Tom Brady and FTX

Tom Brady and FTX

I don’t like Tom Brady. I’m convinced he and his teammates cheated the Rams out of a Super Bowl. I’m certain he was heavily involved in Deflategate. He left his pregnant wife for a super model. I don’t think he’s a good person. I think he’s a liar and a cheat.

There are now news stories he and his super model ex-wife were heavily invested in FTX and they might well face financial ruin. Am I happy about that? Does it make me feel good to see someone I dislike so intensely suffer? It’s a good question and I think it goes to the heart of a lot animosity we see in world today, particularly with politics.

Is the Tom Brady and FTX Misery my Joy?

The real question becomes, should I take joy in the misfortune of others if I don’t like them? I totally understand why people feel this way. If I don’t like a person then their misfortune makes me feel good. I’m guessing to feel this way is human, normal.

Then I start thinking about it a little more. Do I really want to be the person who cheers in joy when someone else is suffering? There is not only Tom Brady to think about. What about all those other investors in FTX who are suffering? People I don’t hate, probably people I like.

Then there is Brady’s family, his children, his friends. They also count on the money Brady provides to enjoy their life.

Should I feet bad about Tom Brady and FTX?

Taking into account the general misery of the entire situation and the total number of people affected, should I feel bad? I’ve spoken about the nature of Cryptocurrency scams. How the lure of easy money causes people to lose sight of their better judgement. How scammers steal from people with false promises.

Now Tom Brady is a victim, just like any other. I’ve written that I feel bad for people who are taken in by such scams but I also don’t excuse their greed. Tom Brady, like a lot of other people, got greedy. Maybe it was his financial advisors, maybe it was all Brady, I don’t know. Someone got greedy and is paying the price.

I feel bad for Brady and others, I do. It’s a terrible blow to lose your fortune like Kevin Bacon and so many others did in trusting Bernie Madoff. This disaster might well have played a role in Brady’s divorce, his decision to return to the football field and risk his health. Lack of money, or the pursuit of it, makes people do things they don’t want to do, sometimes dangerous things.

I really do feel bad for Brady.

The Bigger Picture

It’s my opinion this wishing ill upon people we don’t like his problematic in the United States these days. Every time I see thousands of likes on stories where a Democrat or a Republican figure suffers misfortune I think about it. Thousands of people relishing the horrific car crash that killed Anne Heche. Why are so many people happy to see those they dislike suffer, die? Suffering is terrible. I wish we lived in a world where no one suffered.

I’m not the most empathetic person in the world. I don’t feel the suffering of others. I’m far more intellectually inclined. Still, I do feel bad for Brady. I don’t like him, never will, but I get that his suffering isn’t my happiness. Anyone’s suffering is not my happiness.

Conclusion

Does this all make me a better person? I actually think so. I think people who relish in the suffering of those they dislike are not doing themselves or anyone else any good. I certainly understand it’s human nature. Believe me, when I first heard Brady may have lost his fortune, it made me smile. “Good,” I said. “No one deserves it more.”

Then I started to think about it and changed my mind. Maybe you can do the same when you see the misfortune of someone from the opposite side of the political spectrum. Maybe you can admonish friends who do the same. Maybe you can’t.

Tom Liberman

Prime Time Sellout or Business as Usual

Prime Time Sellout

Is it a Prime Time Sellout for Deion Sanders to take the head coaching job at the University of Colorado or is it just business as usual in the college football world? It’s an interesting question that depends largely on how you define the word sellout.

Deion Sanders was, until recently, the head coach at Jackson State University where he compiled an excellent record and won two championships in the role. He just took the job at Colorado which as a Power Five Conference member means a big jump in salary for Prime Time.

A lot of people are angry at Deion for taking the job and consider it a Prime Time Sellout. What do I think? Let’s discuss.

What is a Prime Time Sellout?

The first question we must ask ourselves is how do we define a sellout? Is it simply someone who take a lucrative job over a lower-paying job which is perhaps a worse fit? If that’s the case then, clearly, it’s a Prime Time sellout.

If, on the other hand, a sellout is defined as someone backing away from their principles because they got offered a lot of money, then it’s a bit different. We have to figure out what it is that Sanders holds dear and whether or not he has betrayed those ideals.

What are Deion’s Principles?

The man’s nickname is Prime Time. That suggests quite a bit. It means he wants to be on the big stage and earn money for doing so. If we judge Sanders by this simple test then it’s clear he is absolutely not a sellout, in fact, he’s holding true to his principles. He has always grabbed for the spotlight with both hands and this is just another manifestation of that personality trait.

The Job at Jackson State

However, a nickname does not define a man. When Sanders left his lucrative commentary gigs to become the Head Coach at Jackson State he did so with a social agenda. Jackson State is a one of the Historically Black Colleges and University that dot the nation’s south. They exist because discriminatory policies often prevented black students from entering colleges and universities, particularly in the south.

When segregation finally came to an end and particularly when the big colleges around the country realized black athletes were the way to success, HBCUs fell on hard times athletically. The schools once proud tradition of excellence in athletic competitions began to wain as the best athletes went elsewhere.

When Sanders arrived, he pointedly addressed this problem, talking about the complete lack of funding for these schools. I’ve discussed how money makes a huge difference in athletics before and Sanders echoed my sentiments on this subject when he arrived at Jackson State.

If Sanders believed his words and his mission to elevate Jackson State along with the rest of the HCBUs, then his move to Colorado is truly a Prime Time sellout.

Conclusion

Where do I stand on the subject? I do think Deion meant what he said, or at least believed he meant it, when he took the job at Jackson State. He truly did want to elevate the school and highlight the shocking difference between athletes of wealthy Power Five Conferences and those schools with less money.

I also think the nickname Prime Time and his behavior off the field; including a reality show and a number of other appearances on television shows is indicative of a man who chases money first and foremost.

Is Deion a Prime Time Sellout? I say no. He’s just exhibiting behavior inline with what I’d expect from him. If I believed what he said when he took the Jackson State job and invested time and effort with him to elevate the school, well, then I’d be a bit pissed and I get those who feel betrayed.

What do you think?

Is Deion Sanders a Prime Time Sellout?

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Tom Liberman

The Twitter lesson: Workers and Management

Twitter Lesson

There’s a Twitter lesson to learned and it involves both workers and management. A lot of my friends find delight in the apparent demise of Twitter and I can’t say I blame them. I find it an interesting opportunity to examine the relationship of workers and management to the success of a business endeavor.

It seems to me; most people are not learning the correct Twitter lesson. A large group of people blame Musk for the ongoing situation. A second group blames lazy workers not willing to put forth enormous effort to save the company. What’s the reality? Let this Libertarian answer all your questions.

Twitter’s Problems

In order to determine the appropriate Twitter lesson, we need to fully understand the difficulties the company faces. Twitter was never immensely profitable. It had a couple of good years where income exceeded expenses but it largely lost money. Now, add the enormous loans new owner Elon Musk must pay back and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out the company is in deep trouble.

This being the case, the simplest solution in these situations is always to cut payroll. That means firing people. So many people the platform is barreling toward destruction. This solution means Musk must hope his remaining employees will do the jobs of two or more people while still earning their current salary.

I wrote about when this sort of expectation can work in an article about Reciprocity if you’d like to read that. I’m not going to discuss it further here.

What is the Twitter Lesson?

With one side calling workers lazy and the other blaming Musk for his business decision it seems like one of those two things must be the Twitter lesson, right? Wrong.

So many people want to blame lazy workers and so many people want to blame bad management. It’s the same when a business succeeds. Half the people want to give the credit to management for financing the operation, hiring the people, creating the business. A second group of people claim it is the workers who achieve the success. It is their efforts that build value.

The problem is both groups are right and wrong at the same time. The business owner who comes up with an idea, hires people, takes out loans, and builds a company should be lauded for this effort. It’s dangerous from a financial point of view and she or he should be praised. Meanwhile, the workers who buy into the vision and perform the day-to-day tasks are absolutely vital to success. Without them there is nothing.

This seems very obvious to me and I think most people, after reading this, will agree. Yet, before reading this, people eagerly and vocally assign all the credit to the owner or to the workers, ignoring the cooperation between the two groups required.

That’s the Twitter lesson. It’s workers and management that lead to success and to failure. Sure, in this case, Musk badly overvalued Twitter and took out a big enough loan that success became a near-impossible task.

Crony Capitalism

The entire situation is further complicated by the fact politicians now pass laws and extend financial aid to favor one company or attack another. This Crony Capitalism is something I’ve talked about elsewhere but it is part of the equation.

The reality is Musk’s previous ventures were largely financed by taxpayers. Government agencies gave him direct money and tax breaks. That fact plays no small part in what is happening today but is, perhaps, a topic for another day.

Conclusion

My conclusion is pretty simple. A business does not succeed or fail solely because of workers or management. Good managers and good executives value their employees’ contributions. Good employees recognize that management and executives want the business to succeed and often have to make difficult decisions.

Tom Liberman

Hard Work without Reciprocity at Twitter

Reciprocity

The fallout from the Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter is all over the news and a story about Musk demanding hardcore work from his employees brought to my mind the concept of reciprocity.

The idea of reciprocity is fairly simple. If you do me a favor, I feel an obligation to return that favor. It’s sort of like a personal version of the Social Contract I wrote about a while back. In this case, Musk is asking his employees to work considerably harder, whatever that means, in order to save the company.

The Reactions

While reading comments, I found that reactions largely come in two flavors. The majority of people argue hard work is expected and if the employees don’t like it, tough. Get out. On the other hand, some argue that overworking your employees is not a recipe for a successful company.

Does Musk ask for Reciprocity without Giving it?

My thoughts are probably closer to the second group but my real problem with Musk’s ultimatum is simply the expectation of reciprocity. I’m of the opinion Musk has a long record of working his employees hard and taking more than the lion’s share of the profits for himself.

He fired nearly four thousand Twitter employees largely without bothering to even look at the work they do. He fired people without notice. He implemented policies that ended doing far more harm than good.

I see no evidence Musk will reward hard-working employees who work enormous hours of overtime. If, by some miracle, Twitter begins to turn a profit, Musk will take most of the money for himself.

Working Hard with Reciprocity

Don’t get me wrong. If you work for a struggling company and have confidence the owner will work with you, reward you for your efforts, pay you when profits return; I’m all for working extra hard. If you don’t believe your boss will do so, all you’re doing is giving the boss your money. Your time is money, your money, not the boss’s money. Yours. A boss who tells you that you must work extra hours without pay and doesn’t plan on giving you a reward at the end of the day is stealing from you.

Working Hard without Reciprocity

It’s hard for me to imagine anyone thinking Musk is the sort of person who gives reciprocity. He threatened the same work hard or go bankrupt scenario with SpaceX not long ago. He ran SolarCity into bankruptcy. The much-famed Hyperloop is now abandoned along with all the people who poured their hard work into it.

The Boring company is a mess. The Gigafactory in Germany is largely unable to start because of water issues of which he was warned, long in advance. I could go on.

Conclusion

I am not telling Twitter employees how to react to this offer. That’s their business. If they believe Musk will eventually reward them for working long hours, if they think said work can somehow save Twitter, have at it. They have families, obligations, quitting is not an easy thing to do.

I’m just saying, if you give something, the other party isn’t obligated to reciprocity. In this case, I wouldn’t expect it.

Tom Liberman

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

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

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

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

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

The Inherent Corruption of an Essential Business

Essential Business

What is an essential business? Covid-19 is forcing state and local governments across the United States to make this determination and the methodology being used once again gives me an opportunity to go on a Libertarian Rant.

Being designated an essential business means you continue to collect revenue when others cannot. This is an enormous incentive for owners to get the government to declare them an essential business. The idea is simple enough, what business must stay open in order for people to survive? Yet, the implementation, when handed to people who are susceptible to bribery, influence, and even threats becomes something entirely different.

In the world we live in, an essential business is simply one where the owners have enough influence with government officials to be declared such. I’m not picking on one business or another, frankly, they probably should be bribing and threatening local politicians to stay open as it means they continue their revenue stream when everyone else cannot.

The point is that essential is largely meaningless when government gets to define it. If we got together and talked about it or five minutes we’d come up with a pretty definitive list. Food and water, medical supplies and service, and HVAC depending on the season. As an aside, the preceding sentence demonstrates the necessity of the Oxford Comma.

Once government becomes involved, it’s all essential if you pay those making the decisions enough. All you have to do is have a friend in government and your business gains an enormous competitive advantage. Your employees can be forced to come into work and do their jobs. Now, for many employees this is a good thing although certainly some would prefer not to risk their lives doing so, that’s not really the point.

The reality of anything being an essential business at this time of Covid-19 illustrates the problem with having government make these decisions for us. If you run a business type that doesn’t have influence, you don’t get to decide for yourself if you should be open, the government makes that decision for you.

I’m not saying staying open is necessarily a good thing, if a bunch of your employees and customers get Covid-19 and die that’s horrific. I’m just saying when government decides what is an essential business rather than consumers, we get clearly non-essential businesses staying open. That’s the problem with having government make decisions for us. They force bad decisions on us. We should be free to make those bad decisions ourselves.

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

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

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

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

Philadelphia Bans Cashless Stores and Why It is Silly

Cashless Stores

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tom Liberman