Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

October 28, 2014

The Important Subject You’re Not Being Taught In College

by Daniel Golliher

Imagine that you are in college, and that you have registered for a survey course you think will be particularly interesting. Based on the course description and preliminary syllabus, you conclude that, although your knowledge level is lacking in the course’s field, it seems that the course takes that into account and that you should be fine.

Finally, imagine that you were wrong. You are in over your head. You simply don’t know enough. It’s the stuff of nightmares.

I’m sure that we’ve all been in situations like this at one point or another, whether in college or not. You take on a task for which you feel prepared, or at least able, and then the whole thing turns out to be a non-starter. I happen to have been in the exact situation outlined above. But here’s the scary part: this was a history based government course. I was a junior in the Government Department. And I found my knowledge of history lacking.

It would have been one thing if I were a freshman. Lack of knowledge at that level is expected. During sophomore year it is made fun of. But the third year? That is supposed to be the point in an undergraduate’s career when their hand finally steadies at the helm. The oceans of knowledge are not as threatening, and a course forward can begin to be charted. Instead, I found like fifteen leaks all over the place. And then the ship pitched sideways. Metaphor over.

This particular class, for me, was entitled “The Early Development of American Political Institutions and Organization,” and it was a junior level research seminar in the Government Department of Harvard University. The first day of class, I immediately noticed that I would have to learn a lot of new information to stay abreast of the material and classroom discussion. Before I could even complete the required readings, which were complex overviews and analyses of American history, I had to do swaths of background reading at a much lower level. This was just to give my coursework a context. Imagine trying to think seriously about the development of the Democratic Party (which we had to do), but with little idea of the history of Andrew Jackson or the United States at that particular time (which is what I had). Tough sell, right?

The scary part is that I suspect most of my fellow classmates were caught by surprise just as much as I was. I wasn’t surprised by the difficulty of the course material or the amount of it. I was surprised that I didn’t have the proper antecedent knowledge to engage it at a high level. I’d like to stress here, again, that I was a junior at this time. There was no excuse for this dearth.

This part of the story has an OK ending. I stayed with the class, didn’t speak as much as I normally would, and tore through a lot of extra reading in addition to the classroom materials. I finished with a B. (Despite what some of you may have read about grade inflation, that grade was not an easy task.) I learned a lot about the early history of the United States, but more importantly I learned that my knowledge of history in general was greatly lacking. Even though I had very good knowledge of modern events, history is a subject that is only fully valuable when you have a grand scope. That’s kind of the point of the field.

Fast forward to the second semester of my junior year. Armed with the knowledge that I didn’t know anything (or enough to matter), I decided to start at the Founding, the very beginning. I’m told it’s a very good place to start. I poured through the course catalog in an attempt to find survey courses on American history (American History 101, or something). When I didn’t immediately succeed, my eyes narrowed a little as I stared at my computer screen. After I changed my search terms and tried again, I was still unsuccessful. The best I could find were courses like ““History 13a: The European Enlightenment.” What good are courses like that if one doesn’t know basic European history? At this point I was distressed: I didn’t know history, and there seemed to be no courses to help me. At Harvard. What. The. Hell. In one last attempt, powered by rage at what seemed to me to be a ridiculous oversight, I changed my search parameters and dove back in. Eventually, and to my stunned relief, I found one! It was a course on the American founding, which covered colonial American history on through to the construction of the Constitution. Ironically, the course wasn’t even in the History Department, but the Government Department. It was entitled “Political Thought of the American Founding,” and it was taught by Professor Eric Nelson.

This is the part where my story begins to look up, and the light is visible at the end of the tunnel. Not only had Professor Nelson noticed the lack of a course on the Revolution, but he stepped in to supply the need. In an interview with the The Harvard Gazette, he says:

“A group of undergraduates came to my office hours in 2008 to complain that there was no course at Harvard on the American Revolution. My initial response was: “Look harder!” But it turned out that they were right. This seemed unfortunate to me, not least because my office is about 400 yards away from the spot where Washington mustered the Continental Army in July 1775.”

His course was easily one of my favorites, if not the favorite, of my undergraduate career. It provided a large amount of information and grounded it systemically with essential background knowledge. As a student, I could tell he was passionate about his subject. In fact, he’s written a book about it. After I had completed it, I felt confident in my knowledge of the American Founding, and prepared to tackle the rest of American history. But important questions remain: why was I ever in the position that I was at the beginning of my junior year, and where are all of the history courses like Professor Nelson’s?

 

NO HISTORY IN OUR COLLEGES

This lack of history may seem unsurprising to some, and it certainly was to me. But it’s not new news. On Wednesday, October 15, the American Council of Trustees and Alumni released its 2014-2015 What Will They Learn? study. The survey gives American liberal arts colleges a grade from A-F, which is determined by the material they require their undergraduates to cover. According to their press release, this material consists “…of seven subjects that are essential to a liberal arts education: literature, composition, economics, math, intermediate level foreign language, science, and American government/history.” Here is the criterion for a satisfactory mark for U.S. Government or History:

“What Will They Learn?TM gives schools credit for U.S. Government or History if they require a survey course in either U.S. government or history with enough chronological and/or topical breadth to expose students to the sweep of American history and institutions. Narrow, niche courses do not count for the requirement, nor do courses that only focus on a limited chronological period or a specific state or region” (page ten of the study).

Not only does Harvard not require a survey course in American history as a condition of a bachelor’s degree (check here for degree requirements), but it doesn’t even have that many. Evidence: the lack of a course on the American Revolution, until just recently. Additionally, many of its courses are “Narrow, niche courses.” This general trend in history was lamented the day after ACTA released its study in an article co-authored by a Harvard professor.

Harvard Grade

According to ACTA, only 28% of public institutions require American history. This may seem bad, and it is. But it is almost treble the 10% of private institutions that require it. According to the ACTA report, Harvard gets a D across the board, and one of the reasons for this is that it doesn’t require survey courses on American history (see page 63 of the report).

 

WHY HISTORY IS IMPORTANT FOR LIBERTY

As an advocate for liberty, I’m troubled that history doesn’t seem to be being transmitted to my generation. It’s important for a lot of reasons, and one of them is keeping everybody (read: the State) honest. If one can examine history and pull out trends, one can extrapolate into the future. If the State says that a policy is necessary, one can see if it’s been tried before and to what end. And maybe someone can also remember if we’re at war with Eurasia or Eastasia…I can’t remember.

Here’s an example of the importance of history played out: If historical knowledge were more prevalent, I think it would have produced more comparisons between the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution and the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, and maybe enough to have stopped the latter. Both were passed days after a national shock (some more real than others), and granted sweeping and vague powers to the executive. Although the circumstances were not the same, a pause for rational thought was in order both times, especially to contemplate the powers Congress was granting the president. A comparison between the two could have saved the US two long and costly wars, which not only shackled future generations to a mountain of debt, but gave birth to the Patriot Act.

On the other end of the scale, I also had this same need of history in my day to day life as a college student (and, unfortunately, still after). Not only does the State need to be kept honest, but its myths need to be busted. One that I heard and continue to hear from my fellow citizens is that “FDR led us out of the Great Depression with his social welfare programs and is our greatest president!” There are two arguments being made there. One is about the efficacy of state welfare programs (and why we must have them), and the other is about FDR’s legacy. History gives abundant evidence to properly evaluate these facts, but I find that a lot of them are either forgotten or glossed over.

As to the historical (and economic) analyses of his welfare programs, one could begin with Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt. It was provoked by FDR’s New Deal. It itself was based on an essay by Bastiat commenting on a situation almost a century prior in France. These types of programs are not new, but the State always seems to be saying that they are. History can keep them honest. Concerning FDR’s legacy as a good president, I offer this jumping off point: the forced and involuntary internment of Japanese-Americans.

Broadly, a knowledge of American history encourages suspicion toward the State. A lack of historical knowledge leads to a very misplaced trust. Here are some more quick examples before I close:

Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. I have offered my personal experience as a case study to show that history is not being taught, or at least not being taught properly, in our nation’s colleges. If one is concerned for the well-being of liberty, one must be concerned for the well-being of history. In its What Will They Learn? study, ACTA says that

“Higher education in a free society also has a civic purpose. Colleges and universities must ensure that students have a working knowledge of the history and governing institutions of their country. An understanding of American history and government is indispensable for the formation of responsible citizens and for the preservation of free institutions” (emphasis added, from page ten of their report).

Colleges need to step up their game, and so do all Americans. I don’t like poison in my alcohol.

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October 27, 2014

There’s No Such Thing As An “eBook Monopoly”

by Brad Warbiany

First things first… I’ve spent a lot of time criticizing Kevin Drum over the years. Suffice to say that we don’t see eye to eye, and a reliable way to generate content here has often been “wait for Drum to say something ridiculous, then flog him for it.” It’s a well I’ve gone back to from time to time when thirsty, I’ll say that much. That said, he recently was diagnosed with cancer. All politics and blogging aside, best of luck to him in his treatment and recovery. It may be uncommon on the blogosphere to recognize that our ideological opponents are actual human beings, but he is and so I wish him the best.

With the niceties out of the way, Kevin fired off on the recent hot button of Amazon and its market power. Specifically, people question the extent to which Amazon is a monopoly. That’s a much wider topic, but I see something here that is a wrinkle that needs to be highlighted. Kevin says:

In theory, this is a great opportunity for an innovative startup. Startup costs are modest since there’s no physical inventory to worry about. Publishers are eager for new entrants. Maybe a smart startup could appeal to consumers with a great new e-reader concept. Or a better recommendation engine. Who knows? There are loads of possibilities. The problem is that no startup can possibly compete with a huge incumbent that’s willing to sell e-books at a loss. There’s no VC on the planet willing to fund a trench war like that.

So Amazon really does have a monopoly position in this market that it sustains via predatory pricing and heavy-handed business practices—against publishers both big and small—that might make John D. Rockefeller blush.

…snip…

So sure, leave Amazon alone in most of its business lines. But in e-books? Nope. They’re a monopoly in every sense of the word, and they use predatory practices to stay that way. They may offer cheap books, but in the long run it’s vibrant competition that truly benefits consumers. Regulating Amazon would hardly solve all our e-book problems—far from it—but it would be a start.

Now, I know marketing dweebs always love to slice-and-dice marketing data, torturing it until it shows that they’re the market leader in the critical “males age 24-27 in the Pacific Northwest who own cats” segment. It’s a way to claim that you’re a winner. As long as you cast the net narrowly enough.

But you can’t do this with monopolies. The Kindle doesn’t compete in the eBook market. It competes in the book market.

Trying to suss out a monopoly in only a single segment of the market reminds me of a debate I had with an old neighbor about the XM/Sirius merger several years ago. He said it should be blocked as it would create a monopoly. I said that it’s not a monopoly, because the market for mobile entertainment is much wider than just satellite radio:

What’s wrong with a monopoly in satellite radio? After all, look back a mere 6 years, when there was no such thing as satellite radio. At the time, people functioned. The world wasn’t falling apart because there were no blues stations in BFE. People lived without satellite radio, and yet people didn’t even know they were missing it.

…snip…

Thus, for a satellite radio provider, they cannot be a true monopoly. First, they’re offering a product that didn’t even exist 6 years ago, and currently has such a tiny number of subscribers that it’s not in any way a necessity. Second, they’re competing not only against other satellite radio companies, but against terrestrial radio, internet radio, CD’s, and portable music players. If they don’t offer a product worth paying for, people won’t pay for it.

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite eBook
Amazon basically created the eBook market. Yes, there were eReaders prior to the Kindle, but they didn’t have a good distribution platform for books. Amazon was able to leverage their distribution model and really popularize the segment. They’ve continued to invest in the segment and thus have maintained absolutely crushing market share. They’ve even enabled completely new models for books, like the $2.99 price point that allows people to write and sell books that don’t fit the 200+ page model, and even a revival of the serial novel*.

But that doesn’t make them a monopolist. Yes, if you cast the net to ONLY eBooks, you might be able to make that claim. But eBooks are a substitute for physical books. If eBooks disappeared tomorrow, we’d all go right back to buying paperbacks and hardcovers. You simply cannot separate the eBook market from the wider book market.

Now, that gets harder to say when you see many books (like those mentioned Kindle Singles or serialized fiction) released only in the eBook format. I happen to be working on something that would fit into the Single format and something for which I would never get a “book deal” and don’t particularly want to self-publish.

But along those lines, you can’t blame Amazon for creating a new genre for publishing any more than you can blame SiriusXM for creating comedy stations where they can play George Carlin’s “Seven Words You Can’t Say On TV” uncensored even though you could never play that on their primary competitor, terrestrial radio. It still doesn’t make either a monopoly.

Monopoly is a word thrown around a lot, and despite where you stand on the validity of anti-trust law, it’s important to distinguish where the word is and is not valid. Someone who has carved out a dominant position in one niche of a much wider market–a market with many ready substitutes–is quite simply not a monopolist.
(more…)

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Here’s A Crowdfunding Idea, A Volunteer Brigade To Fight ISIS

by Kevin Boyd

Crowdfunding through sites like Kickstarter and GoFundMe has made everything from business startups to trips a reality for many that otherwise would not have been. The beauty of crowdfunding campaigns is that it provides a way for people to leverage their social media networks and real life friends to collect and pool together small contributions into a large sum of money for a purpose. Crowdfunding also builds grassroots support for projects, big and small.

If crowdfunding can be used to launch a business or a documentary, can it be used to recruit and fund an all volunteer brigade to fight ISIS? Best-selling sci-fi author and U.S. Army veteran John Ringo seems to think so. On Friday, he posted a status update on his Facebook wall that he was considering such a concept:

RingoFacebookPost

As Ringo points out, members of Dutch and German biker gangs are fighting alongside Kurdish forces in Syria against the jihadist scourge that is ISIS. A couple of Americans have already volunteered to fight alongside the YPG, the Syrian Kurdish militia. However, there’s nothing on the scale that Ringo* is envisioning. Ringo is envisioning something like a non-Communist version of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade of American volunteers who fought for the Communist-aligned Spanish Republic during the Spanish Civil War of the late 1930s.

As for the legal issues, the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq has warned against volunteers joining the Syrian Kurds due to the YPG’s ties to the PKK, which is a Turkish Kurd political party on the terrorist lists of both the United States and the European Union. The U.S. State Department advises that serving in a foreign military is not grounds for loss of citizenship on its own. However, if that foreign military is facing combat against U.S. forces, that could be grounds for loss of citizenship.  A possible grey area is that U.S. law appears to state that serving as a commissioned officer or non-commissioned officer in a foreign military could be grounds for loss of U.S. citizenship. It’s important to note that I could not find any attempts at prosecuting members and commanders of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade or attempting to strip them of citizenship for their role in the Spanish Civil War.

Similiar legal issues were raised over the summer when Americans who served in the Israeli Defense Forces were killed in Gaza. Americans have had a history in serving in the Israeli Defense Forces and other foreign military units such as the French Foreign Legion.

So legally, serving with the Iraqi Kurds shouldn’t be a problem. However, serving with the Syrian Kurds could be legally problematic, given their ties to the PKK. However, the PKK itself is fighting alongside the Iraqi Kurds and the U.S. is arming other Kurdish organizations designated as terrorist organizations to fight ISIS. My guess is, the U.S. would turn a blind eye to Americans fighting ISIS, regardless of what units they’re with.

As for the crowdfunding idea itself, I like it. This could be a way for Americans who are frustrated with the current U.S. policy towards ISIS to step up and do more. They can give money to help American (and likely other foreign volunteers) equip themselves to fight an evil enemy. This unit can be recruited from social media. An example of this is the Donbass Battalion, which is a Ukrainian militia unit fighting against pro-Russian and Russian forces in the Donbass War in Eastern Ukraine. As its commander admits on this Vice News documentary, they recruited on Facebook and relying on donated weapons, uniforms, and provisions.

This is part of a trend of decentralization in warfare that’s going to become more common. As the enemies of freedom are often stateless, the forces of liberty need to decentralize and use the funding mechanisms of peace to respond accordingly. As has been shown in Ukraine, the enemies of liberty and freedom are still often powerful states, so a decentralized means of warfare is often a necessity.

As everything else has become decentralized and crowd-driven, why should warfare be any different?

*Ringo isn’t the only one with this idea. One friend of mine, who has military experience as well, is working on a similiar project as well.

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October 26, 2014

The Unlikely Billboard, Your Laptop

by Kevin Boyd

Everyone has been putting bumper stickers on cars for as long as bumper stickers have been around. Have you thought about putting bumper stickers on your laptop?

That’s what I’ve done. It works for me because I take my laptop out and about. I love to work in coffee shops and other places to get away from the house and I figured I can do some political advertising while I’m working.

Here’s what I’ve got on my laptop:

10636223_10101195037123324_2636047169617167937_n

The first sticker, “Less Government, More Fun” is part of a line of gear that’s sold here. I got the sticker, along with some wristbands, and at least one camo koozie free when I ordered one of their mint colored T-shirts with that slogan. When I wear the shirt out, I get lots of attention, which is weird becaue I actually try to avoid attention when I’m out.

The second sticker I’m afraid is not for sale, well at least the version I have on my computer. The sticker is a Gadsden flag (you can find plenty of those stickers anywhere), but mine came from Generation Opportunity. I got it when I filled out a questionaire and survey from them. The problem was I didn’t what to do with it because I already had a Gadsden flag sticker on my truck, so I decided to put it on the laptop.

Am I the only one who decorates their laptop? If not, what do you have on yours? Sound off in the comments!

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October 25, 2014

Could The Fuel Of The Future Come From Whisky?

by Kevin Boyd

This is a possibility according to a new Scottish startup company. Celtic Renewables Ltd. hopes to turn the waste products in Scotch whisky production into a biofuel.

Science Alert.au has more:

Whisky making requires three ingredients: water, yeast, and a grain. However, only 10 percent of those products end up as whisky, the remaining 90 percent is wasted during distilling. These waste products are either released into the sea or turned into animal feed.
Celtic Renewables Ltd is a start-up company in Scotland that is working to reuse the waste products from the Scottish Malt Whisky industry to develop biobutanol – an advanced biofuel that can be used instead of fossil-derived fuel. This will in turn reduce oil consumption and CO2 emissions, and provide an energy guarantee for rural areas that have a booming whisky industry.
The team have refined an old industrial fermentation technique, and managed to change draff (husk residue left by fermented grains) and pot ale (liquid produced during the mashing process), into 1-butanol and ethanol – which can both be used as fuel.

According to About Autos, the advantages of biobutanol over ethanol is that it has a higher energy content than ethanol. Biobutanol can be blended with gasoline at higher percentages and doesn’t need a separate distribution network, unlike ethanol. Finally, unlike ethanol, biobutanol is not corrosive.

However, the major disadvantage of biobutanol over ethanol is that ethanol has a much larger production capacity and has been the beneficiary of subsidies all over the world. Hopefully this company can change that and this technology can be adapted to other whisky producing areas of the world such as Canada and the United States.

 

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Watch Out For The Lever-Action Full Auto Double Barrel AR-15

by Kevin Boyd

Here’s a picture from the folks at Satirical Analysis, whose Facebook page you should like, along with our page, that sums up the American media’s stupidity in the gun control debate.

10407684_577416762360154_4217636978870922729_n

Of course, the Ottawa shooter was using a common lever-action hunting rifle, but they’ve also been nicknamed the “cowboy assault rifle” because they have a high rate of fire compared to bolt-action rifles.

Hmmm…….maybe this picture may not be so satirical afterall….

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Here’s A 10 Year Old Girl That Can Shoot Better Than You

by Kevin Boyd

Meet Shyanne Roberts, a 10 year old girl from New Jersey. However, while most girls her age play soccer or softball, she shoots competitively.

As you can see, she can handle an AR-15 and a Glock semi-automatic handgun. I’m sure she can already shoot better than most of our readers and contributors.

It just goes to show you that if kids are taught gun safety and how to handle firearms responsibly, they won’t pose a risk to themselves and to others.

For more about this remarkable young lady, check out this post at IJ Review.

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Brad’s Beer Review: Alpine Brewing Company – Duet

by Brad Warbiany

Weekends tend to be a slow time for political blogs, so it’s a perfect time to get into another passion. So I’m happy to announce a new weekend off-topic feature here: Brad’s Beer Review.

As many of you already know, I’m a homebrewer and a beer geek. What’s a beer “geek”, you [probably don’t] ask, and how is it different from a beer snob? Well, it’s simple:

A beer geek cares what he drinks. A beer snob cares what you drink.

Alpine Brewing Company - Duet

Alpine Brewing Company – Duet


I’m a beer geek. I don’t care what you drink. Unlike the folks from the Washington Post, I’m not going to deride you for what you drink, whether it’s Bud Light or Smirnoff Ice.

That said, if you’re looking for a beer sherpa on the path to enlightenment, I’m happy to show you the way. So to start off this new feature, I decided to reach into the beer fridge for something a little special. In future instances, the feature may not be a beer, rather it may be a beer bar, brew pub, or craft beer centric restaurant. I travel quite a bit for work, so I’ll do my best to keep it varied. And it may not be a commercial beer. As a homebrewer, I might offer my own brews up from time to time (with recipe, of course).

Alpine Brewing Company is located in Alpine, CA, a tiny town well east of San Diego. They’re well known in the craft beer community, but even living in SoCal I didn’t get the chance to taste their wares until a few weeks ago. Mostly because Alpine CA is in the middle of freaking nowhere. They’re well known for their signature Double IPA, Pure Hoppiness. They didn’t have it available in bottles when a friend was in the area, so he brought me a few bottles of Duet, an IPA.

Duet is so named because of the use of Simcoe and Amarillo hops, and the first impression of the beer is the aroma. You can smell the Simcoe. Simcoe is well known as one of the key hops in another highly-touted beer, Pliny the Elder from Russian River. The Simcoe is offset by the Amarillo, which is known for a strong citrus aroma.

Visually, although my picture shows it a bit dark, the beer pours a nice pale gold. Great clarity.

On the tongue, this hits the mark. Any west-coast IPA should be hop-forward, an it is. Poor examples of the style are all hops, without any malt backbone to back it up. Duet has enough malt to give a great foundation for the hops, and let them shine. It’s got malt without being sweet (Dogfish Head, I’m looking at you!), and while it’s not quite as dry and crisp as I like my IPAs, it still makes me want more. You taste this beer and you know why everyone goes nuts over Alpine.

Then you come to the question in the craft beer world of drinkability. Which is really the question “does this taste like this beer will mess me up as much as it will mess me up?” On that metric, this beer is highly drinkable. The Alpine web site says this is a 7% ABV beer. Taste wise, I’d guess much lower. This beer carries zero alcohol warmth, and you’re left feeling like you could pound these away until you’ve forgotten that you’re at a brewery that’s closer (as the crow flies) to Mexico than it is to San Diego and you don’t have a ride home.

In short, I’m impressed by this beer. Alpine has absolutely nailed it. You’ll find as this feature continues that this is not all that common when it comes to me and beer. So if you can find some Alpine (you can’t… sorry.), buy it!

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October 24, 2014

What’s that got to do with the price of whiskey in West Virginia

by Chris Byrne

Sometimes it can be hard for people to grasp how government distortion of the free market actually impacts them, and why it’s such a corrosive and destructive force.

The whole issue is so big, and so pervasive, that people can’t relate to it, or focus on it, or see how it hurts them personally… at least until it does something like say, get them thrown in jail, or shuts down their business, or costs them their job; at which point the local news stories and the facebook posts and the buzzfeed and upworthy click bait flood out with sympathy for the individual story… but the larger issue is never addressed.

In this short post, consisting of nothing but some bare facts, Gizmodo illustrates the direct personal impact of the nanny state, rent seeking, regulatory capture, state sponsored monopolies, and regressive tax policies… all in one piece about whiskey:

GIZMODO: How Much a Bottle of Whiskey Costs in Every State

Alcoholic beverage sales in the United States are a nearly perfect example of government induced market distortion.

In many states (18 as of this writing), all liquor sales and pricing are exclusively controlled by the state. Some states (and many cities and towns) explicitly set the minimum price for which a bottle or a drink can be sold. In ALL states, there is relatively restrictive licensing to sell liquor (often extremely restrictive, and almost always politically controlled).

Additionally, most states require liquor retailers purchase their liquor either from the state directly, or from a strictly limited number of state licensed distributors.

This can extend to ridiculous extremes, such as Florida, where a recent reinterpretation of the law requires brew pubs to sell their product to a state licensed distributor, who then sell it back to them (both required to sell at a minimum price, and both paying taxes on the “sales” between each other, and THEN retail taxes on top) just so they can serve their own customers.

The states offer many rationales for these restrictive regulatory regimes, including reducing drinking, limited access to minors, reducing fraud and tax cheating…

…All of which have not only been ineffective, they have in fact generally had an impact opposite of their stated intent.

The REAL purpose behind this restrictive control, is of course the real purpose of most restrictive licensing and pricing schemes…

Power, Control, and Money

Retail, restaurant, and bar liquor licenses, in restrictive licensing areas; can sell for huge amounts of money, or can be subject to years of delays (or both); generally at the whim of politicians and bureaucrats .

These business owners, are mostly willing to play along with this scheme, because it limits their competition, and it increase the value of their business (which they can later sell for a very high price).

In fact, in some areas, local liquor license holders are allowed input (or even a veto) on whether a new business can obtain a liquor license, or whether (or to whom) a liquor license can be transferred.

Even if a license holder is opposed to restrictive licensing, they may have had to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars… even millions in some cities… to obtain their license (or to purchase a business that already had one, which is often the only way to get a license); so often they actively work against reform, because they don’t want to see the value of their investment plummet.

Liquor distribution can be even more lucrative, particularly with state granted near monopolies, and often state regulated minimum pricing; guaranteeing distributors little or no competition and huge profits.Some states go so far as to only license a handful of distributors for the entire state, or even license them exclusively within certain counties, municipalities or regions; giving them effective monopolies on all liquor sales in their areas.

Of course, as with anything of great value, the politicians and bureaucrats who control licensing, can get great benefit from granting them, allowing them to be transferred,  reducing the costs associated with obtaining them; or more destructively, for NOT granting a license to a potential competitor.

A few minutes talking with anyone in the hospitality trade, or anyone with an interest in government corruption, and you’ll hear endless stories of shakedowns, bribes, organized crime influence, naked influence peddling…

Liquor licensing is possibly the single most corrupt area of government in this country… and that’s really saying something.

And then there’s the taxes… oh the taxes…

Even if we ignore the inherently corrupt and corrupting issue of restrictive licensing,  the states (and for that matter federal government), derive considerable revenues from liquor sales.

In some states, there is both an excise tax on all alcohol sales, PLUS a “spirit tax” (charged per gallon of “spirituous liquor”), AND a separate (and much higher) sales tax on alcohol or spirits (beer, wine, and “spirituous liquors” are often taxed very differently).

In Washington state (the highest alcohol tax state, which has only recently decided to allow, in a very limited and restricted way, sales of liquor through some private retailers), the combined excise and spirit tax is $35.22 a gallon, PLUS a 20.5% sales tax on liquor (the national average is $5.33 per gallon, and most states do have a separate sales tax for spirits)

… But wait, there’s more… 

Washington, like many other states, also charges all liquor retailers and distributors an additional fee; which in their case, is 17% of gross revenues from alcohol sales.

Obviously, businesses are going to pass that fee onto consumers; so, in effect, Washington is adding a 37.5% sales tax, on top of the spirit tax, to every sale.

For a 750ml bottle of whiskey costing $18, that ends up being $6.98 in excise tax (hidden from the consumer), plus $6.75 in sales tax; a total of  $11.02 for the whiskey, and $13.73 in tax.

This map, from  http://www.Taxfoundation.org , shows the spirit taxes around the country (not including additional sales taxes on spirits):

State Spirit Tax Rates

 

All of this of course, is on top of the federal taxes on liquor manufacture, distribution, and sales; which for “spirituous liquors” (generally defined as alcohol for human consumption, packaged and sold above “50 proof” or 25% ethanol by volume) are $13.50 per proof gallon (a “proof gallon” is the amount of ethanol in one gallon of 100 proof liquor. If you are distilling and blending 80 proof liquor, the tax will be 80% of that rate per gallon. For an 80 proof 750ml bottle of whiskey, the federal spirit excise is $2.14).

These federal taxes are first paid directly by the producer to the ATF. Then more taxes are paid from the distributors, and finally, by the retailers.

So actually, that example above? It’s not really a total of  $11.02 for the whiskey, and $13.73 in tax… It’s really a total of…

…Well, if we tried to do a real total cost accounting for what the total tax burden, including all liquor taxes, sales taxes, and regulatory compliance costs… It’s probably more like $3 for the whiskey, $6 in federal taxes and other compliance and regulatory costs, and $16 in state taxes, and compliance and regulatory costs.

And then there’s the actual state monopolies…

Some states don’t bother taxing liquor separately, or they tax it at “normal” rates as they would any other product; they just hold a legal monopoly on all liquor sales.

The revenues available to the states through liquor sales are so great in fact, that in a rare example of a state government doing something that makes economic sense, and is even almost libertarian (as libertarian as any state controlled enterprise could be anyway); the state of New Hampshire (which has no income or sales tax) explicitly operates their state controlled liquor stores as a (relatively) efficient business, with good pricing and marketing designed to attract buyers from other states; helping them to keep tax burdens in the state otherwise among the lowest in the nation.

If you’ve ever driven into or out of New Hampshire on I-93 or I-95, those giant Costco sized buildings on both sides of the highway at the first rest stop after the tolls  (of course they’re after the tolls… have to capture that revenue), are state liquor stores; specifically designed and located to capture sales and revenue from Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, Maine, and New York residents, many of whom drive to New Hampshire specifically to buy liquor and avoid the high prices and taxes in their own states (appx. 50% of all liquor sales in NH are to out of state residents, about 50% of which come from the four state liquor stores on 93 and 95).

Just how much difference does this make to the price of whiskey? 

Like I said above, it’s all so big, so pervasive, it can be hard to get a handle on. Some of the costs you can see directly, like sales taxes. Some of them are partially hidden, like excise taxes. Some of them are completely hidden, like the costs of reduced competition, and the costs of regulatory compliance (in economics these are called hidden externalities).

How about we simplify, and just show you the money?

One product, compared across all 50 states, and just see how the regulatory and tax environments in each state effect the price…

Gizmodo chose the most common and popular American whiskey, in the most popular sized bottle: A 750ml bottle of Jack Daniels (which by the way sells for about $8 from the distiller to the distributors, which includes the $2.14 in tax paid by the distiller to the ATF).

What do you think the price difference might be?

On one 750ml bottle of Americas best selling whiskey, what do you think the price difference might be from state to state? (this is comparing the lowest advertised or verifiable price within a state, not cherrypicking a high price)

Oh and by the way, this includes the excise tax, but DOES NOT include sales tax (making the differences even higher).

$1… $2… $5… $10?

How about $20…

Well, actually, $19.

In New Mexico, you can get a bottle of Jack for $15.99. In Alaska, that same bottle costs $35…

Ok… well.. that’s Alaska… transportation costs and all that, right?

Jack Daniels is famously distilled in Lynchburg Tennessee, which by the way, is in a dry county, where all alcohol sales are banned (as is the case in appx 220 counties in 32 states, with another 250 or so counties having near bans or extremely tight restrictions). How much does a bottle of Jack cost in Tennessee?

$25…

Yes, Jack Daniels costs $10 more IN THE STATE THE STUFF IS ACTUALLY MADE, than it does 1300 miles away in New Mexico.

Even worse, is West Virginia, which almost shares a border with Tennessee (less than 30 miles of the extreme western edge of Virginia separate them… My wifes family is from there, it’s a very pretty drive, I highly recommend it), where a bottle of jack costs… wait for it… $32.99.

It’s not just the taxes… it’s all of the other effects of the regulatory burden…

The great part of this comparison is that it accounts for more than just the tax rates. It shows you the complete total cost impact of market distortions and differential burdens across the states; not just for alcohol, but for retail business in general.
Tennessee has one of the lowest spirit taxes in the country, at only $4.46 per gallon, but a bottle of Jack costs $32.99. Washington has the highest taxes in the country, at $35.22 per gallon, but a bottle of Jack costs $18.99 (again, both before sales tax).

Show me the numbers

From the Gizmodo piece:

Here’s the complete list, arranged by price:

  1. New Mexico: $15.99 (Quarter’s Discount Liquors, Albuquerque)
  2. Arizona: $16.99 (Total Wine and More, Phoenix)
  3. Florida: $17.99 (Wine and More, Daytona Beach)
  4. Texas: $17.99 (Wine and More, Dallas)
  5. California: $17.99 (BevMo, Culver City)
  6. Washington: $17.99 (BevMo, Bellingham)
  7. Oklahoma: $18.53 (Bryan’s Liquor Warehouse, Oklahoma City)
  8. Nevada: $19.99 (Lee’s Discount Liquor, Las Vegas)
  9. Louisiana: $19.99 (Prytania Liquor Store, New Orleans)
  10. Wisconsin: $19.99 (WI Discount Liquor, Milwaukee)
  11. Kansas: $19.99 (Lukas Liquor, Overland Park)
  12. Missouri: $19.99 (Lukas Liquor, Kansas City)
  13. Minnesota: $19.99 (Zipp’s Liquor, Minneapolis)
  14. Illinois: $19.99 (Binny’s, Chicago)
  15. Maine: $19.99 (Lou’s Beverage Barn, Augusta)
  16. Wyoming: $20.99 (Dell Range Liquor Store, Cheyenne)
  17. Delaware: $21.99 (Tri-State Liquors, Claymont)
  18. Georgia: $21.99 (Midtown Liquor, Atlanta)
  19. South Carolina: $22.90 (Burris Liquor Store, Charleston)
  20. Colorado: $22.99 (Colorado Liquor Mart, Denver)
  21. Pennsylvania: $22.99 (Wine and Spirits Store, Philadelphia)
  22. Mississippi: $23.32 (Stanley’s Liquor and Wine, Jackson)
  23. Idaho: $23.95 (State Run Liquor Store, 17th and State, Boise)
  24. South Dakota: $23.94 (Capital City Wine & Spirits, Pierre)
  25. Indiana: $23.99 (Nick’s Liquor Store, Hammond)
  26. Maryland: $23.99 (Eastport Liquors, Annapolis)
  27. Nebraska: $23.99 (The Still, Lincoln)
  28. Alabama: $23.99 (ABC Liquors, statewide)
  29. Vermont: $24.00 (Beverage Warehouse, Winooski)
  30. Ohio: $24.25 (Campus State Liquor Store, Columbus)
  31. Arkansas: $24.52 (Lake Liquors, Maumelle)
  32. Virginia: $24.90 (ABC Store, Richmond)
  33. Oregon: $24.95 (Northside Liquor Store, Eugene)
  34. Tennessee: $24.99 (Frugal MacDoogal Liquor Warehouse, Nashville)
  35. Connecticut: $24.99 (BevMax, Stamford)
  36. New Jersey: $24.99 (Super Buy Rite, Jersey City)
  37. North Dakota: $24.99 (Empire Liquors, Fargo)
  38. Utah: $25.49 (State Liquor Store, Salt Lake City)
  39. New Hampshire: $25.99 (Liquor and Wine Outlet, New London)
  40. Kentucky: $25.99 (Old Town Wine and Spirits, Louisville)
  41. Montana: $26.75 (Bottle and Shots West Liquor Store Billings)
  42. North Carolina: $26.95 (ABC Store, Raleigh)
  43. Rhode Island: $28.00 (City Liquors, Providence)
  44. Michigan: $28.62 (Calumet Market and Spirits, Detroit)
  45. New York: $28.99 (Warehouse Wine and Spirits, New York)
  46. Iowa: $28.99 (Liquor House, Iowa City)
  47. Massachusetts: Charles Street Liquors: $28.99
  48. Hawaii: $29.99 (The Liquor Collection, Honolulu)
  49. West Virginia: $32.99 (Liquor Co, Charleston)
  50. Alaska: $35.00 (Percy’s Liquor Store, Juneau)

Disclaimer: This is not a scientific survey, but I tried to call basic, non-fancy liquor stores for the price check. It’s not clear how much of the discrepancy from state to state is caused by cost of living, tax rates, regulations, or just good ole fashioned price gouging.

You can see, the majority of states are clustered around $20-25, only 7 states cheaper than that, and 12 states more expensive, even though the spirit taxes in those states vary widely. Again, this just shows you the overall burden… the effects of what is seen, and what is unseen… in a highly regulated market.

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Idaho Gay Marriage Lawsuit Moot – City Backs Down

by Brad Warbiany

I’ve covered the Idaho “Hitching Post” gay marriage case. I started with a relatively in-depth look at the legal issues involved on Monday, and then covered some inconsistencies in the history of the Hitching Post’s religious designation yesterday.

Today, though, it has all been resolved. The Hitching Post’s recent change from performing civil marriages as well as religious marriages to performing ONLY Christian religious ceremonies, and explicitly forming themselves as a religious business 3 weeks ago, have now exempted them from the anti-discrimination ordinance.

From Boise State Public Radio:

Initially, the city said its anti-discrimination law did apply to the Hitching Post, since it is a commercial business. Earlier this week, Coeur d’Alene city attorney Mike Gridley sent a letter to the Knapps’ attorneys at the Alliance Defending Freedom saying the Hitching Post would have to become a not-for-profit to be exempt.

But Gridley said after further review, he determined the ordinance doesn’t specify non-profit or for-profit.

“After we’ve looked at this some more, we have come to the conclusion they would be exempt from our ordinance because they are a religious corporation,” Gridley explained.

Now, it’s partly incorrect to draw some links between this case and Hobby Lobby. That of course involved a federal law whereas this is a city ordinance, and that case was decided on the grounds of the federal RFRA, where the religious exemption is what protects the Hitching Post here. (That said, Idaho has an RFRA, and virtually everyone is in agreement here that forcing the ministers themselves to officiate the ceremony would violate it.)

But at the same time, there were a few things in that decision (and the precedent discussed in the decision) that are instructive.

The first is that Hobby Lobby held that a “closely held” corporation could have religious beliefs, in the sense that it was the direct expression of a very small-knit group of owners. While a publicly-traded corporation wouldn’t have the same protection, a corporation held by a small religious family is entitled to the same protections under RFRA that the owners themselves would be, because the corporation is not truly separable from them as owners.

The second is that under previous RFRA cases, generally any sincerely-held religious belief is taken at face value. The Court isn’t in the business of deciding what religious beliefs are “valid” and what religious beliefs aren’t. Thus, as long as the actions of the Hitching Post are consistent as a religious corporation, forcing them to offer services to same-sex engaged couples violates their religious freedom. Thus, from the Boise article again:

Leo Morales of the ACLU of Idaho said the exemption makes sense as long as the Hitching Post primarily performs religious ceremonies.

“However, if they do non-religious ceremonies as well, they would be violating the anti-discrimination ordinance,” Morales said. “It’s the religious activity that’s being protected.”

So while some of the red-meat Conservatives were hoping that this would be the wedge that destroys gay marriage, I think everyone’s out of the water.

And to the Knapps, while I profoundly disagree with your belief, and sincerely hope that you come to my side of the aisle on this one, I am glad that you won’t be going to prison or subject to fines. As a libertarian, I think you’re wrong, but as you haven’t taken anyone’s rights away by failing to offer them services, I’m not in the camp that wants to throw you in a cage for it.

H/T: Reason

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Kimberly Guilfoyle’s Rant Against Millennials Was Not About Millennials

by Christopher Bowen

I saw popping up in my Facebook feed a discussion on Kevin’s Facebook regarding the comments that Fox News’ Kimberly Guilfoyle made during a forum on what Democrats offer young women, a typically liberal voting bloc. Her controversial comments noted that she believed “millennial” women (and men, as she later clarified on Twitter) should stay out of the voting box and “go back to Tinder and Match.com”.

I was left with a pressing question… what the hell is “Tinder”? After doing some research (GPS based Hot or Not? Kind of creepy, but I wish it was this easy to get laid when I was in my 20s), I instantly dismissed the initial comments. After all, if I wanted to get emotional any time a Fox host said something stupid, I’d be writing for Media Matters instead of The Liberty Papers. But the discussion on Kevin’s page – largely involving younger conservative women, many of whom were critical of the remarks themselves – gave me an epiphany regarding “millennials”.

I remember when I was a teenager – I’m 34 – everyone was making a big deal out of Generation X. We were these new breed of teenagers, and we were Everything Wrong With America™: we were uncouth, undisciplined, and uncontrollable. We were, in short, animals who were going to destroy America, said a generation of Americans who, before we were born, engaged in free love, did LSD by the bucket, and wore bell-bottom pants.

All I'm saying is, anyone who willingly puts on these clothes probably shouldn't be yelling too hard because they found a pack of fags in their kids' dresser.

All I’m saying is, anyone who willingly puts on these clothes probably shouldn’t be yelling too hard because they found a pack of cigarettes in their kids’ dresser.

That generation of children that slammed my own generation – the Woodstock generation – was rebelling against their own conservative parents, who… wait, wasn’t Rock and Roll music going to destroy America, too? That Elvis Presley and his gyrating hips and oh my goodness are those black singers on my radio!? Help a young buck out. This is a conservative site, I know my readers here are old enough to remember.

I don’t know if their parents had anything that was Destroying America™ – between the Great Depression and World War II, they seem like they were too busy not dying to worry about how Jazz music was affecting our future – but there’s a history, through multiple generations of kids being dumb, getting older, becoming comparatively less dumb, and then railing at the dumbness of their own children. Add in a few hack journalists – old people, what did we call “clickbait” in the 80s? – and it’s always a case of The Youth Destroying America.

We’re no different. Many of my associates from my youth, possessed with a combination of strong libido, poor impulse control and even poorer sex education, have had children who are now either in or approaching their teens, and many of these people naturally rail against what children and millennials have become, forgetting that in many cases, they were even dumber when they were that age.

Where this ties into Guilfoyle’s comments is that I don’t necessarily think this is a consequence of ageing. I don’t think people just automatically go from being dumb to being smart as they get older. The only difference is how their vapid, narrow-minded worldview affects arbitrary political views, and who that happens to align with at the time. Voters aren’t absent-minded because they’re young, or because they vote for one side or the other; it’s an issue that stretches across all ages.

Poorly educated younger voters – who don’t read the news, don’t consider alternative worldviews, and generally only care whose bed they’re going to spend the night in – tend to vote liberal for many narrow reasons, but for simplicity’s sake, we’ll boil it down to “screw the man”. They support Operation Wall Street, favour income redistribution, are against the drug war and support higher property taxes because it boils down to more for them, less for everyone else. Forget nuance. Forget learning the issues. Damnit, the world is burning, and they don’t have time for that shit!

Eventually, those kids will get older, and get married and have kids of their own. Now, with the burden of that higher tax on their shoulders, and scared for their children, they slam into the other extreme. Ban all drugs! Put away criminals! Lower taxes! End social safety nets! Lock up potential predators (even if guilty of nothing more than thought crimes)! All because If It Only Saves One Child!™ Forget nuance. Forget learning the issues. Damnit, Timmy has to get to football practice, and they don’t have time for that shit!

Soon, my generation, like those behind us, will get old. Now, the same people who railed for school spending in their 20s will want to pull it back. What do they care? Their kids are graduated. Instead, it will be about protecting their social security, their Medicare, and their freedom, no matter how poor their understanding of that word is. People who couldn’t stop putting drugs into their bodies as youths will continue to rail against those that do so now, because it’s their property that could be TP’d as some youth’s prank. Forget nuance. Forget learning the issues. Damnit, they’re old, they’re running out of time for that shit!

Low information voters go across generations, and across virtually any boundary one can think of, be it race, gender, age, income, etc., and despite the protests from people who usually are older, the margins are far thinner than people think. The difference is that we’re willing to tolerate the idiots who happen to align their views with our own. When Kim Guilfoyle slams millennial women, she’s not slamming a generation – young Republican voters are surely her equivalent to how a racist refers to his Black Friend – she’s slamming people who vote Democrat. Likewise, young people are more willing to tolerate Occupy, no matter how noxious it gets, because old people don’t get it, despite the many, many of them that actually do, if anyone took the time to talk to someone instead of yelling at them.

The kind of voters who don’t read, don’t learn, and ultimately just fumble their way through life, and still vote in who gets to run the country, are an issue and a problem that needs to be dealt with, no matter the political persuasion. Our democracy is a chain, and that chain is as strong as its weakest link. Whether that link is concerned about getting laid on… uh, that get laid app thingy… or is foolishly buying gold coins because someone on TV told them the economy was going to crash, is irrelevant.

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The ‘compassion’ of animal rights activists

by Tom Knighton

It seems like we can’t go a month without some animal rights activists deciding that a human being needs killing because they actually have the audacity to hunt animals. The latest revolves around an 11 year old boy who managed to kill a rare albino deer. Unsurprisingly, the boys parents shared the picture on Facebook and got some responses they certainly weren’t expecting.

From the hunting equipment company RealTree’s blog:

Soon after tagging the buck, Gavin’s family did what I’d have done: They shared the images and story on Facebook. They were — deservedly so — proud of their son and his accomplishment.

What followed was something they likely didn’t expect.

Hate-filled messages. Ignorance-laden tirades. Death threats.

Yes, death threats. To an 11-year-old boy. (more…)

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Hey FCKH8, I Have a Few ‘F-Bombs’ of My Own!

by Stephen Littau

If you thought modern progressive feminists couldn’t be any more childish, you haven’t seen FCKH8’s latest viral video entitled: “F-Bombs for Feminism: Potty-Mouthed Princesses Use Bad Word for Good Cause.”

In the video (below), girls aged six to thirteen repeat progressive feminist bromides and talking points along with some F-bombs (as advertised) in an attempt to get this message to go viral (mission accomplished). As expected, the response by many is to be offended by having these ‘princesses’ use such foul language for any reason.

Personally, I think the whole thing is awful. I don’t like it when children are used for any cause foisted on children by adults, regardless of how noble the cause might be. It even turns my stomach a little when I see politicians use their own children in their campaign ads. It’s even more tacky to hear children speak about such things they most likely have no clue about. My daughter is pretty intelligent and the same age as some of these girls but I’m fairly sure she doesn’t even think about the ‘equal pay’ or ‘rape culture.’ Why should she? She’s nine years-old for crying out loud!*

So here’s the full uncensored version. If this is too much for your ears to handle, go here for the censored version.

Now, wasn’t that just precious!

More important than the shock value of elementary shool girls cursing like sailors…are the things these girls saying true? For the most part, no, these are the same old progressive feminist myths repackaged yet again. I’ve already dealt with the ‘equal pay for equal work’ nonsense here and here. You can also read this article 5 Feminist Myths that Will Not Die. I’ll let Julie Borowski take care of the rest as only Julie Borowski can – dropping her own F-bombs (Fact bombs, I should say) without actually cursing.

I have a few other F-bombs about gender disparities progressive feminists almost never bring up (and I’ll do so without exploiting any elementary age children to make my points):

A young man is required by law to sign up for Selective Service by his 18th birthday. In the event Congress decides to reinstate the draft, men exclusively are conscripted to risk life or limb for ‘his country.’ Also, of those who have died in all the U.S. wars (declared and undeclared) since the American Revolution, 99.99% were men. When men’s rights activists say that society has long decided that men are the ‘disposable gender’ this is one example of what they are talking about.

When young girls are circumcised we call it ‘genital mutilation’ and we are rightly scandalized by this barbaric practice. When baby boys have their genitals mutilated, we call it circumcision because either the boy should ‘look like his father’ or because some women prefer their partner to be circumcised. So much for ‘my body, my choice.’ And imagine the outrage if even one man said that because he preferred the look of a woman’s vagina without a clitorous, baby girls should have it removed?

When it comes to parenting and divorce, mothers get custody of the children roughly 84% of the time.

Let’s call this the gender ‘crime/time’ gap. For Similar crimes under similar circumstances, on average women serve 18.51 months vs. 51.52 months for men.

Since 1976, 15 women (2.9% of the executions) have been executed even though women are responsible for 10% of murders. While I am unapologetically opposed to the death penalty, as long as this barbaric practice is part of the system, this punishment should be an equal opportunity punishment without regard to sex, race, religion, economic or political status, or creed.

At least 3 states (California, Tennessee, and Kansas) require men to pay child support to his statutory rapist.

I could go on but I think I have made my point. There is inequality between the genders and both have their challenges. Personally, I would like to look at the individual rather than who is on ‘team penis’ or ‘team vagina.’ But first, we need to elevate the debate above the elementary school playground.

*This isn’t to suggest she isn’t already very opinionated or doesn’t care about important issues. That’s right, my daughter already has an issue she cares deeply about. Her issue: the alarming decline of the ‘big cat’ populations. According to National Geographic, there are as few as 3,000 tigers, 7,500 snow leopards, 10,000 cheetahs, and 30,000 lions left in the wild. I had no idea about this until my daughter started writing out a script she wanted to read over the intercom at her elementary school to collect money to help ‘save the big cats.’ I suggested that she should ask for donations to the local big cat sanctuary for her birthday instead of presents. Would you believe she was actually thrilled with this idea and followed through? I couldn’t be more proud of her. If she wanted to make a viral video about saving the big cats, I might make an exception to my ‘no kids’ rule because this is an issue that she actually cares about.

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October 23, 2014

A Curious Narcissism

by Chris Byrne

There is a curious narcissism to collectivism.

It says “I want this, and think it should be this way, and I am good and right; therefore everyone else should also want this and be good and right with me, thus validating that I am good and right”.

Of course, if you don’t want “this”, you no longer validate that they are good and right, and you do them narcissistic injury. Anyone who doesn’t want exactly what they want, and doesn’t want to force anyone else to do so, is the enemy.

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How Not To Engage Non-Libertarians In A Political Discussion

by Kevin Boyd

There’s a video being shared by some libertarians that shows a libertarian activist, who identifies an affiliation with Students for Liberty, asking a progressive activist about his policies and ideology. After about a minute or so, the libertarian brings up that the progressive ideology requires a state and violence to implement it. The progressive then got angry and eventually walked away from the cameraman and the SFL guy.

Here’s the video:

The guy who made the video and the libertarian echo chamber that is pushing it are identifying as a progressive who got angry when he realized that violence was needed to promote his ideology. Meanwhile, I believe that the progressive got angry because he knew he was being ambushed as has become common.

Make no mistake, this video is defeat for the libertarians and a missed opportunity to promote libertarianism. Furthermore, it reinforces the negative stereotype that libertarians only care about eccentric things and not about practical solutions to real problems.

Here’s what I would’ve done in the same scenario.

  • The first 50 seconds or so were on the money. I would’ve let the progressive talk about himself.
  • When the progressive brought up his motivations: equality, justice for all, equal opportunity; I would’ve taken the opportunity to develop some common ground.
  • The common ground with this type of progressive is easy, start with cronyism and crony capitalism.
  • Once there was agreement established that crony capitalism is bad, start to bring up that it is because of government laws and regulations, which are well intended and be sure to emphasize that, that make it easy for corporations to rig the system. Then make an argument for free markets and less government.
  • The progressive is going to do one of three things: be persuaded, challenge your argument (which is just as good), or throw a fit and walk away. If they walk away in this instance, you clearly win because it shows they cannot handle a dissenting argument and there was no ambush, just a debate.

Notice what is never brought up, “violence” or “coercion”. The reason why those terms are never brought up is because no one cares about them outside of hardcore libertarians, voluntarists, and anarcho-capitalists. When reaching out to someone, you reach out to them by using their way of thinking, not yours.

Here’s the thing about progressives, they’re going to be very difficult for any libertarian to persuade to join team libertarian. This is because progressives have a different mindset than conservatives and libertarians in that they believe in the collective instead of the individual and in fact, they see individuality as the threat. This is why when liberaltarians urge outreach to progressives, they water down libertarianism.

To put it in linguistic terms, it’s easier for libertarians and conservatives to converse because libertarians speak French whereas conservatives speak Spanish. Both languages are in the same linguistic family (Romance) therefore there are major similiarities between the two. Both political ideologies, in the Anglosphere, stem from the same classical liberal tree. Progressives on the hand speak Chinese, which has no similiarities. Some on the left already realize that progressives and libertarians will never be on the same side. The two have different interests and that’s why, especially among the rank and file, most libertarians come from conservative ranks.

All in all, libertarians need to do better reaching out to non-libertarians and they way to do that is to get on the other person’s wavelength. When a person storms off and won’t engage you, you’ve already lost and that’s not a good thing if the goal is to win converts.

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Invalid Presumption of Moral Superiority

by Chris Byrne

A reader commented that the problem with what you might call “strict Randites” is that they “seem to have a lack of compassion”.

An APPARENT lack of compassion.

Some do yes.

Others simply recognize that it isn’t compassion, when one is being “compassionate” with other peoples time, money, and resources.

Not a Randian by any stretch of the imagination… but there IS a point there.

The larger point with Rand, and with Neitzsche, and other individualist philosophers; is that the assumed obligation to sacrifice oneself in favor of others, and the assumed moral superiority of it, are both not only false, but in fact harmful.

Voluntary self sacrifice for good cause, and to good effect (or at least with a realistic attempt at good effect), is a noble thing. In all other cases, it is not.

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Affirmative Consent Is the New Sexual Puritanism

by Sarah Baker

California’s new affirmative consent standard for university disciplinary proceedings puts the onus on the accused to prove that consent was “affirmative,” “voluntary,” and “ongoing,” rather than on the accuser to overcome the presumption of innocence. In so doing, it leaves those subject to its purview unclear as to how the standard functions; it institutionalizes assumptions about the fragility of women; and it effectively places entire realms of sexual exploration off limits to adults who happen to be attending university.

UNCLEAR APPLICATION

The chorus of voices defending the law like to write about what sort of sex is acceptable and what sort is not. Amanda Marcotte, for example, assures us that:

The drafters understand, as most of us do when we’re actually having sex, that sometimes sexual consent is nonverbal and that there’s a difference between drunk, consensual sex and someone pushing himself on a woman who is too drunk to resist.

This is a dodge. The issue is not whether most of recognize, in the moment, what nonverbal consent or consensual, drunken sex look like.

The real, and infinitely more difficult, issue is how a university disciplinary body makes an after-the-fact determination in the face of different versions of, or different perceptions about, what occurred. How does it ascertain—in the presence of conflicting stories—whether what happened was drunk, consensual sex or “someone pushing himself on a woman who was too drunk to resist?” How does it decide what possible demonstrations of nonverbal consent are sufficient to excuse the accused from punishment?

The affirmative consent standard does not further the quest for truth where one of the parties is a predatory liar, willing to tell falsehoods in furtherance of a malicious agenda. Nor does it add anything to the process where both parties tell the same story about an encounter that constitutes rape under existing criminal laws and procedures.

Those are not the cases that will be impacted by the new standard. Its target, rather, is those situations where the parties give consistent or reconcilable accounts of an encounter involving mixed signals and ambiguities; and they have divergent perceptions about whether it was meaningfully consensual.

How affirmative consent functions in such cases remains to be seen. Slate’s Amanda Hess, a defender of the law, concedes, “enthusiastic consent is often communicated in body language or knowing looks.” Is the university to determine whether the “knowing look” described by the accused constituted affirmative consent? Must it parse whether the accused elicited a gasp of pleasure versus an exhale of pain?

As Michelle Goldberg, blogging at The Nation, writes:

Now, most of us know what this kind of consent looks like in practice, but as a legal standard, it’s hard to imagine how it would be implemented. Do moans count as consent? How about a nod, or a smile, or meaningful eye contact? If a woman performs oral sex on a man without asking him first, and if he simply lies back and lets her, has she, by the law’s definition, assaulted him?

Thomas MacAulay Millar at the Yes Means Yes blog, does his best to clarify:

There are lots of ways to ask for a yes. If you lean in to kiss someone and they lean in to kiss you back, that’s yes. If you ask someone if they want your cock and they say, “I want your cock,” that’s yes, and if they put their mouth on it, that’s yes, too. If you’re fucking someone and holding them down and you’re both sweating and maybe bruised and you lean in and your hand is on their throat and you say, “can you still say no?” and they say, “yes,” that’s yes. We’re not kids here, right?

It is the last example I find most interesting. In this scenario, the accused (remember, the standard only becomes relevant if one of them ends up accused) leans in and, with his hand on the accuser’s throat, asks a question to confirm that the accuser can still say no. Then, having confirmed the accuser can still say no, the accused deduces from the fact that no has not been uttered, that it is all right to proceed.

How is that different from the old standard in which the absence of “no” was taken to be indicative of consent?

INSTITUTIONALIZES ASSUMPTIONS ABOUT THE FRAGILITY OF WOMEN

As noted, the standard does not enhance the quest for truth where one party is a criminal willing lie; the liar merely adjusts the lies to the new standard. Nor does it add anything meaningful where the accused admits conduct constituting rape under existing laws and standards. Rather, it is aimed at situations where one person has negative perceptions of the encounter, either during or after, but for any number of reasons did not effectively communicate non-consent—and the other person says, “I would have stopped if I had known.” It shifts the burden of avoiding the encounter away from the person who did not want it, but failed to say so, and onto the person who wanted it, but failed to ask.

But why?

If accuser cannot be held responsible for making preferences known and demanding they be respected, why does the accused have to shoulder that responsibility?

I suspect the reason has to do with the accuser usually being female and the accused usually being male. Just reading the copious text written in its defense confirms its proponents assume the standard it will function to protect women in their encounters with men:

The new California law will make it harder for men who enjoy having sex with the unwilling to argue that her nonconsent was “ambiguous” in order to escape punishment.

Looking for a woman who said “yes” (or any variation of it, which can be expressed in a variety of ways, both verbal and nonverbal) instead of focusing on whether she said no in exactly the right words will help put the role alcohol plays into focus. It will clear up some of the murky gray areas, such as cases where a woman is too drunk to be articulate in her refusals but not so drunk that she passes out. It will also offer a degree of protection for scared men, because a somewhat intoxicated woman who explicitly asks for sex will have a hard time convincing the courts she hasn’t “demonstrated intent” to bone. It’s an easy way to get more guilty men convicted while offering protection for innocent men.

“I had a friend who was like, ‘I had sex with this guy and I was really uncomfortable—I wish I’d said something,’?” says Trina Bills, a student who graduated last year. “But she didn’t, and so he didn’t know. When she finally told him, he said, ‘You should’ve told me. It would’ve been fine—we just wouldn’t have done anything.’ The communication aspect of this is real. And everyone communicates differently.”

Maybe I am wrong.

Maybe proponents of this standard envision it being used to expel young women from university, after they have expended extraordinary sums to attend, for having an encounter with a wasted male classmate, without pausing to be “Pretty Damn Sure” it was consistent with his sober, higher-order values and preferences. It seems more likely, however, that the standard will be used to revive, institutionalize, and perpetuate the age-old belief—now under new management—that the woman is the fragile partner in any sexual encounter with a man; and that for her, the default position should be no sex, because the consequences of anything less than wholehearted consent are all too terrible.

ELIMINATES SEX DISAPPROVED OF BY THE ORTHODOXY

Proponents will argue that there is no downside to this burden-shifting of responsibility to the higher-power party, of eliminating those sexual encounters where the power differential renders consent ambiguous or uncertain.

In an amazing essay for BookForum called “Fifty Shades of Beige: How E. L. James created an unlikely cottage industry in sanitized s/m,” Kerry Howley writes about French philosopher Georges Bataille’s description of eroticism as:

“[A]ssenting to life up to the point of death,” … about a moment of freedom from the prison of isolated existence, a moment in which an essentially discontinuous body might experience the kind of continuity with the universe we’ll all presumably find when our lives are over. In the erotic we bump up against the possibility of dissolution …

… There is in the erotic that hard jolt of coming undone, the “elemental violence,” as Bataille put it, “which kindles every manifestation of eroticism.” Where we find the erotic we find anarchy, an unraveling, a falling apart, dissolution. We find, as in the work of Sade, Anaïs Nin, and the pseudonymous Pauline Réage, that a sexual frenzy spills readily into savagery.

Howley juxtaposes the narrative arc of Fifty Shades of Grey with the standard commentary on the success of the trilogy. In the book, the female protagonist “cedes control” and “allows a billionaire she doesn’t really know, and suspects is a sadist, to chain her to a wall in his ‘playroom.’” As Howley recognizes, this “not behavior we associate with the ideals of self-preservation and delayed gratification.” Nevertheless:

The model Fifty Shades of Grey think piece…is a defense of the book…though these defenses do not extend to anarchy, or chaos, or ecstasy at all. In the Fifty Shades think piece, the book is a teaching tool, a means of instruction, Our Bodies, Ourselves with a stronger narrative drive.

Fifty Shades, we learn, is a force for “good” because it “gets women talking about sex.” It is good, we learn, because it “encourages a dialogue.” Fifty Shades, insists a panel of experts on The Dr. Oz Show, is an educative tool permitting healthy adult women to express their desires within the realm of companionate heterosexual marriage.

Howley insightfully recognizes that the dissonance, between what occurs in the book and the insistence it must be healthy for women, emanates from the needs of “anxious arbiters of cultural meaning” to “attempt to remove the erotic from the realm of the savage and claim it for civilization.” I see some of the same motivations at play in the debate about affirmative consent. The law functions as an effort by the collective to domesticate sexuality, “claim [it] for civilization,” and ensure it only occurs under carefully constructed circumstances deemed “healthy” by the enlightened.

Not everyone wants to live within those confines; some men and women enjoy life closer to the edge. A substantial number of both, for example, enjoy ravishment fantasies. Some of them live out these fantasies via role-playing in which consent is determined to be ongoing where a safety word is not uttered. This allows a participant to “protest” without bringing the encounter to an end.

Are university students allowed to engage in this type of role-playing? Can “affirmative” consent be proved by the failure to utter a safety word that is nothing more than a mutually agreed upon replacement for the word “no?”

Conor Friedersdorf of The Atlantic has posted a very interesting letter from someone claiming to be a recent graduate cataloguing his experiences with “affirmative consent.” The writer claims, for example that, on their second night together, one of his first partners, threw up her hands in disgust:

“How am I supposed to get turned on when you keep asking for permission for everything like a little boy?” She said. “Just take me and fuck me already.”

After repeatedly seeing disappointment in the eyes of his female partners when he did not fulfill the leadership role they wanted him to fill in the bedroom, he learned to take an assertive lead that involved proceeding unless he got a “no” (which included any nonverbal suggestion he was about to cross a line).

It would be easy to dismiss this as a man’s inability to correctly perceive what is really going on with women. But I know women who would agree with everything said in his letter. And who could forget this Best of Craigslist post, which appears to be written by a woman, calling men out for their increasingly beta male approach to sex?

Friedersdorf’s anonymous correspondent further claims to have, more than once, experienced situations where his partners put up “token resistance” that they wanted him to overcome. When Rush Limbaugh said something similar, he was lambasted. But yet again, I have personally known women, mostly of an older generation (but not all), who are most comfortable with a dynamic wherein the woman dutifully resists, thus demonstrating her purity, and then succumbs only after being seduced, thus confirming the man’s prowess.

Do I like that dynamic?

No. I find it grotesque.

But once we accept the proposition that only “healthy” sex deserves defending, the bedroom becomes yet another sanitized, domesticated landscape where people’s—and especially women’s—experiences are carefully managed by the cultural elites; where risks are discouraged; where optimal health is achieved via careful planning; where regrettable sex is forbidden alongside super-sized sodas, trans-fat and incandescent light bulbs; where barriers are erected to prevent us from treading too near the place of dissolution.

And feminism becomes the new Puritanism.

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That Idaho Gay Marriage Lawsuit? It Just Got Murky.

by Brad Warbiany

On Monday, I posted about the Idaho pastors who filed a lawsuit as Couer d’Alene’s anti-discrimination ordinance threatened them with large fines and possible jail time for a refusal to perform same-sex weddings at their chapel, The Hitching Post.

As background, I posted excerpts from the Hitching Post’s lawsuit regarding their employee policy:

Then, the Employee Policy specifies the following Rules and Regulations:
• Only the Hitching Post owners and employees may perform wedding ceremonies at the Hitching Post Chapel and other locations scheduled by the Hitching Post. Outside ministers may not perform wedding ceremonies at the Hitching Post Chapel or other locations scheduled by the Hitching Post. Brides and grooms may not invite outside ministers to perform such ceremonies. Outside ministers may come and stand alongside the Hitching Post owner or employee who performs the wedding ceremony. But only the Hitching Post owner or employee may perform the ceremony.
..snip..
• In accordance with the religious beliefs and ministerial vows of the Hitching Post owners, Hitching Post owners and employees will perform ceremonies for those of different faiths and religious beliefs (so long as those marriage ceremonies are consistent with the beliefs set forth herein) because marriage is a common grace and creational gift bestowed by God upon all humans for the benefit of human society.

And my analysis, with a bit of added emphasis which will soon be clear:

Is the Hitching Post a religious entity, or is it a non-religious business? I have a feeling it’s going to come down to under what circumstances they’ve turned away traditional couples based on other violations of their Christian beliefs. If they have a history of turning away open atheists, or turning away Muslims, or perhaps frowning on Christian/Muslim unions, they may have a leg to stand on. In that case, they can show that they’ve turned away opposite-sex couples (and their dollars) based upon the sincere religious nature of their business.

But if they’ve got a history of taking money from pretty much any opposite-sex couple that walks through the door and it’s only the gays that they turn away, I think they may be considered a public accommodation. Even then, they have an extrajudicial way out. If they do allow same-sex couples to bring their own officiant, they would thereby be excluded from having to do the specific act (solemnizing the wedding before God), which I think many courts would view as not substantially burdening their Free Exercise.

So, what’s the history of the Hitching Post? Well, that’s where it gets murky. Walter Olson of Overlawyered tipped me off on this one.

You see, the lawsuit pointed out all the ways in which the Hitching Post was a deeply religious business, using their ceremony as ministry to bring couples to the Lord.

Only, the Operating Agreement was signed on October 6, 2014. It was submitted as an exhibit to the lawsuit here (scroll down to page 91). Now, it’s one thing to find a document with a date on it… After all, for all we know, the previous Operating Agreement might have been substantially the same as this one.

But Google Cache doesn’t lie. Jeremy Hooper from Good As You points out that as recently as Oct 9, the Hitching Post web site said that they offer marriages of both the religious and civil variety, and even of ceremonies of other faiths. (Screen shots available at that post).

Some “ministry”.

Now, I still don’t doubt that the Knapps have sincere religious beliefs against gay marriage. But it certainly seems that the Hitching Post, as a legal entity, just seems to have found God recently.

And it seems to me that the ADF is manufacturing a victim of the Couer d’Alene ordinance.

I’m finding my sympathy level for all parties involved is beginning to wane.

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October 22, 2014

Today’s Dumb Tweet Of The Day — 10/22/2014

by Kevin Boyd

Today’s winner is Bryan Fischer, the so-called “Christian” radio talk show host who tweeted this bit of stupidity.

This makes sense, as soon as gays do things such as lynching Christians or vandalizing their property. Although usually, the violence is the other way around and gays are often the targets.

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How Do You Measure The ‘American Dream?’

by Matt Souders

The question of class mobility has come to define the “American Dream” in political discourse. And, although this post will take a bit of a contrarian position, it is absolutely inarguable that there is a problem with economic immobility today that is having a very depressing impact on the way we communicate to solve problems and on our freedoms in general. But this is not how you go about making that point.

There are many accepted indicators of whether a person has “done everything right” but the most important such indicators have traditionally included college advancement (graduation and especially graduate degrees), marriage, and home ownership.

The original graphic is a classic example of a complex topic simplified into uselessness. When I look at the graph, I see that, in fact, college grads who started poor move up to the middle classes and stay there at much higher rates than rich kids who drop out of high school (yay!)…but somehow the Post comes away with the misleading headline: Poor kids who do everything right don’t do better than rich kids who do everything wrong.

Really? This only looks at the shear proportions who “graduate college” vs. “drop out of high school” – that can hardly be seen as “doing everything right” vs. “getting everything wrong”. What did the college grads major in? There is ample research supporting the conclusion that most college majors these days are bad long term investments. What did the rich kids who didn’t finish HS go on to do? Were they drop-outs because they had alternative plans? Did they pick up a trade?

And more to the point – how many of those poor kids had good parenting examples at home upon which to build the foundations of healthy marriages?

Slate takes on many of my same talking points here. They mention other confounding factors, and note the misleading nature of the Post’s article title. Props to them!

But they make the unfortunate logical leap that there is something inherently wrong with a system where not all poor college grads do well later in life, or that the forces leading to their remaining in poverty are things we can fix.

An excerpt:

The real issue, as O’Brien points out, is that rich kids enjoy lots of advantages that keep them from falling to the very bottom of income distribution, and sometimes those advantages keep them at the very top. They might be able to go to work for family businesses, for instance, or family friends. Researchers like Brookings’ Richard Reeves call that collection of advantages “the glass floor.” Educated poor kids are in the exact opposite position. Many attend second- or third-rate (and possibly for-profit) colleges that churn out less-than-useful degrees. And instead of a floor propping them up, their families and friends can act like an anchor pulling them down. A classic example: a college-educated woman who goes home and marries a boyfriend who never made it past high school and has trouble holding down a job.

Emphasis mine. Notice the not-so-subtle insinuation that colleges that operate for profit are bad for the poor, and that the less-useful degrees are not to be found in the halls of elite, expensive colleges, only those second rate low-end state schools or the aforementioned dirty capitalist institutions. Of course, even top end colleges (including the ivy leagues) are now offering degrees in a wide array of financially useless liberal arts curricula. Also notice the suggestion that the problem isn’t with the failure of people raised in poverty to establish and keep stable families, but that those families are holding them back. They’re getting it exactly backwards. Every credible study on the persistence of poverty finds that single parents and people who suffer divorce are the most likely to get stuck in poverty.

So let’s summarize the position of Slate’s team (and likely that of the Washington Post):

1) Economic mobility continues to be problematic at best for the poorest Americans, even with hard work.
2) Graduating from college is a mark of hard work.
3) Hard work should be rewarded with a high rate of success.
4) If we could separate the poor from the things that hold them back (especially their struggling families and their alternative education sources), they would thrive.

If the writers at Slate would like to address the problem of hard-working, driven poor people being less able to move up the economic ladder than (perhaps) would be ideal, I suggest that they stop grinding political axes and start looking at the hard data. The data all indicates that the leading indicator for economic immobility is single parenthood, and that children of single parents are more likely to also be single parents themselves later in life. Get to the root of the problem and you find that this is not something that government can forcefully correct – and frankly, I’d be terrified if they tried.

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