wasn’t particularly cost effective to ship cheap Chinese mattresses to the United States and therefore companies here largely didn’t have to deal with such competition. Now they do and they’re doing something about, petitioning the government to save them.

The Federal Government is now claiming Chinese manufacturers are Dumping cheap Chinese mattresses on the United States and Commerce Department is going to institute tariffs of over 1000% on them. Dumping is an Anti-Trust issue and actually under the purview of the United States government so they do have an argument in this case. The Commerce Department claims the Chinese are dumping their mattresses at an unreasonably low level in order to drive out competition and create a monopoly from which they will eventually raise prices and lower quality.

There are very few instances of Dumping actually doing those things. Now, it is clear when a competitor comes in with equally high-quality product at a much lower price, the established businesses will suffer. The mattress firms petitioning the Commerce Department admit the cheap Chinese mattresses are of equal quality to their own so that’s not an issue. People are getting a product they want at a price they like, that’s good for consumers and I’m sure there are plenty of people sleeping on those mattresses every night and happily so.

The question becomes if the price is intentionally low in order to drive out competition and an eventual increase in price and lowering of quality is planned. I think we need look no further than Walmart to find the answer to this question. China has been inundating the U.S. market with cheap products for decades and, while they certainly have gained a stranglehold on many markets, they haven’t increased prices once they were established, they have kept prices low. This because manufacturing in China is cheaper for a variety of economic reasons that I won’t get into today.

There is nothing wrong with good prices. That’s a good thing for consumers. It’s obviously bad for the manufacturers of mattresses in the United States but that’s what healthy competition is all about, it’s the nature of capitalism. In this case, it can be, and has been, argued that the problem isn’t solely the cheap Chinese mattresses but Bed-in-a-Box competition from other U.S. firms as well. That the Commerce Department is intentionally raising prices for consumers simply to keep an industry afloat that could not otherwise compete.

Welcome to capitalism in the United States. Like higher prices and worse? Keep voting for such.

Tom Liberman

Congress Tries to Save Minor League Baseball

Minor League Baseball

A bi-partisan group of legislators from the United States Congress is angry that Major League Baseball is losing money on their Minor League System and wants to eliminate 42 teams. The reason members of Congress are mad is because the teams headed for oblivion are in their districts. So what? You might say if you have Libertarian leanings. What can Congress do? Plenty, and that’s the problem.

Congress has the ability to make or break a business by passing legislation and that is not what the Founding Fathers wanted and it is not a power Congress should have. What can they do? They might refuse to grant visas to international players, they might change broadcasting rights to not allow teams to have exclusive home territorial rights, they could even repeal Major League Baseball’s antitrust exemption. This is the power that Congress wields when we grant its members far more authority than they should have.

First off, I’ve railed against the antitrust exemption before, but it’s important to understand by allowing Congress to “help” baseball in the past, major league executives are de facto telling Congress they can hurt them in the future.

When Congress establishes a system which fast tracks talented athletes through the system while gifted computer analysists are held up, we are agreeing that Congress members can help one industry and hurt another. We then don’t get to be angry when Congress members changes their minds.

This is the root problem with granting government too much power in the first place. We generally give them such authority to right a wrong and often have the best intentions in mind. However, eventually someone comes into office who doesn’t agree with prior legislation but now they have been given the power to use that cudgel in any way they see fit. We cheered when they used it to help us but, oops, now they are going to hold it over our heads unless we do as they want. This is legislative tyranny, this is not freedom.

Baseball should be allowed to run their minor league baseball teams, largely, in any way they desire. If those minor league baseball teams are unprofitable, then so be it. It’s their call whether to keep them, it cannot be the job of government. And yet it apparently is. That’s how far we’ve slipped in this country. Our elected officials believe they should have the authority to tell Major League Baseball executives how to run their farm system.

It boggles the mind.

Tom Liberman

Cattle Ranchers Fight Plant Alternatives with Legislation

Cattle Ranchers Fight Meat Free

I just read an interesting story from the Wall Street Journal which highlights how the cattle ranchers are reacting to the threat of plant-based meat alternatives. The threat is real and the ranchers have every reason to be worried. One part of their fight illustrates what is wrong with our supposedly capitalistic financial system. The cattle ranchers have enlisted the help of federal, state, and local governments.

Competition is good. The fact that we now have plant-based alternatives to beef means there is a healthy competitive market. This is good for consumers. If cattle ranchers want our business, they have to improve their product and their prices. Sadly, that’s largely not the course they are taking.

Right here in my home state of Missouri a law was recently passed by legislators that prevents any plant-based product from having the word meat on its product packaging. Basically, you can’t have a product using the words “meat-like”, “meat flavored”, or “meaty”. This is not capitalism. It’s an attempt to use political machinations to stifle a competitor and it’s all too common in this country. It’s destroying capitalism.

The other thing the cattle ranchers are doing is sponsoring so-called studies that disparage their competitors by making largely unsupported claims about the healthiness of the product. This is also a threat to true capitalism. Meanwhile, the plant-based meat producers are being forced to hire their own team of lobbyists and studies to fight these political and underhanded tactics. Both sides are having their lobbyists buy expensive trips and who knows what else for legislators in order to woo them into passing or not passing legislation that will help or harm their industry. Doesn’t anyone else see a problem with this?

We look to politicians to legislate our competitors out of business and that is hurting this country although, unsurprisingly, our politicians are happy to take gifts and cash from business owners who crawl to the politicians and piteously beg for favors.

You have a competitor? Make a better product. Market it better. Work harder. That’s capitalism.

Tom Liberman

What to do about Useful Money from Bad People

Useful Money from Bad People

A rather despicable fellow named Jeffrey Epstein donated large amounts of useful money to any number of philanthropic causes and these gifts are now causing problems for those who received them. People are returning useful money and resigning from their positions, or being asked to do so. What I’d like to examine is the nature of philanthropic money in general.

Many of the people who donate to causes are not the greatest people in the world. Certainly, Epstein is viler than most but the question remains the same. As an example, let’s imagine you are the financial officer of a charitable organization and you have strong views on religion. Perhaps you are an Atheist or perhaps you are a Christian, Muslim, Wiccan, Jew, or Hindu. You are offered a large amount of useful money from someone who has a completely different belief system than you. Do you take that money knowing it will contribute to doing what you perceive to be good? What if the person has a criminal record? What if they are giving the money in order to improve their reputation because of some misdeeds in the past?

While my question is hypothetical the reality exists to the tune of billions of dollars in charitable donations. The events surrounding Epstein are forcing the financial operators of these organizations to ask themselves this very question. Should I refuse the donation because of the nature of the person who is giving it? Does the money, and the good that is done with it, override my concerns about the source? The money given by such a person intermingles with the money given by many better people and helps us fulfill our mission. Should I deny a child from Make a Wish their wish because I don’t like the person who is giving the money? Doesn’t that just hurt the child?

This is no idle question, if organizations turn down money from disreputable or unaligned donors, they will have less money to complete their mission. Those who would benefit instead go without. There are no easy answers here but I will not shirk from a conclusion simply because the question is complex and difficult.

I’ll happily tell you what I would do were I in charge of such a charity. Not that my decision is proper for anyone else, it is right for me and me alone.

I’d take the money from any source, even if Epstein were alive today in order to give it. I’d also be completely honest about my distaste for such a horrible person. I’d highlight the donation in my monthly and annual literature. I’d speak loudly to the stakeholders in the charity about why I took the money. About how the vile criminal Epstein was attempting to restore his reputation through the donation and that I wanted nothing to do with him other than cashing the check. I’d consider re-donating a goodly portion of it to help his many victims and organizations devoted to helping them and those like them.

Perhaps you disagree and I respect your right to do so. I can certainly understand why you would.

Tom Liberman

Fake Guacamole on the Rise Because of High Priced Avocados

Fake Guacamole

If you’re like me, you love guacamole and avocados. Yum. The price for avocados is skyrocketing and this is causing a lot of pain in restaurants who use the delicious fruit in various dishes. It strikes particular hard for Mexican establishments who tend to use it across a wide array of menu items but other restaurants are suffering as well. What do they do? Use other ingredients and create Fake Guacamole.

If you weren’t against tariffs because you’re a freedom loving Libertarian who promotes open and free trade then this phrase almost certainly hits somewhere most likely even more important, your stomach. The very words Fake Guacamole should be as rage inducing as trying to Get Over It. Ok, that’s a video game reference and sometimes I just can’t help but let my inner nerd out for all to see. Well, actually, it’s pretty much always on display but I won’t get sidetracked from my mission to free you from Fake Guacamole.

I’ve written about why protectionism hurts consumers far more than it helps those industries it purports to protect so I won’t reiterate here. The results are plain to see. Avocados cost a lot more today because tariffs have exacerbated a poor harvest and increasing demand. Today’s issue is the sort of punch to the gut that I think economic philosophy and Libertarian ideology don’t impart. You, the consumer, have most likely eaten Fake Guacamole in the last few months. You are certainly paying more for what avocados you still purchase although it’s almost certain you’ve cut down on that particularly delightful and healthy food.

This is the direct result of policies that promote protectionism and their attendant tariffs. How does it feel to know you’ve been tricked? That you’ve been served something under false pretenses because politically motivated economic policies forced the restaurant to do so in order to survive? Perhaps you think it’s worth it, that the trade off is worth the horror of fake guacamole. I disagree because I see no benefit from the policies of protectionism. They are merely political rallying points to inspire a group of citizens who are not happy with the direction of government.

If you are not happy with where our government is going, more bad policies are not going help. Things are hardly perfect in the United States but don’t let that encourage you to vote for politicians who enact policies detrimental both in the short and long term. Don’t let your rabble be raised in negative ways. Demand good decisions from your leaders with your votes. They’ll listen, I promise.

Free trade means cheaper avocados and real guacamole. How can you be against that?

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

Clean Energy Revolution not Fueled by Government

Clean Energy v Coal

About ten or so years ago a friend of mine told me with absolute certainty that Clean Energy would never amount to more than two percent of the United States energy needs and that I was an idiot for saying otherwise. Well, in April 2019 clean energy accounted for a greater percentage of our energy than did coal. Bub, you were wrong and will continue to be more wrong with every passing year.

I’m not here to gloat about my clean energy predictions but to talk about how this revolution is happening not because of government but in spite of it. Various groups have long promoted solar, wind, and natural gas as better sources for energy because they don’t cause nearly the pollution as generated by coal. To hasten this transition of energy away from coal, such people advocated massive government encouragement, read tax breaks and subsidies, to the purveyors of clean energy. I argued that instead of subsidizing clean energy, we should simply stop doing so for coal and oil.

President Obama and the democrats largely agreed with the sentiments expressed by the clean energy crowd. They implemented plans to help spread the use of such energy and had some successes and some failures.

Enter President Trump. He essentially has the opposite plan. He wants to encourage the use of coal and dispense with helping clean energy. He has had some successes and some failures in his plans.

The reality of the situation is quite easy to see from any graph showing production associated with coal and clean energy in the last twenty years. Coal rarely dropped below 150 gigawatt-hours of energy prior to 2010. Now they never even reach this level and it is unlikely to ever rise that high again. The trend is obvious but what is driving it?

I’m happy to tell you; capitalism completely disassociated from government. Investors, builders, and entrepreneurs have no desire to invest in coal-based plants because there is more money to be made from clean energy power plants. If you’re mining coal, working at a coal-fired plant, hauling coal on the railroad, or doing anything associated with coal; start making plans to do something else. Not today, not tomorrow, but eventually; capitalism is talking and it’s not mincing words.

The most important thing to understand is this is all good and natural, as was the rise of coal in the first place. If government just stayed out of the energy business altogether, we’d likely be much further along in this process. If you enjoy breathing air and drinking water, you should be sad we are not.

Did the Obama era clean energy policies help promote them? Certainly. Have the Trump era coal energy policies helped extend the coal era? Certainly. Neither has a chance against the true forces of capitalism. Stop subsidizing energy altogether. It’s best for all of us.

Tom Liberman

NPS or Net Promoter Score and What it Means

NPS

I just became aware of a tool used by many S&P 500 companies called NPS or Net Promoter Score. The basic idea is to find out how many of your customers are so-called Promoters. The thought being if your customers give a product a 9 or 10 rating on a ten-point scale, they are promoters. Those who give it a 7 or 8 are passives and those who give it a 0 through 6 are detractors. That is what I want to examine today, the idea of promoters, passives, and detractors.

The idea was created by a fellow named Fred Reichheld although he doesn’t approve of the way it is currently being used by management in many companies. There is a lot to said for the NPS system both for and against but that’s not going to be the gist of my blog today. I want to look at NPS from a different angle.

I used to work as an instructor and we often gave out those one to ten rating scales for students to evaluate their experience in the class. I’ve also filled out many of them for various products that I’ve purchased over the years. I’ve come to a completely different conclusion than Reichheld although the practical implications may be about the same.

The idea of promoters is, of itself quite interesting. There is an underrated movie called The Joneses which examines this idea in fairly great detail. I wrote a Libertarian review of the movie not long ago should you wish to read it. In any case, the idea is that promoters go out and tell other people how great is your product and influence them into purchasing it.

The NPS system lumps people who give a product a 9 or 10 rating as promoters. My experience is fairly different. People who habitually rate a product that high are almost always True Believers who either lack critical thinking skills or simply choose not to apply them. People who rate a good product as 7 or 8 generally are more inclined to be skeptical. My own thinking is that I would almost never rate anything a perfect ten as nothing is without flaws.

The bottom end of the scale is where I radically differ from ideology of the NPS. I think people who give a product a 0 through 2 rating are generally exactly the same as those who give it a 9 or 10. They are True Haters. They don’t like either the product or its manufacturer for some personal reason and no amount quality is going to change their mind. They are, in essence, exactly the same as the people who rate the product highly. It is my opinion it is these people who should be targeted by the manufacturer for they, if swayed through some small act of kindness, will become True Believers for life.

I would be interested in a study of NPS scores compared to religious and political beliefs to see if there is a correlation between individuals who give extreme scores and those who espouse extreme political ideas.

In summation, I actually agree with some of the principles of the NPS. The system might call them Promoters while I use the term True Believers. The system calls middle scorer givers Passives whereas I call them Skeptics. The end result is; however, valid. The True Believers will promote and purchase the product no matter the quality, whereas the Skeptics will purchase products from competitors if they are objectively better. It is only with the low scorers where my disagreement with the NPS conflicts with the actions of business leaders.

What do you think?

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

EB-5 Program and Buying United States Citizenship

EB-5 Hudson Yards

Until I read a fascinating story, I had not heard of something called the EB-5 Visa Program for foreign investors. The idea is simple enough. If a foreign investor pumps $500,000 to a $1,000,000 into a project targeting a rural or poor urban area, their children are given legal rights to live in the United States. What could go wrong? Exactly what you would expect.

Basically, the meaning of jobs being created and poor regions as defined by the EB-5 was stretched so that most of the money went to fund luxury projects in wealthy cities. Districts were drawn to include poor regions but the vast majority of the construction took place in wealthy areas. That along with the fact that some of the developers simply absconded with large sums of money.

Most of the investors appear to come from China and individuals of enormous wealth found a way to invest their money not only with a financial return but also a pathway to United States citizenship for their children.

Personally, I’m not convinced the EB-5 program was created with the best of intentions at all. The politicians back in 1990, when it was implemented, most likely well-understand where the money would go and created a system by which it could flow to wealthy regions while following the loose guidelines of the program.

I’m not even upset the money went to fund luxury projects like Hudson Yards. I’m also not opposed to foreign nationals purchasing U.S. citizenship, which is exactly what is going on despite any arguments to the contrary. What makes me angry is pretending to be doing a good and wonderful thing by helping out the poor in rural regions and urban cities when there was never any such intention.

Some of the money did, in fact, go to projects of the nature for which they were intended but I strongly suspect that would have been the case even if the base purpose of the program was to simply attract foreign investments. When money comes into the United States for various projects it is a good thing. It would be nice if more money was spent to help poor rural areas and poverty ridden urban regions but reality is a tough mistress.

People largely don’t want luxury apartments in rural regions or the poor areas of the inner city. However, when a region undergoes development the area around it often improves as well. This reality is the best we can hope to accomplish.

Creating a program like EB-5 with unrealistic expectations of development in rural and poor regions is an exercise in deceit. I’m here to help, said the politician while stuffing their stomach at the trough. My Libertarian sensibilities say, go ahead and stuff your face, but be honest about it.

If the EB-5 program was created honestly, I’m certain organizations like Asian Americans for Equality would have found a way to use that money to help the poor in both rural and urban regions. I’m sure many investors believed they were doing a good thing because the project was under the mantle of the EB-5.

Tell investors the truth. This project is in a wealthy region and this other one is in a disadvantaged region. You decide which one in which to invest. I’d guess you’d have had more money going to the sorts of projects the entire program was designed to fund in the first place.

Tom Liberman