Category Archives: The Fascist State

GDPR: End of the World

“It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.”

This sentiment from the well known R.E.M song encapsulates most succinctly the state of affairs with the E.U.’s “General Data Protection Regulation” (or GDPR). Like you, I too received an onslaught of (promptly deleted) “updated privacy policy notice” emails last week. We all scratched our heads at the oddly timed confluence of these emails but soon went back about the business of life. In short, we felt fine, nothing to see here, move right along. In reality these email notices were the harbinger of the end of human civilization as we have enjoyed it (that is, relatively free liberal western democracies with some semblance of local autonomous governance). GDPR is the first step on the road back to serfdom, albeit a rather different path then the one foreseen by F.A. Hayek. This path follows the same instinct toward fascism (fascism=state control of otherwise putatively private interests, in short a fascism is the façade of socialism dressed up in a cloak of capitalism).

“Oh, c’mon now, I think you’re overstating things here just a bit!” you’re probably thinking by now. Sadly, I’m not. This is the first time that any law or regulation has had GLOBAL reach.

“There is nowhere to run to, no where to hide.”

It does not merely pertain to companies operating in Europe, no, it governs any company anywhere in the world that may at any time count an EU citizen as a customer or even merely a website visitor. That might be all well and good if it were merely a recitation of privacy best practices. But no, this regulation has teeth – velociraptor sharp and deep. The fines for violation of this regulation are specifically designed to put all small to midsize businesses into bankruptcy overnight. The fines range from 10 – 20 million Euro (12 – 24 million dollars) at a minimum! And that is for a single offence! To put that into perspective, according to IRS figures (2013 latest year available) 99.685% of all US business make less than 12 million a year in profit. Or stated differently only about 18,000 US businesses out of approximately 6 million could conceivably withstand such a fine. That is the recipe for serfdom. That is the recipe for what all regulations do to some extent (favor large businesses at the expense of the small) but at a scale that would all but ensure no one could ever again rise above the station they were born into by starting their own business. The least little misstep in following every little dot and tittle of this (and most assuredly future) regulation would leave the nascent entrepreneur crushed like a bug under the heel of Paul Bunyan. “But I’m in the US, they can’t touch us!” you say. Unfortunately our government will be all too willing to help out their EU cronies just in the same way that the EU has been complicit in enforcing the absurd US tax law known as FACTA (which basically treats any US citizen with an overseas bank account like a criminal). GDPR fines are the equivalent of the death penalty for jay walking.

The premise behind this regulation is itself flawed as well. When even someone’s name is considered “private” information I think we can say that privacy regulations have “jumped the shark” and entered full on SJW territory of head spinning absurdity. In short, there is no right to privacy. You do not have the right to walk through the public park and then insist that everyone who saw you must be beat over the head until they have no memory of you walking through the park. That is what this regulation does. It substitutes state violence for personal responsibility. If you don’t want some website to have your information, then don’t use the website, it’s that simple. If you don’t want some company to know where you live because they had to ship product to your house, then don’t buy from them. Don’t ruin society and the internet for the other 99% of us who don’t give a crap if some website stored a cookie in the web cache about the last visit there.

Privacy is a negative right  – it is up to you protect it. Using the state to point guns at people to make them do what you want doesn’t count as you doing something – unless you think violence is the best way to solve problems.

The Freedom Illusion

Today I write this article on Memorial Day while visiting a country (Germany) that those we honor today arguably did fight to bring freedom to. Although to be precise that was only an indirect consequence of the war. They were actually fighting to stop the military encroachment of Germany on its neighbors. Had Germany been content to stay within its borders and continue on with the fascist policies of the National Socialists it is no doubt certain Americans would have not gone there to “fight for freedom.” I have often heard the phrase “as the world watched in horror” concerning the atrocities of World War II. But that is not entirely true. Some may have watched in horror, but the vast majority of people both inside and outside those countries run by fascist regimes (Germany, Italy, Spain) simply watched and shrugged their shoulders. Nothing to see here, after all, the law is the law.

Today with our 20/20 hindsight we can clearly see the violations of human liberty that occur under such fascist regimes. Now we beat our chests about how such violations of freedom must be opposed. All the while we remain blind to the violations of liberty occurring in our midst. If we open our eyes what do we see? Well if we can manage to wipe the fog from the lenses of our rose colored glasses we can see most ruling regimes follow that same fascist template we now so heartily decry. Fascism originated in World War I Italy and came to prominence under Mussolini. Others soon followed (Hitler in Germany, Franco in Spain) along with our own FDR. Fortunately we had a Supreme Court that tempered some of FDR’s alphabet soup of new “public-private partnership” agencies, but America was clearly on a fascist path. Today we are on that path yet again. To be clear, Fascism is not Nazism. Fascism is better known today as Corporatism, or Crony-Capitalism. It is a tight alliance between business and the state wherein the state calls the shots and the businesses that are serving the interests of the state collaboratively comply (energy independence, environmentalism, healthcare, education, etc). And everyone cheers the perceived benefits of sacrificed freedom.

So on this Memorial Day honor those that believed they were fighting for our freedom by recognizing the direction the world is headed in. Consider for a moment how much freedom we have already sacrificed in our permission based society. One is not free if one must ask permission to: start a business, get a job, hire employees, drive a cab, sell a product or service, keep their income, cross a border, get married, own a home. One is not free if one is subject to search and seizure in their own home or for merely walking or driving because they might have in their possession that is not approved. And on and on.

Honor the fallen (and those still with us) by fighting to both regain freedoms lost and by not sacrificing any more freedom. What the state gives us in return is either an illusion (safety) or that which we could have achieved on our own as free individuals.

Land of the free?

Willful ignorance is the ability to be both cognizant of a fact while simultaneously ignoring it. This affords one the ability to derive some measure of comfort from pretending to live in a world where such a fact is not extant. For example, a child may know deep down there is no Santa Claus but derives more psychic comfort in pretending that there is. Any belief system that makes testable claims is susceptible to objective scrutiny and when that scrutiny undermines the belief, willful ignorance typically ensues in order to preserve the comfort of that belief. While the world has many religions, there is one belief system that transcends them all. Nearly every member of our species adheres to it (insofar as it seems to be woven into our DNA). It is known as tribalism or its more common variant, patriotism. This is the belief that ones own arbitrarily defined group is superior to all other arbitrarily defined groups. One can even stack their tribes and believe each is the best (best city, best county, best state, best country). Now while there may be no way to prove or disprove ones estimation of their group’s “greatness” sometimes the patriot will make a testable claim, such as, “America stands for freedom and independence” or “America is the freest country in the world.” The latter is easily disproven by reviewing any of the various indices of freedom (the US ranks very poorly at around 25th). But even if the US is not quite the freest it is still believed by the patriot that America is a “free” country; that we fought the Revolutionary War in order to gain our “freedom”. A close examination of the actual history shows that it was not a war of independence for the peoples of the United States but rather a war of independence for the governments of those states from Great Britain. The individual remained just as ruled after the war as before, all that changed was the accent of the ruler. But the myth persists, that America is all about freedom of the individual against tyrannical governments and that our military fights to preserve “our freedom”. This is where the willful ignorance comes in to play. Let us examine the evidence that puts the lie to that notion of “our freedom.”

Would a free country enact laws restricting the non-violent behavior of its citizens? Would a free country throw people in a cage because they exchanged an unapproved good or service for money? Would a free country throw people in a cage if the exchange were approved but the exchange did not conform to some third party’s idea of the proper conditions for the exchange? Would a free country throw people in a cage because they did not get permission from someone to work for themselves or others? To wit, a recent article in the Morgan County Citizen (3/3/16, pg. 1) or Lake Oconee News (3/10/16) concerning a lake homeowner who faces JAIL TIME for renting out her home for short-term vacations. The horror! Yes, certainly, let’s JAIL this MONSTER who clearly represents an imminent threat to public safety. The point is not “did she do it?” the point is “how can such a law even exist in a supposedly free country?” America the land of the free? North Korea would be proud.

Laws prohibiting or regulating human actions are in an absolute sense anathema to the supposed principles this country was founded on: freedom. If a transaction is voluntary and there is no fraud involved then it can’t be “wrong” in a civic sense. You might morally frown upon some activities but you have no more right to impose your morals on others than they have to impose theirs on you. If you wish to live exclusively among those sharing your exact moral code, then follow the Amish example and set up your own private communities. The public sphere does not become a private sphere just because you happen reside within it. Repeat after me: if violence (or the threat thereof) is the only way society can change the behavior of non-violent actors then there is something wrong with society.

Fighting against 1984

The State is getting nervous. Technology has a way of disrupting institutional power. The Guttenberg printing press liberated the flow of knowledge from the former stranglehold of the Church and its scribes. Today the digital realm of the Internet is effecting a similar change with self-publishing upon the old-world monopoly of the print-publishing house. Travel agents are virtually a thing of the past. Bitcoin is beginning to threaten the monopoly the banks and the government have over the flow of money. Encryption of our digital lives (personal electronic devices) is now threatening the power and relevance of the State. Encryption means we can manage our own security; we don’t need some nebulous State apparatus to keep us safe and secure. Nearly everything that is important to us (photos, messages, financials, medical info, etc.) is locked away securely in our digital treasure chest.

But the State will have none of that. They demand the key to that treasure chest. Both New York and California legislatures have introduced bills banning the sale of smartphones that do not offer some sort of encryption “back door”. How dare these companies make a product that is impervious to the prying eyes of the State! This is a direct threat to their unlimited power to intrude into our lives.

Not to be outdone, the Federal government is getting in on the back-door game. A federal judge recently ordered Apple to assist the FBI in unlocking the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters. Apple is openly defying this order. The primary problem is that were Apple to comply with the order there is nothing to prevent the technique used from falling into the hands of truly “bad guys” who could then threaten the privacy and security of every iPhone user. It’s like the government asking scientists to build the atomic bomb “just this once, to stop the bad guys”. Once knowledge is out there it cannot be contained.

But even worse, the government’s use of an act from 1789 (the All Writ Act) to compel Apple to help them sets a dangerous precedent. It is not the case that Apple has in its possession information that it is being asked to hand over (which it has always done in the past when presented with a warrant). Instead Apple is being forced to help the FBI, drafted as it were, unlock this device. Insert picture of government agent holding loaded gun to Tim Cook’s head and saying “help us, please” and you’ll get the picture.

Yes, but you say the FBI is trying to stop future terror events, so anything to prevent a loss of life is worth it. Ok, well that cuts both ways. If Apple helps the FBI on what grounds could it refuse to help the government of China, Russia or perhaps even a threatening mob boss? After all, they know that since Apple helped the FBI then it is indeed possible to unlock these things. Is the standard of behavior to be: Apple helps any “legitimate” state actor, except when they are bad, because of course everyone knows who the goods guys and bad guys are.

To be clear, this is not Apple’s property. They are a third party being asked to do the government’s bidding. If they complied it would set the awful precedent that the companies we do business with can be secretly dragooned into the employ of the State in order to spy on and monitor us without our knowledge. Don’t think that can happen? Well, the government already has a terrible track record of abusing its surveillance power. It took Edward Snowden blowing the whistle to show us how the NSA was spying on everyone in contravention of the Patriot Act. In fact Samsung just recently warned its customers that its voice recognition could be used by third party vendors to listen to conversations so they advised caution about what you say in front of it. Now imagine Samsung receives a request from the FBI to “help” them monitor everyone so they can ensure “our safety”. Nah… I’m sure that would never happen. Thank you Apple for fighting for us. Your actions today may well ensure that our future “won’t be like 1984.”


Computer programmers use the term “backdoor” to describe covert methods the programmer can use to bypass the normal user interface in order to more expeditiously accomplish certain tasks. Normally the motivation behind installing such devices are not sinister; their purpose is to assist in debugging or to clean up other messes. The apparatus of the state has similar backdoors, although the motivation there is usually not so pure. These backdoors are set by legislators but only become apparent to those who possesses a perspicacious view of the state. For example, the way government is supposed to work (at least according to Schoolhouse Rock) is that bills are introduced in Congress, voted on, and then sent to the President to sign into law. If the people don’t like the laws they can vote for new Congressmen or appeal to the Supreme Court to overturn the law on constitutional grounds.

That system does still exists, but government power rarely originates that way. The vast majority of power comes from the backdoor: administrative “law”. Regulations promulgated by the EPA, DOE, IRS, etc. do not come from Congress. They are written, proposed, and approved by career bureaucrats who are as much a part of Washington as the marble buildings. The politicians enter, ride the coaster and then exit, but the bureaucrats, like the coaster operator, remain. Although bureaucrats can’t introduce extensive reforms, they can implement piecemeal changes that ultimately have the same effect. Can’t ban fossil fuels? That’s ok, just require (via regulation) anything that directly or indirectly uses such energy must use less of it. The amount is ratcheted down ever so “reasonably” every few years until fewer and fewer can clear the regulatory hurdle. If the outrageous costs for compliant goods don’t decrease usage, then the constrained supply from manufacturers exiting the market will.

It is the same tactic the left uses to chip away at the 2nd amendment and the right at abortion ‘rights’. If you aren’t allowed to close the gate the only alternative is to erect a series of hurdles and obstacles that make the journey more burdensome. Any performance (not safety) based regulations are a fascistic interference of the state in the functioning of private markets: “sure you own your business, but we’ll tell you when, where, and how to operate it.” I don’t know whether to laugh or cry: educated adults actually come together in the belief that their personal views on how much water it takes to flush a turd down the drain or how many gallons of water are sufficient to de-soil underwear is a compelling interest of the state. But if the state does not appease Mother Gaia, then who will? Faux environmentalism has become the state religion in the 21st century. One is not worthy to pass into the Temple of Political Piety unless they have shown the proper level of obsequiousness before the altar of “sustainability.”

And what has this wrought us? Gas cans that don’t pour, toilets that don’t flush, showers that dribble water, light bulbs that either cost a days pay or require a hazmat unit if they break, and hot water that isn’t – we are moving backwards as a society.  Like the frog in the slowly boiling water the process occurs incrementally enough that the “way it used to be” is lost down the generational memory hole. Younger people today simply assume the way thing are today are the way they have always been. They assume appliances don’t work well because of poor design rather than the imposition of strangling regulations by the state.

Now it is true that many of the products I cited have seen improvements. Some are almost as good as the original product. However that was not without a cost. Consumers played the role of unwitting beta-testers for subpar equipment. Once the bugs were finally worked out there is then an ongoing cost to all who purchase this more “efficient” equipment either upfront or in time loss. But hey as long as the planet will be 0.00001 °C cooler in a hundred years it’s all worth it right?

Since government’s role in society is apparently to “fix” things, then in order for it to justify its continuing existence it must seek out new problems and new victims, to boldly re-fix those things it just fixed last week. Those in government seem to believe we live in an artificial Matrix-esque reality where passing laws is the equivalent of writing computer code than can magically make cars go from 25 mpg to 45 mpg overnight or dishwashers switch from using 6.5 gallons to 5 gallons and soon to a mere 3.1 gallons.  To see how awful that will be, fill your sink with 3 gallons of water and now wash all your dishes by hand with just that water. Yeah, yuck.

So perhaps someday we’ll regale our grandchildren with wild tales of machines that used to wash dishes for us. And as they stare at us in wonderment, we will begin the tedious task of washing the dinnerware by hand – just as our great-grandparents did – except we’ll only be permitted the use of cold water. Hot water is way too damaging to the environment, what with all the energy it uses. Ah, yes, progress.

VW: Cookie Thief

So, Volkswagen has been evading the EPA’s rules and regulations regarding emissions from diesel engine? Well good for them. Yes I realize that is not a very PC thing to say amongst all the cacophonous lamentations of those holding Proper Opinion on the “damage” to the environment that this little ploy has wrought. Regrettably VW swiftly engaged self-flagellation mode, seeking forgiveness from those that run the many worldwide plantations we today refer to as states. In other words, they quickly went to mommy and daddy and begged to not be spanked too hard if they would just quickly clean up their mess. If only they had stood up to the EPA and told them “Yes, we skirted your stupid rules, we do not recognize your authority, we only recognize the authority of our customers who will buy our products if they meet their standards and won’t if they don’t”. Of course that is not what happened. Instead VW bent over and obsequiously bleated, “Thank you sir, may I have another.” VW’s crime is about as morally significant as a slave stealing cookies from the master’s kitchen. It is but a technical violation of an arbitrary rule with no real victim.

I can hear the objections now, “But, but, the environment! They were damaging the environment!” Really? How do you know that? Because the EPA said so? Because this single agency run by a handful of bureaucrats established a committee whose job it was to climb Mt. Sinai and return with stone tablets upon which was inscribed the exact amount of safe emissions? Please. I do not know if the level of emissions emitted by VW diesels, or any diesel or gasoline engine is “safe”, and neither do you or anyone else. Maybe the level set by EPA now is itself “too high” but everyone seems ok with it. The level of emissions VW’s cars were actually producing complied with the EPA standards in existence as recently as 2004. So in 2004 the level was perfectly fine and not “harmful” at all, but two years later the target changed and suddenly VW is the anti-Christ for continuing to meet the old target? The new “clean diesel” standards were not a trivial change. VW and other manufacturers left the US diesel market and worked on the problem for 4 years! In the end VW balanced the demands of cost, power, and emissions and felt their customers would be better served by lower cost and higher power at the expense of higher emissions as opposed to higher cost and lower power in order to achieve lower emissions. Luxury brands like BMW and Mercedes could produce diesel engines conforming to the new rules more easily because their customers are less sensitive to cost considerations. When regulations force product costs upward it is the luxury brands that benefit at the expense of the value brands. If all diesels cost $50k because of the new rules, then why buy a VW when you can have a BMW?

Now some might object that when it comes to the environment cost should not be a consideration. However that assertion flies in the face of economic reality; everything has a cost and everything has tradeoffs relative to those costs. Those espousing the “ignore costs” mantra engage in a performative contradiction. Their actions in their own lives contradict their philosophy. If the environment should reign supreme to all other considerations they should return to the wilderness as hunter-gatherers. And yet they do not.

Cost is always a consideration, even in our daily lives. For example, we all obviously value our personal safety, but to what degree? Even with our safety we are willing to make cost tradeoffs. If we truly valued it above all other things we would either drive tanks or never exceed 5 mph. The sheer cost of driving a tank or the time-opportunity cost of traveling so slowly is far beyond what any of us deem reasonable. Nobody does this; we collectively have shifted that balance between time, safety, and money to the one we see today. Technology will likely change that balance in the future, but for now it is the best compromise available given current costs and benefits. Absent the EPA we would be afforded the opportunity to balance environmental concerns relative to cost in a market where different manufacturers would offer a variety of products that they hope will suit the demands of consumers. It would be the most successful model (the one people buy the most of) that would be emulated. This purely market based approach is thus the most democratic means of the people deciding where that tradeoff should be. To believe that the EPA knows best and we should all bow to their will is no different than believing the King or Queen is much wiser than us all and we should do whatever they say. Although we lack royalty in this country today, that is in name only. We have unwittingly elected the same sort of top down one size fits all approach to governance (tyranny) that so many pay lip service to opposing while blithely waving flags and swearing oaths in support of it (the state). E Pluribus Pluribus.

Red Card!

This past week one of my neighbors was arrested by our Homeowners Association for accepting cash in exchange for allowing mere acquaintances of their son to attend his birthday parties. The HOA felt that this base corruption might reflect poorly on the neighborhood. Oh, wait, that didn’t happen. I got that confused with the fact that the U.S. government had several officials from FIFA (an international body governing soccer (or football in the rest of the world)) arrested for apparently being “corrupt” and accepting bribes because on occasion the bribe payments happened to transit U.S.territory. The parallels are uncanny. A member of a private group violated an understood trust relationship established amongst members of that group. An outside third party then felt it was incumbent upon them to throw that violator into a cage because, well, I don’t know why – it’s really none of their business in either scenario.

The FIFA members are accused of committing “crimes” that either have no victim (money laundering) or which are entirely internal conduct matters (bribery). Murder, rape, and theft – sure, feel free to get involved. But I fail to see how simple misconduct or boorish behavior rises to the level of a compelling state interest. The flip side to this corruption scandal that has so far gone unnoticed is that for every corruptor there is a corrupted. That is to say, aren’t the high ranking government officials who paid the bribes out to these FIFA officials just as culpable? That is precisely the area a state body should investigating; the corruption of its own members.

Corruption is not a crime. Corruption is a contract violation, or more specifically, a trust violation. Party A entered into a contract with Party B whereby Party B is to act in the interests of Party A. Trust violations typically occur when there is no unobtrusive way to ensure Party B is always acting in the interests of Party A. For example, if the electorate puts a politician in office to further the interests of the community but instead that politician accepts bribes and acts contrary to said interests, this would be corruption. Should that be illegal? Should that politician be locked in a cage? Or is it not a better solution for the electorate to “fire” them immediately and take back whatever gains he may have acquired? Likewise there can be corruption in a private organization such as a business, club, church or any other similar group. If an employee takes bribes to swing business toward some particular vendor, then the employer-employee trust compact has been violated. That is a dispute between the employer and the employee. If a CEO takes bribes in order to drive business in a certain way, that is a violation of trust between him and the board of directors and ultimately the shareholders. These are all strictly private matters.

The apparent open secret of widespread corruption by top FIFA officials is certainly nothing to cheer about – but it is not a crime. It is a violation of trust that harms the name of FIFA and thus by extension all who are members of FIFA. It is these members that should be pursuing their corrupt brethren, not the US Government. Some might believe that cities that lost out on World Cup hosting bids due to corruption are victims as well, but that is not the case. Such cities are no more a “victim” than is the loser of several men competing for the affections of a single women because the “winner” lavished the women with extravagant gifts. The recourse of a losing city is the same as the recourse you or I have when we discover someone does not deal fairly – refusal to associate. If a friend, associate, or business lies to us, then we can cut them out of our lives. Good riddance.

It is in the interests of FIFA to clean up its act. They may soon find that many cities will no longer trust them and will simply refuse to participate in future FIFA events. This will erode their market dominance and thus the price they can command for participating. If they don’t reform themselves quickly then this corruption will open the door to a new, and better run, organization that can take over FIFA’s role. However, the fact that this corruption has apparently been going on for well over 20 years suggests that perhaps a mountain is being made out of a molehill. We shall see.

In any event, the arrests this week should serve as a reminder of the overpowering arrogance of the U.S.government. They have in many respects taken on the mantra of the One World Government. It exerts its dominance globally both militarily and legally. It can establish whatever arbitrary rules it wishes and then enforce such rules with virtual impunity upon any person, anywhere on the planet at any time. Let freedom ring.

Boulders in the Stream

The surety of the law of unintended consequences proceeding from state legislation is as steadfast as the law of gravity. Emblematic of this axiom is the massive drop  off (down 40-60%) in book sales in Israel this past year after the passage of a law intended to bolster book sales, protect small book sellers from “big chains” and of course guarantee a “living wage” to authors.  To those ignorant of basic economics and human behavior the terms of this law might appear reasonable. It guaranteed authors 8% of the sales of the first 6,000 books sold and 10% of all books thereafter while simultaneously criminalizing the discounting of books during their first 18 months of sales. Supposedly this would help the underdogs: small booksellers and new authors. Ironically it does the exact opposite. It is the unknown author that has the greatest incentive to discount heavily in order to entice someone unfamiliar with their work. It is small book sellers that are most likely to haggle or “make a deal” when someone makes a substantial purchase.

Sadly Israel is not alone in this sort of book market meddling. Quite a number of other countries (mainly in Europe) have what are known as “fixed book price agreements” type laws. These are “resale price maintenance agreements”, commonly used in the US on a voluntary basis between vendor and customer, codified into law and backed by the state. In the US if company A wants Vendors B-Z to sell a widget for $1 and Vendor D sells it for less, then the solution is simple: company A just stops selling to vendor D. But in countries where such agreements are enforced by the state, vendor D can be fined or jailed. Let that sink in: jail time for selling goods “too low.” What monsters.

The usual defense of these laws is the same tired protectionist propaganda deployed whenever an entrenched business model is threatened by a new competitor: we need the state to protect us from “unfair” competition. “Unfair” being code for “somehow these people figured out how to sell the product I’m selling for a lot less and I can’t figure out what they are doing or I’m unwilling to change my business model to compete”. For example France has a “Lang Law” which permits book publishers to set the price of the book and then forbid anyone from selling it for less than 95% off the cover price. Fast forward to 2014 and a tweak was added to this law that was targeted at who was both discounting their books 5% and offering free shipping. Apparently selling books into the French market for the exact same price as French bookstores is considered “unfair” if the seller is a ‘foreign’ company.

So what we have here is a real world economics experiment, akin to raising the minimum wage to $50/hour. Israel has, in effect, dialed in the $50 option on book price fixing laws. While many countries have such economic interventionist type protectionism only Israel elevated theirs to stratospherically inane levels. From this we saw quick and clear signs of damage (just as we would if the minimum wage were raised to $50/hour). However, just as with the minimum wage laws, there still exist damaging effects in those countries with more “moderate” protectionist schemes such as France. It is perhaps apropos that a French economist (Bastiat, 19th century) speaks of the “unseen” damage wrought by market interventions.

If the demand for books is inelastic then to the extent book sellers earn more, the sellers of other goods earn less, while on net the public receives fewer goods for money spent. If the demand is elastic then book sellers earn less and other vendors earn more but the public still receives fewer goods. Indeed, the Israeli example demonstrated the elasticity of book demand. After their law went into affect, book sales went down and toy sales went up (as parents passed over high priced books for more affordable toys).

The fatal conceit of the politician is the belief that they can control nature (man) by dictate: people want they want and laws are like boulders in a stream  – it may slow, but it will not stop the flow of water.

If you have the right to work…

What is hypocrisy? Hypocrisy is a chain smoker that proselytizes on the dangers of smoking. Hypocrisy is an outraged thief discovering he’s been robbed. Hypocrisy is the state taking away our rights and then warning us to be vigilant against those that would deny us our rights. Or perhaps that is irony – I’m never really sure on that one. This past week my family and I stopped into an Arby’s for a quick dinner. Hanging on the wall adjacent to the registers was the most patriotic looking DHS labor rights poster you will ever see (red, white and blue with an overt flag theme to top it off). It was one of those silly “workers rights” posters that the government forces employers to post in effort to ensure that employees everywhere are aware that without the helpful fist of the state they’d all be earning 5¢ an hour on 16 hour shifts. Over the years these posters have grown in size from a mere 8.5×11 sheet to blockbuster movie poster sizes. I don’t know if this particular Arbys posted it where the customer’s could read it because they wanted their clientele to know they are doing their patriotic duty to keep them ‘ferners from stealing our jobs or if they simply ran out of wall space in the back.

In any event, what caught my eye was the prominent byline, “IF YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO WORK, Don’t let anyone take it away.” That most people absorb this without comprehending the underlying violation of their rights is a masterful stroke of state propaganda. It first takes root within our public school system and is then nourished over a lifetime of exposure to popular media state-apologist indoctrination. People now blindly accept that our rights come from government. Most have the Bill of Rights backwards; it did not establish our rights, it simply delineated what was already ours to begin with. This enumeration was done in order to keep at bay those who believe that all that is not permitted is outlawed (a view clearly contradicted by the 10th amendment).

So at the very first word, “IF,” we find evidence of an egregious violation of a basic human right: the right to work. There can be no “if”; all humans, everywhere and always have the right to work. To work is to provide for oneself (or those in your care) with those things that make life possible (food, clothing, shelter). To deny this right is tantamount to murder. Of course by “right” I mean that in the negative, not positive, sense. No one may interfere with my right to work, however no one is obligated to provide me with a job either. If no one will (willingly, free of state interference) employee me then I am free to work for myself.

The sentiment expressed on this poster transmutes this negative right into a positive one through mere fiat, that is, the right to work becomes the privilege to work, a privilege that may only be granted by the state. So naturally once the state has given you something valuable, they want to foster a sense of dependency and gratitude by warning you to remain vigilant against those who might try to do the very thing (deny work) the state is doing through their E-verify program.

This is where the hypocrisy gets really rich. The big concern about all of these “illegal” immigrants is that they are coming here and acting as a burden on our social safety net. But, if they had jobs they would not be a burden. So naturally the response is to make it impossible for them to obtain jobs by filtering all potential employees through the E-verify net thus thrusting them into the open arms of state social support. Brilliant. E-verify does not change behavior; it merely removes the least bad option and replaces it with an even worse option.

Even if you are in the “keep them out” anti-immigration crowd, do you really desire to see America become a neo-fascist utopia where employers are mere puppets of the state? Where providing for oneself depends on the integrity of a US government database that is assumed to never produce false negatives? Where we have become so xenophobic that we willingly turn our borders into prison walls and slowly transform America into a permission based society, where all is forbidden except that which is blessed by the state? Is that price not too high?

Tootsie Pop Justice has been accused by the Federal Trade Commission of permitting unauthorized in-app purchases by children. The FTC has filed a lawsuit against Amazon in U.S. District Court on behalf of parents affected by the activity of their children. So, apparently we need the government to protect us from our own children. This case exudes a breathtakingly absurd lack of parental accountability. Equally bad is the sycophantic credulous reporting on this case by the state media Apparatchik (in this case USA Today). Their putatively neutral reporting is laced with subliminally opinionated phrases that imply Amazon duped parent into using their children as pawns in some grand scheme. For example, USA Today says Amazon “willingly allowed” kids to make purchases within apps. Notice the clever shift of responsibility here? This phrase implies it was Amazon’s responsibility, not the parents, to be the final arbiter of their children’s behavior. No, Amazon did not “allow” the purchases. The parents allowed the purchases when they handed their unlocked and credit card enabled device over to their child. This is no different than parents handing their child a wad of cash, pointing them in the direction of the toy store and then telling them to be frugal. Meanwhile the parent wanders off somewhere else and then becomes enraged at the toy store when they find out little Johnny spent all his money there.

But, even though it was not Amazon’s responsibility, they (as well as the other two players in this market, Apple and Google) implemented some basic gatekeeping controls to mitigate (yes mitigate, not 100% eliminate all possibility of) such undesirable purchases. They required the entry of the account’s password even on an already unlocked device (the presumption being the child did not know the password but was merely handed an unlocked device by the parent). But you know what? The problem persisted. Which means parents were telling their children the password so they could make some purchases. At this point even if one were to try and make an argument that the companies had some culpability, however tenuous, that argument is completely shattered at this point. If you give your child your password for desirable purchase A then you must know there is nothing stopping them from making undesirable purchase B other than yourself. This is the classic case of the programmer’s conundrum when dealing with user feedback: I want it to work this way, except when I don’t. Stated differently the parent says: I want my child to make purchases I approve of without pestering me for a password every two minutes, except when I don’t, then I want the device to magically know I don’t approve of the purchase.

But even here Amazon did not stop in trying to please the consumer. They responded to complaints and implemented requested controls to try to solve the problem (all without any threat of state action). They implemented dollar value thresholds that required password entry, then they removed the value threshold entirely but still allowed for a short time window where re-entry of the password was not required. This was to avoid the annoyance of trying to buy five things all at once and having to enter your password five times in a row. But of course the problem persisted. Why? Because parents had already given their child the password! Outcomes did not change because the root cause of the problem remained: the parents.

And so now the parents, not recognizing their own culpability, have enlisted the aid of the state to force Amazon (after having already done so to Apple ) to protect them from their own inability to parent. The real loser in this case however is everyone else who uses similar smart-devices. We will have to endure increasingly annoying draconian licks to get to the center of the digital Tootsie Pop.