Can you Ban your Cake and Eat it Too?

Cake

I just read an interesting article about a restaurant that charges a fee to bring your own cake. It’s tearing up the internet and it gives me a chance to focus on my Libertarian ideology for the first time in a while.

The question is fairly basic. A restaurant doesn’t want you bringing your own cake, food, or beverages to consume. Almost all restaurants have a corkage fee for bringing in your own wine and no one really has a problem with this. The fee in question at the unnamed London restaurant was £10 per person at the table. It was a birthday celebration with a dozen people and I’ll leave the math to you.

In any case, my question today is if the fee is justified.

£120 for a Cake

The sticking point largely seems to be the high price for the cake. Most people seem to agree that some fee is in order but a great deal of debate on the amount is raging. The price does seem rather high to me but, that being said, it is replacing twelve desserts. I can easily see each dessert running around that individual price.

In other words, I absolutely see both sides of the argument. I do understand the restaurant is out the price of all those desserts but, on the other hand, they’ve made a tidy profit on the rest of the dinner. A table of twelve at a celebration is certainly going to eat a lot of food with appetizers, mains, and drinks. Is it worth it to alienate good customers with such a policy?

The Internet is Divided

Based on the comments I read, the internet seems fairly divided on the topic. I certainly understand both points of view as I mentioned. However, this is where my Libertarian ideology turns such conundrums from difficult to simple.

While most of the commenters put forward various arguments in support of the restaurant and against it, my answer is easy and came to me even before I finished the article. I’m sure most of you loyal readers already know exactly what I’m going to write.

The Libertarian Cake Answer

The restaurant is well within their rights to charge an extra fee for bringing a cake onto the premises and substituting it for desserts ordered on site. The customer is equally within their rights to resent the fee and refuse to eat at the restaurant again, cake or not.

That’s where life gets pretty simple for a Libertarian. It’s clearly not a situation in which the government should intervene although I suspect a bi-partisan panel of “conservatives” and “liberals” will introduce legislation to ban charges for bringing your own cake. They will tout the legislation as common sense and good for the children who get to eat the cake. Afterall, we must protect the children!

Conclusion

Putting aside the sarcasm for a moment, though it pains me; if the restaurant wants to charge whatever amount for bringing your own cake, that’s their business. If the customers decide they’d rather eat somewhere else, that’s their prerogative as well.

That is all. Continue with your daily lives and don’t forget to stop and taste the cake.

Tom Liberman

My Story with Imperia Vodka

Imperia Vodka

With the disgusting invasion of the Ukraine by Russia, a number of politicians ordered banning the sale of vodka produced in Russia. I’d like to talk about that today. I’m more of a whiskey and gin drinker but before covid one of my favorite neighborhood hangouts was Sub-Zero Vodka bar.

The thing I’d like to address today is if banning the sale of Russian Vodka is an appropriate response by various parties, the government, a tavern, my friends, and myself. It’s an interesting question for a Libertarian from the perspective of its legality and usefulness.

How I met Imperia and Hammer and Sickle Vodka

Ah, the good old days of Sub-Zero. My favorite bartender, Cailyn, introduced me to two premium vodkas, Imperia and Hammer and Sickle. Both are produced by Russian Standard. They accurately belong in the category of actual Russian vodka, unlike many of the brands being boycotted.

I spent many a pleasant hour snuggled up to the second bar sipping on icy-cold Imperia, or Hammer and Sickle when the aforementioned wasn’t in stock. The second bar because the ice top to the main bar proved more of a nuisance than a benefit, and the side bar was generally Cailyn’s station.

What if Sub-Zero was Still Open?

Sadly, Sub-Zero closed but what if I could still walk over? Would I order an Imperia? Do I think the mayor of St. Louis or the governor of Missouri should ban Russian vodka? Should the owners of Sub-Zero refuse to sell the vodka?

As complex as the question might be, my answer is pretty simple. I’d find a Ukrainian vodka to drink. That being said, if the owner continued to sell Imperia and Hammer and Sickle, I’d still patronize that establishment. I suspect, knowing what I know, they would likely stop selling it but that’s their business. I also wouldn’t give anyone else a dirty look or yell at them if they chose to order Imperia or Hammer and Sickle.

One of the important lessons I learned in my four years at the University of Idaho was not to criticize the way someone else goes about their business.

On the other hand, there is no way local, state, or federal government needs to get their sticky hands involved in the situation. It’s just not the business of government to tell me which vodka to drink or a business owner which vodka to sell.

This is what small government means. Sub-Zero can refuse to sell a brand of vodka or refuse to let me in if I’m not wearing a mask. They are a private business and the government has no business telling them what they can or cannot sell or telling them how to enforce a dress code.

What if Russian Standard hates Putin?

This is an important question. What if the owners of Russian Standard oppose Vladimir Putin and his amoral war? What if by not drinking their vodka, I actually help Putin by bankrupting those who oppose him?

This is the general problem with feel-good boycotts. When a boycott becomes some Cause Célèbre it ends up hurting many of the people it is designed to help. Meanwhile the self-righteous boycotters pat themselves on the back for a job well done. It’s a false sense of doing good when often you’re doing harm and it’s prevalent on both the Republican and Democrat sides of the aisle.

Conclusion

It’s entirely possible by not drinking Imperia or Hammer and Sickle I might be hurting a manufacturer that doesn’t support Putin. It’s also possible they are ardent Putin backers. I don’t know and I don’t care. I find what’s happening to be disgusting and wrong and I’m not drinking Russian vodka because of it.

Maybe I’ll never drink another glass of Imperia or Hammer and Sickle. That’s my business, not yours and not the government’s.

Tom Liberman

Sweet Drinks Advertised Deceptively

Sweet Drinks

I just read an interesting article about how beverage manufacturers advertise sweet drinks directly to children. This advertising, along with lower prices, steers consumers to those products. This is aided by deceptive labeling on bottles that confuse parents.

When children consume sweet drinks, they become unhealthier. There is no question about the link between poor diet and health. There is also no question that advertising works. Advertising designed to make a product appealing to a child does so. Labeling designed to fool people does so.

The question the article poses is if government has any role in all of this. I’ve certainly written about the role of government in sweet drinks in the past. Taxes were my topic of discussion at that time but today I want to talk more about regulation.

Regulating Sweet Drinks

As a Libertarian I’m not as opposed to regulation as you might think. I think false and misleading advertising definitely fall under the purview of criminality and the government. The problem is that we have laws to prevent false labeling and false advertising and, as usual, manufacturers find ways to bypass those laws.

It’s incredibly difficult to create an effective law to modify human behavior. We often see a law designed with the best intentions ending up being more harmful than that which it purports to stop. We need go no further than the War on Drugs to see this.

Deceptive Advertising and Labeling

If we examine the picture included in this blog you see Glaceau vitamin water with a label clearly reading Naturally Sweetened. We also see a wonderful reference to electrolytes which any fan of Idiocracy will appreciate. A perusal of the nutritional content on the back reveals a large amount of sugar in the drinks.

What is naturally anyway? If companies are not allowed to use the world naturally or electrolytes, they will find other deceptive words, it’s an endless cat and mouse game. That’s the problem with trying to regulate human behavior, be it through the War on Drugs or buzzwords like Organic and Naturally.

Companies will find ways around your rules.

The Goal

What we want is people to have healthier diets. If people have healthier diets, it is good for our society. Our healthcare system is largely broken. In part because of the enormous number of unhealthy people in this country. People, particularly poor people in rural areas, need the services of Doctors without Borders as if we were a Third World Country. I hesitate to use the words “as if” but I don’t want to get into that debate today.

The Solution

The manufacturer loves obfuscating the product and does so with misleading labels and advertising that comes right to the edge of legality. No matter how much we try to regulate this, companies will find a way.

I’m convinced the most helpful remedies to the problem lie with us, with the store owner. Don’t stock sweet drinks on the same shelf as unsweetened drinks is one that comes to my mind. One shelf is marked Sweetened and the other marked Unsweetened. If the store owner refuses, if the manufacturer pays extra to be on a certain shelf, there’s not much to be done, unfortunately.

I don’t think there are magical solutions to these problems but I also think individuals can focus on both informing the consumer and making the world a better place. Go to your local grocer and ask if they’ll separate the sweet drinks onto their own shelf, the worst that can happen is you’re told no.

Tom Liberman

Comments on Trucking Capacity Article

Trucking capacity

I saw an interesting headline about long haul trucking capacity. I then read the article about long-haul truck drivers being seriously under-utilized. After reading the article I got to the comments section. That’s what I want to talk about today, the comments on the article.

The comments seemed largely based on the headline rather than the article. The headline indicated some 40% of trucking capacity is not used on any given day. The part of the headline that seemed triggering for many was the person proclaiming this is an MIT expert.

What you talking about, Willis? Some MIT expert thinks he knows better than blue-collar, hard-working, good old boy trucking industry people how to run their company! Damn liberal, educated no-nothing! I’m going to give them a piece of my mind!

Overview

I admit I immediately jumped to the same conclusions as a lot of the commenters. Did the MIT expert want the truck drivers to drive more hours? Were the schedules that badly messed up? Wouldn’t the industry experts know how to properly schedule? Aren’t there laws about how much a long-haul trucker is allowed to drive in a day?

My confusion was cleared up once I took the time to read the article. A point many of the commenters failed to do. The MIT expert explains the biggest problem in trucking capacity under-utilization is loading and unloading the trucks early in the morning and late in the afternoon.

Apparently getting a truck fully loaded in a timely fashion at any other time than 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Monday through Friday is a serious problem. This is particularly detrimental in the morning because it throws off delivery times and pick up times for loads the rest of the day.

The Comments

The comments, as you might expect, went after the MIT expert as an educated elite who didn’t have a clue about what he spoke. I read a lot of ad-hominem attacks, working-man indignation, and general you don’t know what you’re talking about comments.

Then I started to come across comments from actual long-haul truckers. These comments showed unanimous support for the MIT expert. They all confirmed the problem of loading in a timely fashion causing trucking capacity shortfalls on a massive scale. The truckers provided anecdotal evidence that rang true to my ears. They not only confirmed the MIT expert but indicated their complaints about this problem were long standing and
largely unaddressed.

Congress

The article then went on to explain what Congress planned to do about the problem. None of the solutions presented addressed the actual issue. Most of the solutions being pursued involved more drivers and more women drivers.

This is a bang for your buck issue. I’m not saying we don’t need more drivers or more women drivers. I’m saying listen to the expert and listen to the actual long-haul truckers. If you want to solve your trucking capacity problem, go after the largest issue first.

In addition, government might consider getting out of the way in regards to automated cars and trucks. Our online society is moving away from the brick-and-mortar store model. We want to order goods and have them delivered to our door. If we don’t address the capacity issue in a pragmatic and realistic way this problem is only going to get worse.

Conclusion

While the problem of trucking capacity is real, my actual goal today is to shame you armchair experts, unlike the MIT expert. You made an assumption based on a headline and didn’t bother to do any research into the actual issue.

Why didn’t you bother to read the article? You spouted off without knowing what you were talking about. Exactly what you accuse the MIT expert of doing.

My verdict? You, pompous commenter, are guilty!

Tom Liberman

Video Game Development and Cryptocurrency

Cryptocurrency

Cryptocurrency, blockchain, and NFT technologies are in the news a great deal these days. It’s invaded the video gaming community in a big way with major gaming platforms embracing the technology. I’m not going to get into a lengthy discussion about what cryptocurrency is or is not. Nor am I interested in discussing its long-term viability as a medium of exchange.

What I will discuss today is crowd sourcing and in-game purchases used to fleece people of their money.

I’ve learned a great deal about this from various YouTube gamers like KiraTV and Callum Upton. I suggest you watch some channels dedicate to exposing this sort of scam and learn more for yourself.

What is Crowd Sourcing

Crowd sourcing is a way to generate revenue from people in order to create a product. In this case, the product is a purported video game which uses cryptocurrency, NFTs, blockchain and other buzzword technologies. The developer and associates spread information on various social media platforms touting the video game as a way to make a lot of money. People then send money to the developers in hopes of a large return.

In modern times, the developer pays influencers to promote the video game which creates a buzz and more people invest.

In-Game Purchases

Another way the developers make money in this scheme is to sell virtual product in the game. It might be plots of land, vehicles, mounts, outfits, weapons, or anything else a crafty developer purchases from an asset store. People pay money for these things.

Often times a resale market is established where one investor can sell purchased items to a second investor with the game developers taking a small percentage of each sale. All these virtual markets are established long before any game is created.

The people who jump in early hope to see a massive profit later when others pay them a premium for these items. These early investors then use social media to promote the game itself and the in-game purchases as a way to make money. This is often called Pump and Dump which I’ve written about elsewhere.

The problem is only the early purchasers take a profit because, as it becomes clear the game will fail, the market plunges and all items become worthless.

Game Fails

The windfall comes when the game fails. The developer took millions from crowd sourcing, millions more from in-game sales but after trying to create a game for any number of years, they fail. Off they sail into the sunset with your money.

The reason this is generally legal is developers spend just enough money and time to make a case they tried to develop the game in good faith. Naturally, they had no intention of creating a finished product but they only must prove in court they tried.

Conclusion

I don’t want to tell you how to invest your money. It’s your decision. I get the idea if one of these games actually comes to fruition you might make a lot of money. You won’t, even though you believe differently. Only people in on the scheme from the start or the early days will make money. Everyone else, that’s you, will lose.

I understand it’s only a few thousand dollars that you can afford to lose. Still, don’t you want to spend that money on something you’ll enjoy? A good whisky? A nice meal? A cute girl or guy? Even a long-term, low-risk investment?

Tom Liberman

Anti-vaxxers are as Monolithic as Big Pharma

Monolithic

Conclusion

I’ll get to the conclusion right away. Both anti-vaxxers and Big Pharma are equally monolithic, that is to say, neither one is monolithic at all.

Does everyone who won’t take a vaccine have the same motivation for not doing so? Does every employee of a pharmaceutical company have the same motivation? Is there any group of people, anywhere, anytime, who share perfectly in their ideology and motivation? Simply put, no. Categorically no. From the top of the mountain I say, no! No, no, no. We are individuals.

What’s most disturbing for me is those who cry out when portrayed as monolithic, eagerly and enthusiastically shout out that everyone and everything else is monolithic.

The Easy Way Out of Monolithic Blame

The large pharmaceutical companies do want to make a profit. So do you. So do I. Does that mean I’d willingly murder people in order to get them to purchase my novels and stories? Does that mean you’d eagerly murder people, put them in danger, risk their future health, to make some money?

When you suggest your reason for not taking is a vaccine is because you don’t trust pharmaceutical companies to put out a safe product, you are saying the people who helped in the creation of that vaccine are willing to murder for profit.

You’re saying there is a monolithic group of scientists, biologists, chemist, software developers, nurses, doctors, and many others who took part in this massive deception. The scientist knew the vaccine was dangerous and created it anyway. The doctors and nurses who performed the double-blind studies knew it. The software developers who coded the applications to tally the information knew it. All of those people are complicit in the deception, they are monolithic in their desire for money, so much so that murdering and maiming millions of people doesn’t bother them.

The same can be said for anything. A seatbelt design, a cancer cure, a heating and cooling unit. Whatever it is that you do.

It’s simple to look at Big Pharma as a villain and it’s simple to look at anti-vaxxers as a villain. When you categorize either as such, you are the villain.

Political

Now I’m going to get political and piss off most of you. Are all Democrats something or another? Are all Republicans something or another? If you’ve said anything to that affect in the last year, you are a fool. You bought into the sales pitch of someone else, someone who isn’t interested in what’s best for you, but what is best for them.

When we create monolithic categories for those we dislike, we destroy ourselves. It is only when we see others as individuals that we can hope to unite as a nation, as a world. When we categorize and dehumanize people, we become evil ourselves. Stop doing it.

Tom Liberman

Facebook Advertisements are the Opposite of Socialism

Facebook Advertisement

The Rage

I recently placed several Facebook advertisements for my new serial stories on Amazon and was surprised by the backlash from some who saw the ads. The general thoughts indicated to me that these folks hated that my Facebook advertisements were on their wall.

I’m quite interested in what I found when tracking back to the people expressing their rage, usually in the form of, shall we say, colorful images posted on the wall of The Adventures of Stultafor Milbegrew. Almost all of them seemed to be opponents of Socialism with a large majority supporting one particular political party.

Facebook is Capitalism

The problem, for the ragers, is that Facebook Advertisements are the embodiment of capitalism. If you want to remove all the ads then you remove all revenue. Without revenue Facebook either must go to a pay model or become a government run business that relies on tax dollars to provide you with an ad free experience.

The very people railing with those aforementioned colorful images are actually espousing against capitalism, if not outright supporting of socialism.

Why My Ads

Another area of great confusion seemed to be in the placement of Facebook advertisements on the wall of those expressing outrage. The general sentiment indicated the person complaining imagined my advertisement took up space on their wall.

The problem with this line of thought is the spot on the wall is a placeholder for an advertisement, if not mine then someone else’s. There will always be Facebook Advertisements taking up those position on your wall, on my wall, on all walls. Having said that, none of your friends see ads on your wall. Which is another common point of confusion among those who express themselves so forcefully to me.

The only way to get rid of those ads is to convince Facebook to change to a pay portal model. Or simply ask the government to take it over and run it with tax dollars.

Why Such Rage?

I find the confusion about the issue of Facebook Advertisements to be quite interesting. I suspect the complainers are not bothered by television advertisements. That thirty second spot on your favorite show will always be an advertisement, it will never contain content. It’s simply a placeholder for whichever advertiser spends funds on it.

There is something personal about my wall on Facebook. It is mine, even though at some level I think even the most vociferous complainer understands it really isn’t mine at all, but Facebook’s. That they allow me to use that space in order to sell advertising revenue.

Conclusion

It’s a choice you have, my friends. Either the advertisement of a little guy, that’s me, simply trying to get people to read three free serial stories and hopefully purchase more or a big company with something larger to sell.

And, seriously, the stories are short, easy to read, and funny. Try the first three for free and if you think I’m wrong, I can take criticism!

Tom Liberman

The Great Quartz Rush in KwaZulu-Natal

KwaZulu

Diamonds and Quartz Look Similar

The harm a lack of education and poverty can cause was on display in South Africa when a cattle herder found a mineral that looked like it might be a diamond. This set off a diamond rush to the KwaZulu-Natal region of that country.

The problem is that another mineral, quartz, looks an awful lot like a diamond to the naked eye. In fact, it generally takes a laboratory examination to tell the difference between the two minerals.

Diamond Rush Ensues

Many people rushed to the KwaZulu-Natal region in order to start digging for diamonds. These treasure hunters then proceeded to destroy over fifty hectares of land, that’s over a hundred and twenty acres to those of us in the United States.

This happened despite overwhelming geologic evidence the region is extremely unlikely to contain diamonds. It is a region composed dolerite, a predominately volcanic rock. We find Diamonds universally in rocks called kimberlites and lamproites.

Quartz is extremely common in dolerite regions.

Why did this Happen?

I finally get to the point of this blog. The incredible damage that often results from the terrible combination of poverty and lack of education. It is fairly clearly established that greater wealth goes hand-in-hand with higher education. This in itself is useful but I want to look at the dangers uneducated and poor populations present to the rest of society and the world.

People who do not have money have less to lose. I can understand why someone from the poverty-stricken region of KwaZulu-Natal gave into the temptation of this diamond rush. What do they have to lose? Their lives are already miserable and the futures for their children are just as bleak.

Throw into this mix a lack of education. The people in the KwaZulu-Natal region might not even know the mineral composition of the soil and the impossibility of the discovered minerals being diamonds. They just don’t know any better.

The Terrible Results

In this case, the result is the destruction of a large chunk of land, that happily enough was not of great value. The potential damage is far, far greater. It seems to me the negative results of anti-education policies right here in the United States and around the world are manifesting themselves every day.

People who are desperately poor and without a solid educational foundation are significantly more likely to make poor, desperate decisions. Those decisions lead to negative outcomes not only for the people in question but for everyone around them. That’s the problem.

As a Libertarian, I strongly think people should make their own decisions in life. That being said, it’s undeniable poor people, desperate people, and uneducated people tend to make worse decisions than their counterparts.

I know some people will laugh at this situation and think of South Africa as a poor nation. Such people will think to themselves this could never happen here. I beg to differ. I put no stupidity beyond people, even here in the United States.

If a supposed diamond was found in my backyard, I’d immediately fear for my life from the hordes of people immediately descending upon my property with violence in their eyes, greed in their hearts, and nothing at all in their minds.

The United States is not as far removed from South Africa as you might imagine. People are the same everywhere.

Tom Liberman

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