In the middle of the Tripwires’ performance at the Sunset Tavern last October, guitarist Jim Sangster noticed his cocktail had gone missing. “I had a Makers Mark and a beer on a road case beside the stage; I turned around and they were gone.” Sangster’s drink had been confiscated by a representative of the Washington State Liquor Control Board. Sangster was in technical violation of a provisional rule, WAC 314-11-015, that forbids drinking by “any person performing services on a licensed premises for the benefit of the licensee.”
As nanny statists sink their hooks ever deeper into the still-twitching corpse of American individualism, their rules manifest themselves in increasingly ludicrous ways, with judicial commentary to match. Consider that last year, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that the state’s smoking ban included on-stage actors, claiming that public health concerns trumped freedom of expression. The lone dissent opined that “character and plots would lack depth and expressive force without such effects as smoke hovering on stage or an actor’s poignant puff.” Hell, never mind mentioning property rights; now judges have to be theater critics, apparently.
Apparently 13.2% of you have some of these in your wallet.
Is it possible? Has free-market anarchist and Austrian School Economist Michael Barnett finally discovered a government program which appears to be achieving its stated goals? Yes, my friends, I think I actually may have done just that. Now look, I understand that correlation does not imply causation, but I think there’s a strong case to be made here. I’m talking, of course, about the multitude of state and federaloutreachefforts over the last two years to spread awareness of and encourage participation in Food Stamps Programs. Record numbers of Americans are receiving food stamp assistance now, more than ever before. Illinois, Oregon, Florida, and Idaho are just four of many US states which have never had so many people dependent on government to feed them. I wanted to make a play on the words “superpower” and “soup lines” (souperlines? souperpower?) to describe America’s new position in the world, but my joke writers aren’t as good as Jay Leno’s.
The world's only souperpower? See, it just doesn't work.
Specifically, according to the US Department of Agriculture40.8 million Americans are recipients of “supplemental nutrition assistance.” Subsidies for food purchases jumped 19 percent from a year earlier and increased 0.9 percent from April. Participation has set records for 18 straight months. Well, there’s an economy in recovery! I think a little perspective is in order.
Suppose we created a new country out of every recipient of government food assistance programs in the US and named it The Stiglitzian Commonwealth of Krugmania. This new Commonwealth would be tied with Kenya as the 32nd most populous country. It would have more citizens than (in no order) Argentina, Sudan, Poland, Iraq, Venezuela, and Malaysia, just to name a few. It would have twice or more as many citizens as Chile, Niger, Netherlands, Cameroon, Angola, Cambodia, and Kazakhstan just to name a handful of the more than 160 countries which would fall into this category. But what about America’s Neighbor-to-the North? The United States has 6.5 million more people relying on food stamps than Canada has people period. My first instinct is to call that hilarious, but as that comparison sinks in, it’s rather revolting. This must be the economic recovery I kept hearing about.
Don’t despair, people. Let’s not forget the silver lining I launched this post with: we may just have discovered a government program which achieves its stated goals. That’s something, I guess.
Over at Forbes.com, Reihan Salam had something rather unexpected but very welcome to say about the CEO of a major corporation:
That the success of the Kindle is good news for Amazon should go without saying. But it represents a remarkable environmental advance as well. The publishing industry in the U.S. felled roughly 125 million trees and generated vast amounts of wastewater. And, of course, physical books have to be transported by trucks, which generate carbon emissions, exacerbate congestion, increase traffic fatalities and cause wear-and-tear on already overburdened roads. One assumes that Bezos didn’t have the environment foremost in mind when he pushed the Kindle concept forward, yet he’s arguably done more to fight climate change by threatening hardcovers and paperbacks with extinction than any number of environmental activists.
Salam goes on to argue that Amazon will ‘win the internet’ through the Kindle and its rapidly growing ebook sales. I don’t know about that. What does it mean to ‘win the internet’? He only considers Facebook as a rival. What about Google? Android and ChromeOS are poised to dominate the mobile phone and tablet pc markets, putting Google into direct competition with the Kindle. Then there’s Google Search, Books, Voice, Gmail, Docs, Maps, Chrome browser, TV, and so on and so forth.
But bravo to Salam for daring to recognize in public the (probably unintended) positive environmental externalities of business decisions and technological innovation driven by profit-seeking amidst market competition — indeed, for daring to rank them on par with or above that of ‘altruistic’ environmental activists.