The Libertarian Standard » Protectionism http://libertarianstandard.com Property - Prosperity - Peace Sat, 19 Jul 2014 20:32:50 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 A new website and group blog of radical Austro-libertarians, shining the light of reason on truth and justice. The Libertarian Standard clean The Libertarian Standard thelibertarianstandard@gmail.com thelibertarianstandard@gmail.com (The Libertarian Standard) CC-BY Property - Prosperity - Peace libertarianism, anarchism, capitalism, free markets, liberty, private property, rights, Mises, Rothbard, Rand, antiwar, freedom The Libertarian Standard » Protectionism http://libertarianstandard.com/wp-content/plugins/powerpress/rss_default.jpg http://libertarianstandard.com/category/statism/corporatism/protectionism/ TV-G Enoch was right (wing) http://libertarianstandard.com/2013/04/24/enoch-was-right-wing/ http://libertarianstandard.com/2013/04/24/enoch-was-right-wing/#comments Wed, 24 Apr 2013 14:43:14 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=12448 Enoch PowellI have a fondness for Enoch Powell that I never could manage for Margaret Thatcher. Perhaps that’s because I was indoctrinated to hate Thatcher and had never heard of Powell before last Saturday, when Wikipedia noted the 45th anniversary of the so-called Rivers of Blood speech for which he is infamous.

Both Thatcher and Powell were British politicians. Both were Conservatives. (Powell eventually left the Conservative party, claiming that while he was a life-long Tory, there were good Tories in the Labour Party. I guess I don’t really understand Toryism.) Both Thatcher and Powell are targets of left-wing hatred and smeared as proto-fascists. (See Lawrence Reed on the recent anti-Thatcher hatefest in the UK.) And I suspect the British Left would have a hard time distinguishing either of them politically from libertarians. We’re all ultra right wing, radically free market, and anti progress, aren’t we?

Powell rose to political stardom at the same time he fell from political power. On April 20, 1968, he gave a speech criticizing the British government’s existing immigration laws and its proposed anti-discrimination legislation. Everywhere I’ve looked for information on this speech and the speechmaker, these two issues have been conflated, and yet to a libertarian they could not be more different.

Two issues:

  1. Immigration
  2. Discrimination

On one of these, Powell seems to be in accord with us. On the other, not so much.

Immigration

Calls for the state to control or limit immigration are antithetical to the libertarian goal of limiting or eliminating the state itself.

(Unplanned plug: at Invisible Order we just completed our second ebook for Reason magazine, and it happens to be apropos: Pro-Growth and Humane: A Reason Guide to Immigration Reform.)

Discrimination

On the other hand, any law that prohibits individuals from discriminating on any basis they choose is a violation of the fundamental rights of free association and free thought. This line from Powell’s speech, which one detractor called an “explosion of bigotry,” could not be more in accord with libertarian thinking:

The third element of the Conservative Party’s policy is that all who are in this country as citizens should be equal before the law and that there shall be no discrimination or difference made between them by public authority. As Mr. Heath has put it, we will have no “first-class citizens” and “second-class citizens”. This does not mean that the immigrant and his descendants should be elevated into a privileged or special class or that the citizen should be denied his right to discriminate in the management of his own affairs between one fellow citizen and another or that he should be subjected to inquisition as to his reasons and motives for behaving in one lawful manner rather than another.

What is not at all in accord with liberty is Powell’s suggestion that the British taxpayer provide “generous grants and assistance” to help immigrants leave the UK. (Paul McCartney apparently considered some Enoch-specific lyrics in the Beatles song “Get Back (to Where You Once Belonged)” but they didn’t make it into the final release.)

If Margaret Thatcher was the British Ronald Reagan (or vice versa), perhaps Enoch Powell was the British Pat Buchanan (or vice versa). Like Buchanan, Powell was an ultra-nationalist. Like Buchanan, he consistently took positions in opposition to the main party line of his country’s conservatives. Powell supported gay rights and opposed nuclear weapons, at least within Britain. He advocated the dismantling of the British Empire.

Unlike Buchanan, Powell often advocated for free-market positions, although he seems, like Buchanan, to have had a soft spot for economic nationalism (which consistently takes the form of protecting the nation’s producers at the expense of the nation’s consumers).

While writing this post, I thought I should double-check to see if Murray Rothbard had had anything to say about Enoch Powell back in the day. Here’s the Libertarian Forum on the British elections of 1974:

Decades of horrific British policies have created a rigid, stratified, and cartellized economy, a set of frozen power blocs integrated with Big Government: namely, Big Business and Big Labor. Even the most cautious and gradualist of English libertarians now admit that only a radical political change can save England. Enoch Powell is the only man on the horizon who could be the sparkplug for such a change. It is true, of course, that for libertarians Enoch Powell has many deficiencies. For one thing he is an admitted High Tory who believes in the divine right of kings; for another, his immigration policy is the reverse of libertarian. But on the critical issues in these parlous times: on checking the inflationary rise in the money supply, and on scuttling the disastrous price and wage controls, Powell is by far the soundest politician in Britain. A sweep of Enoch Powell into power would hardly be ideal, but it offers the best existing hope for British freedom and survival. (Libertarian Forum, March 1974Download PDF)

And 8 months later:

Amidst this turmoil, the most heartening sign is the rapid growth of libertarians and anarcho-capitalists in a country that only a few years ago had virtually no one even as "extreme" as Milton Friedman. The major libertarian group is centered around Pauline Russell, and includes businessmen, journalists, economists, and others ranging from anarcho-capitalists to neo-Randians to the Selsdon Group, the free-market ginger group within the Conservative Party. Most of this group is friendly with the notable Enoch Powell, who of all the politicians in England is the only one with both the knowledge and the will to stop the monetary inflation and to put through a free market program and an end to wage and price controls. Powell, himself, despite his Tory devotion to the monarchy (which is seconded even by many of the English anarcho-capitalists), has grown increasingly libertarian. The Powell forces were working on a gusty strategy for the then forthcoming October elections: voting Labour in order to smash the statist leadership of Edward Heath. (Libertarian Forum, November 1974Download PDF)

(Cross-posted at bkmarcus.com.)

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Didn’t The Terrorists Win A While Back? http://libertarianstandard.com/2013/04/19/didnt-the-terrorists-win-a-while-back/ http://libertarianstandard.com/2013/04/19/didnt-the-terrorists-win-a-while-back/#comments Sat, 20 Apr 2013 03:49:22 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=12434 I posted the paragraph below on my Facebook page and a long, sometimes contentious, debate broke out. We even had a resident of Boston and a policeman–two different people, by the way–chime in to attack my point of view. Given that it generated so much discussion in that venue, I figured I’d share it here as well.

Armored police vehicles. Tactical teams. Everyone under house arrest. Soldiers and/or other armed enforcers roaming the streets. House-to-house searches. We call it, “Terror in Boston!” In any one of the several places the U.S. has invaded and/or is currently deploying drones, they’d call it, “Tuesday.” Perspective. Stated differently, maybe the “terrorists” won a while back?

Even looking at it now, it strikes me as obvious and uncontroversial. Maybe I’ve spent too much time sniffing the glue of philosophical free thought?

…cross-posted at LRCBlog.

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Finding affordable dentist like pulling teeth? http://libertarianstandard.com/2013/02/01/finding-affordable-dentist-like-pulling-teeth/ http://libertarianstandard.com/2013/02/01/finding-affordable-dentist-like-pulling-teeth/#comments Fri, 01 Feb 2013 15:27:18 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=12328 It must be for some. And one man, 63-year-old Jose Santiago Delao of Texas, was willing to provide dental services on the cheap, despite not having a license. Eventually he landed on the authorities’ radar and was arrested following a complaint from a woman about a botched molar repair:

Delao admits he skirted the law, but isn’t remorseful.

“Jesus Christ didn’t need or didn’t have a license,” Jose Delao told Yahoo News during a jailhouse interview. “People hurt and they needed it. People didn’t have enough money to visit the regular dentist.”

Delao, a former dental lab technician, claims he couldn’t turn his back.

“It broke my heart,” he said, tapping his chest, “because I have the experience.”

But authorities say Delao, a native of Costa Rica, has never been a licensed dentist in Texas. If convicted, he could get two to 10 years in prison….

A survey of published news reports shows that as many as eight such underground dental clinics have been shutdown in the U.S. since last summer.

“I would clearly classify it as a problem,” said Dr. Frank Catalanotto, chair of the Department of Community Dentistry at the University of Florida. “It is potentially a big problem.”

I disagree that the problem is unlicensed dentistry. The problem is that there is obviously a market demand for low-cost dentistry that isn’t being met, probably because the barrier to entry in the field as a state-licensed dentist is so high, a barrier which licensed dentists have a vested interest in maintaining, as it protects their market share from would-be competitors like Delao. But people are far more likely to be uninsured for dental care than for medical care, or simply can’t afford to pay the high prices of mainstream dental work. Delao understood this and tried to meet the need, to his credit. He may have committed some crime (if, as the story reports, he did not let a patient leave when she wanted to), but trying to help people isn’t one of them.

(Cross-posted from A Thousand Cuts.)

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Ayn Rand and Atlas Shrugged, Part II: Confused on Copyright and Patent http://libertarianstandard.com/2012/10/21/ayn-rand-and-atlas-shrugged-part-ii-confused-on-copyright-and-patent/ http://libertarianstandard.com/2012/10/21/ayn-rand-and-atlas-shrugged-part-ii-confused-on-copyright-and-patent/#comments Sun, 21 Oct 2012 22:52:14 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=11844 Reports about the new movie Atlas Shrugged: Part II indicate that it highlights Ayn Rand’s deep confusion on the whole issue of intellectual property (IP)—e.g,. from my friend Jacob Huebert.  Stephanie Murphy mentions some of the IP confusion in the film in her recent PorcTherapy podcast (at around 1:05). And Chris Bassil, of Hamsterdam Economics, in Atlas Shrugged Part II: Hank Rearden Confuses his Principles, notes:

At one point, industrial steel magnate and metal manufacturer Hank Rearden is ordered by the state to sell his Rearden metal to them, which he has up until this point been refusing to do. He is also forced to sign away his rights to the metal, so that the state can distribute its procedure to other manufacturers and it can be universally produced. At this point, Rearden accuses the agent in his office of trying to take his patents from him.

This, to me, is a philosophically complicated position. Now, Ayn Rand, despite taking a position against the government in many cases, was a huge supporter of patents and intellectual property rights. As Stephan Kinsella has pointed out here, Rand endorsed them on a number of occasions:

Patents are the heart and core of property rights.

Intellectual property is the most important field of law.

Without getting into the larger points concerning intellectual property (which Stephan Kinsella covers well here, and which I discussed briefly in the Duke University Chronicle here), I think that Rearden’s position on this is a bit contradictory. He is indignant that the state would move to deprive him of his patents, thereby also depriving him of the fruits of his labors. But isn’t that what those patents do to others? Don’t they prevent others who develop similar products from bringing them to the market? It is true that, within the context of the film, Rearden plays a heroic producer who alone seems able to keep the steel industry afloat. But this glosses over the daily considerations of intellectual property laws, which are seldom enforced on such a genuine basis.

Furthermore, Rearden’s position seems to me to be a little bit disingenuous. After all, he opposes the state’s use of force. In fact, he constantly pushes state officials to actually endorse the use of force instead of merely allowing it to be implied. At the same time, however, his patents themselves rest on just such a threat. I see this as something of a double standard.

Of course, Rand might respond that the force backing Rearden’s patent is legitimate, since, in her view, patents are themselves legitimate derivations of individual property rights. I don’t agree with this either, but that would require a much more extensive blog post to cover. For now, see my article in the Chronicle on it, and Kinsella’s book, articles, YouTube videos, or even audiobooks available for free from the Mises Institute on iTunes U.

Overall, this is why I think that Ayn Rand’s work largely functions more as a gateway to discovery of free-market ideas rather than as a truly solid foundation for them. In my opinion, much of what Rand was right about is better said by others, and there was a lot that I don’t think she was right about, either.

And as Jeff Tucker notes in his recent comments on the movie:

Of course this gets us into the Randian view of IP, that great industrial ideas — appearing out of nowhere in the minds of a few — must somehow be assigned to owners and protected by government. And sure enough, patents and copyrights as property play a major role in Atlas II, as when Hank Reardon is blackmailed into assigning his patents as a gift to the government. It’s a scene that completely overlooks that these patents themselves were actually granted by government in the first place and would not exist in the free market.

In fact, for any viewer schooled in the role of patents today, this scene actually makes the viewer less sympathetic to Reardon. For a brief moment, he actually looks like a member of the monopolist class who is dependent on government favors. Not good. This scene reinforces for me my sense that the single biggest mistake Rand made was not in her ethics, economics, or religion but in her view that ideas are property and must receive government codification.

I haven’t seen either Part I or Part II yet of the movie versions of Atlas, but none of this is surprising to me, given Rand’s completely confused IP views. Some of these IP views are of course present in her magnum opus Atlas Shrugged and could be expected to leak into the films (at least the IP issue doesn’t dominate or ruin Atlas, like it does The Fountainhead, which basically glorifies IP terrorism).  Rand’s view of IP and rights was very confused. I have referred to it as libertarian “creationism” and have criticized it, as well as her confused view of the relationship between labor, ownership, homesteading, and production (see, e.g., most recently, my recenty speech Intellectual Nonsense: Fallacious Arguments for IP (Libertopia 2012), and various blog posts on these and related fallacies and confusions, e.g. Locke on IP; Mises, Rothbard, and Rand on Creation, Production, and ‘Rearranging’Rand on IP, Owning “Values”, and ‘Rearrangement Rights’Objectivist Law Prof Mossoff on Copyright; or, the Misuse of Labor, Value, and Creation Metaphors, and Hume on Intellectual Property and the Problematic “Labor” Metaphor.

IP is one of the worst things the state does to us (about #6, as I argue in Where does IP Rank Among the Worst State Laws?). To uphold it as legitimate is bad enough, but to say “Patents are the heart and core of property rights” or “Intellectual property is the most important field of law” is obscene, especially for a soi-disant champion of capitalism, individual rights, and the free market. And she had only a dim understanding of the actual workings of the actual IP system that she claimed was the basis for her entire system of property rights. I view this as inexcusable. As Rothbard wrote,

It is no crime to be ignorant of economics, which is, after all, a specialized discipline and one that most people consider to be a ‘dismal science.’ But it is totally irresponsible to have a loud and vociferous opinion on economic subjects while remaining in this state of ignorance.

Likewise, Rand should not have run around promoting and jabbering about IP when she knew little about it. She gave the US Constitution wayy too much presumptive libertarian validity, which is probably one reason she was so pro-patent and copyright: the Constitution says it’s okay! This also explains why Rand initially favored eminent domain–because the Constitution implicitly authorized it (until around 1954, when Herb Cornuelle convinced her to oppose eminent domain). (I’ve been told this is indicated in Murray Rothbard’s correspondence, as I also noted in Ideas Are Free: The Case Against Intellectual Property.)

But as for her shallow understanding of the actual and evil IP law that the felt fit to endorse — as I mentioned in Ayn Rand Finally Right about the First-to-File US Patent System, Rand mistakenly assumed that under US patent law, the first inventor to file has priority over later filers, in the case of multiple independent inventors of the same idea. Then she bent into contortions trying to defend such an obviously unfair, and artificial and arbitrary, rule.

And the way IP rights play out in Atlas shows that she didn’t have any IP lawyer look at her drafts.

Por ejemplo: take a look at these excerpts from Atlas Shrugged (some bolded by me):

“What profits?” yelled Orren Boyle. “When did I ever make any profits? Nobody can accuse me of running a profit-making business! Just look at my balance sheet—and then look at the books of a certain competitor of mine, who’s got all the customers, all the raw materials, all the technical advantages and a monopoly on secret formulas—then tell me who’s the profiteer! [Rand, Ayn (2005-04-21). Atlas Shrugged: (Centennial Edition) (p. 535). Plume. Kindle Edition.]

“Point Three. All patents and copyrights, pertaining to any devices, inventions, formulas, processes and works of any nature whatsoever, shall be turned over to the nation as a patriotic emergency gift by means of Gift Certificates to be signed voluntarily by the owners of all such patents and copyrights. The Unification Board shall then license the use of such patents and copyrights to all applicants, equally and without discrimination, for the purpose of eliminating monopolistic practices, discarding obsolete products and making the best available to the whole nation. No trademarks, brand names or copyrighted titles shall be used. Every formerly patented product shall be known by a new name and sold by all manufacturers under the same name, such name to be selected by the Unification Board. All private trademarks and brand names are hereby abolished.

“Point Four. No new devices, inventions, products, or goods of any nature whatsoever, not now on the market, shall be produced, invented, manufactured or sold after the date of this directive. The Office of Patents and Copyrights is hereby suspended. [Rand, Ayn (2005-04-21). Atlas Shrugged: (Centennial Edition) (p. 538). Plume. Kindle Edition.]

Boyle did not catch the tone of mockery, and answered earnestly, “It destroys the blight of monopoly. It leads to the democratization of industry. It makes everything available to everybody. Now, for instance, at a time like this, when there’s such a desperate shortage of iron ore, is there any sense in my wasting money, labor and national resources on making old-fashioned steel, when there exists a much better metal that I could be making? A metal that everybody wants, but nobody can get. Now is that good economics or sound social efficiency or democratic justice? Why shouldn’t I be allowed to manufacture that metal and why shouldn’t the people get it when they need it? Just because of the private monopoly of one selfish individual? Should we sacrifice our rights to his personal interests?” “Skip it, brother,” said Fred Kinnan. “I’ve read it all in the same newspapers you did.” “I don’t like your attitude,” said Boyle, in a sudden tone of righteousness, with a look which, in a barroom, would have signified a prelude to a fist fight. He sat up straight, buttressed by the columns of paragraphs on yellow-tinged paper, which he was seeing in his mind: “At a time of crucial public need, are we to waste social effort on the manufacture of obsolete products? Are we to let the many remain in want while the few withhold from us the better products and methods available? Are we to be stopped by the superstition of patent rights?” “Is it not obvious that private industry is unable to cope with the present economic crisis? How long, for instance, are we going to put up with the disgraceful shortage of Rearden Metal? There is a crying public demand for it, which Rearden has failed to supply.” “When are we going to put an end to economic injustice and special privileges? Why should Rearden be the only one permitted to manufacture Rearden Metal?” [Rand, Ayn (2005-04-21). Atlas Shrugged: (Centennial Edition) (pp. 544-545). Plume. Kindle Edition.]

“I know,” said Mouch glumly. “That’s the point I wanted Thompson to help us out on. But I guess he can’t. We don’t actually have the legal power to seize the patents. Oh, there’s plenty of clauses in dozens of laws that can be stretched to cover it—almost, but not quite. Any tycoon who’d want to make a test case would have a very good chance to beat us. And we have to preserve a semblance of legality—or the populace won’t take it.” “Precisely,” said Dr. Ferris. “It’s extremely important to get those patents turned over to us voluntarily. Even if we had a law permitting outright nationalization, it would be much better to get them as a gift. We want to leave the people the illusion that they’re still preserving their private property rights. And most of them will play along. They’ll sign the Gift Certificates. Just raise a lot of noise about its being a patriotic duty and that anyone who refuses is a prince of greed, and they’ll sign. But—” He stopped. [Rand, Ayn (2005-04-21). Atlas Shrugged: (Centennial Edition) (p. 547). Plume. Kindle Edition.]

These passages illustrate Rand’s ignorance of the systems she thought were the heart and core of property rights.

For instance: she refers to the “Office of Patents and Copyrights.” But there is no such thing. Patent and copyright are both authorized by the Constitution, but they are not handled by a unified office. It is patent and trademark that are handled by the same agency, the US Patent and Trademark Office, which is an agency of the Dept. of Commerce, even though the Constitution does not authorize federal trademark law. Copyright law is handled by a separate agency, the Copyright Office, which is, bizarrely, part of the Library of Congress (bizarre to me, in that that what seems to be an executive agency is under the legislature).

Another mistake: in this scene, the state agents want to find a way to pressure patent and copyright holders to turn them over to the state. After all, “We don’t actually have the legal power to seize the patents.” But this is just false. Patents are just artificial monopoly privileges granted by the state; the states does not seize private property if it “takes them back.” Taking them “back” does not mean “licensing them” back to “all applicants,” but just doing away with these monopoly privilege grants in the first place. And the state does have the “legal power” to issue compulsory licenses, even now, to the patents that the state grants (see my posts Objectivist worried ObamaCare may weaken patent rightsPrice Controls, Antitrust, and PatentsPro-IP Libertarians Upset about FTC Poaching Patent Turf; also, When Antitrust and Patents Collide (Rambus v. FTC);Price Controls, Antitrust, and PatentsIntellectual Property and Economic Development; IP vs. AntitrustState Antitrust (anti-monopoly) law versus state IP (pro-monopoly) lawThe Schizo Feds: Patent Monopolies and the FTCThe Schizophrenic StateIntel v. AMD: More patent and antitrust waste). So why would the state agents need to make up an excuse to “seize” patents if only to re-license them to others? After all, the state grants these monopoly privileges, and it has the legislative authority to grant compulsory licenses. The whole premise of Rand’s scenario involving patents and Rearden’s metal and Points 3 and 4 of Mouch’s “Directive” makes no sense.

The passages in Atlas quoted above strongly imply that Rearden Metal is not protected by trade secret, but by patent. And that the only reason others cannot make Rearden Metal is that the state has granted to him a “private monoply” (a patent) on it. For Rand to say that the state’s withdrawal of the monopoly patent privilege, is some kind of taking of private property, shows how far she has strayed from libertarian principles.

Notice all this part:

No new devices, inventions, products, or goods of any nature whatsoever, not now on the market, shall be produced, invented, manufactured or sold after the date of this directive. The Office of Patents and Copyrights is hereby suspended.

This implies that without the state providing a patent and copyright office, there would be no more inventions, innovations. This the utilitarian aspect of Rand’s argument. And it is utterly without merit, as can be seen in various studies noted here.

[C4SIF cross-post]

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TLS Podcast Picks: The Rise and Fall of Tuna; Shakespeare’s Impact; Gay Marriage http://libertarianstandard.com/2012/08/25/tls-podcast-picks-the-rise-and-fall-of-tuna-shakespeares-impact-gay-marriage/ http://libertarianstandard.com/2012/08/25/tls-podcast-picks-the-rise-and-fall-of-tuna-shakespeares-impact-gay-marriage/#comments Sun, 26 Aug 2012 01:27:50 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=11592 Recommended podcasts:

  • How Shakespeare Changed Everything,” KERA Think (Aug. 22, 2012). This is one of the most fascinating interviews I’ve heard in some time—with Stephen Marche, author of How Shakespeare Changed Everything, which details the amazing influence Shakespeare has had on our culture. Interviews with such knowledgeable scholars highlight how great it is to have a society of 7 billion people that can afford to support scholars who can devote such depth to specialized topics. This interview is just a delight to listen to; I have the book on my to-read list. The main libertarian takeaway is some of the examples given to how Shakespeare’s plays have been reworked and remixed over the ages in various contexts. (I touch on some of this in posts in the tag Everything Is a Remix.)
  • The Rise and Fall of an Improbable Food,” KERA Think (Aug. 23, 2012) A very interesting interview with Andrew F. Smith, author of American Tuna: The Rise and Fall of an Improbable Food. The story is absolutely fascinating: about how tuna went from basically trash-food status with zero percent market, to huge popularity in just a few years in the early 1900s; and then how its popularity increased even more when there were other food shortages during WWI; then how production was hurt when 600 of the tuna boats were pressed into service during WWII and many Japanese-American fishermen were put in concentration camps and other tuna fishermen put into the Navy; how the mylar bags were adopted in part to avoid import tariffs; how the US government encouraged the tuna industry in other countries, in Japan and South America, after WWII in part because of shortages it has imposed by previous policies, leading ultimately to the devastation of the American tuna industry. Utterly fascinating interview. And it highlights the tragic effects of and distortion caused by state intervention in the market.
  • Why the GOP Should Embrace Gay Rights,” Reason.tv (Aug. 22, 2012). A short interview with David Lampo, publications director at the libertarian Cato Institute and the author of the new book, A Fundamental Freedom: Why Republicans, Conservatives, and Libertarians Should Support Gay Rights. “Despite the influence in the party of social conservatives and the Religious Right, Lampo argues that if Republicans actually followed their own rhetoric about limiting the size and scope of government, they would be able to attract gay and lesbian voters who otherwise vote Democratic. An active member of Virginia’s Log Cabin Republicans, Lampo believes the party’s acceptance of marriage equality is inevitable given the huge social gains gays have made in recent decades.” For my own take on why libertarians should support gay marriage, see my post California Gay Marriage Law Overturned: What Should Libertarians Think?.
  • Update: see also Wendy McElroy, “The Art of Being Free,” CSPAN-2 (July 14, 2012). A discussion at Freedomfest with the iconic libertarian feminist author of The Art of Being Free.

 

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Moving license no longer needed in Missouri http://libertarianstandard.com/2012/07/13/moving-license-no-longer-needed-in-missouri/ http://libertarianstandard.com/2012/07/13/moving-license-no-longer-needed-in-missouri/#comments Sat, 14 Jul 2012 03:04:45 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=11388 Any blow struck for economic liberty is worth celebrating, even if the person wielding the hammer is not, shall we say, a fan of Rothbardian libertarianism.  But there is encouraging news from Tim Sandefur of the Pacific Legal Foundation, which pressured the Missouri legislature to repeal its licensing laws regarding moving companies:

Under the old law, a person applying for permission to operate a moving company was required to submit to a licensing scheme under which existing moving companies were given the privilege of basically vetoing the application. We challenged that law on behalf of St. Louis entrepreneur Michael Munie, and argued the case in federal district court in April. But in the meantime, state lawmakers passed legislation repealing the law, and this afternoon, Governor Nixon signed that bill, thus opening the road for economic opportunity in the Show Me State.

Baby steps, to be sure — Missouri and most other states have licensing laws for dozens of occupations, some imposing absurd educational requirements (in Texas, for example, “shampoo specialists” at hair salons must have 150 hours of training before they can even test for their license) and exorbitant costs for both training and the licensing process itself.  None of these laws actually do anything to ensure quality service for consumers; they exist solely to protect incumbents from competition.  These laws can’t disappear quickly enough, and kudos to the PLF and other organizations, such as the Institute for Justice, for continuing to challenge them.

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Pass The Press Please http://libertarianstandard.com/2012/03/30/pass-the-press-please/ http://libertarianstandard.com/2012/03/30/pass-the-press-please/#comments Fri, 30 Mar 2012 18:06:55 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=10772 What does it take to be considered a legitimate news organization?

Gothamist, the operator of nine city-centric blogs that cover local news, events and culture have finally received their NYPD press credentials which allows them access to on-scene reporting or press events that are otherwise closed to others. This was after almost 8 years, countless emails, phone calls, two appeal hearings, $5,000, and getting high-profile civil rights lawyer Norman Siegel involved.

In their very detailed guide they explain how the process works, and how it favors the establishment players:

If you work for a mainstream outlet, like a newspaper, radio, or television station, you can stop reading right now. Your boss has no doubt processed dozens of press pass candidates through DCPI, and will have no trouble getting you a pass. This seems to apply to any old media outlet, no matter how small, so if you write the produce column for your food co-op newsletter, you’re gold.

As part of the process, the applicant has to show proof that he or she covered a certain number of major events within the past two years, a barrier-to-entry hurdle for those in a fledging news organization denied access to many major events. Furthermore, the qualification for these major events are those that give deference and respect to the powers that be– events that had an NYPD detailed presence, and mayoral and/or city council press announcements.

In other words, the only news that counts is that which covers officially-sanctioned events which flatter the egos of politicians, which is why Gothamist’s “Occupy Wall Street” coverage was rejected(!) even though there was an overwhelming police presence at what could anyways be considered a significant news event absent the NYPD.

Ladies and gentlemen, so much for an “independent” news media.

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Fighting For the Pole http://libertarianstandard.com/2012/03/14/fighting-for-the-pole/ http://libertarianstandard.com/2012/03/14/fighting-for-the-pole/#comments Wed, 14 Mar 2012 15:41:25 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=10633 In the era of franchised unisex stylers like Supercuts and Great Clips  it’s hard to imagine that barbers and cosmetologists are fighting over who can have a barber pole advertising their shops.  The latest legislative fights over the swirling red, white, and blue poles are in the states of Minnesota, Michigan and North Carolina.

“The barber pole is the oldest sign in town besides the cross. It should not be displayed where there is not a licensed barber,” long time Arkansas barber Charles Kirkpatrick, told the Associated Press.  Kirkpatrick keeps tabs on such legislation for the National Association of Barber Boards of America.

Notice Kirkpatrick said “licensed” barber.  The implication is that the licensing signals to the customer that a certain level of quality can be assured by the government’s stamp of approval.  Yet according to Morris Kleiner, “Occupational licensing has either no impact or even a negative impact on the quality of services provided to customers by members of the regulated occupation. Additionally, as occupations become licensed, members of regulated occupations see their earnings go up.”

“They’re still trying to hang onto the vestiges that say they’re special,” says Jeanie Thompson, president of the Minnesota Salon and Spa Association and owner of a beauty parlor. “I can cut a man’s hair. Why shouldn’t I be able to put a barber pole up?”

While both barbers and cosmetologists deal in hair, barbers can offer shaves with a straight-edge razor and are supposedly specially trained to use shears and clippers.  Cosmetologists can provide manicures, pedicures and other spa services in addition to cutting and styling hair.

Barber pole symbolism dates back to a time when barbers pulled teeth and performed bloodletting.  “Barbers often twisted rinsed yet still blood-stained cloths around those same poles before hanging them out to dry,” writes the AP.

The AP reports that 10 states have rules allowing only licensed barbers to have barber poles.  One of those states is Nevada, which I learned first hand, as I had my late father’s small electronic barber pole hung and operating in my living room in Las Vegas.  One of my guests for a party one evening was a state senator who informed me that I was violating Nevada law.

State inspectors in Ohio find about a dozen violators of that state’s law each year.  The fine is $500 but most times state inspectors just demand that the pole be removed.

Minnesota barber Joel Martin believes the barber pole issue is about truth in advertising.  “A lot of men will not come into a shop that just says salon because they are looking for someone who has barbering experience,” Martin told the AP. “It tells people driving by that that’s what they can get here.”

In his studies on licensing, Professor Kleiner found, “individuals who have a license perceive themselves as being more competent.”   But research shows that licensees are not necessarily more skilled.

Barbers for years have tried to restrict competition by erecting licensing and advertising barriers.   The result is as Michale Rozeff  predicts in his article “Who Captures Whom? The Case of Regulation.”  Substitute industries arise to satisfy demand and earn a profit.  Millions of men now get their hair cut at chain shops with no licensed barbers cutting hair.  It’s cheaper, more convenient and the haircuts are just as good.

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A Pirate Gets Licensed http://libertarianstandard.com/2012/03/13/a-pirate-gets-licensed/ http://libertarianstandard.com/2012/03/13/a-pirate-gets-licensed/#comments Tue, 13 Mar 2012 19:56:30 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=10607 Obtaining an unlimited gaming license in Nevada isn’t easy.  The Gaming Control Board does months and months of investigation into an applicant’s past.  No stone goes unturned.  Youthful mistakes can keep a potential owner from opening for business.  Instead of customers deciding who has the requisite morals to plug in the slot machines and roll out the green felt, government gumshoes and politically-appointed wise ones decide who is worthy.  Casino patrons must be protected.

Legend has it that Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel was driving through the desert, envisioned an oasis, built the Flamingo, and created Las Vegas. That’s not the way it happened.

Casino gambling was legalized in 1931, and Siegel’s Flamingo flopped when it opened in December 1946, after successful premiers of other hotels. “In reality,” John L. Smith explains in his book Sharks in the Desert, “[Meyer] Lansky and several lesser-known racketeers, together with some plain old transplanted gamblers, played much greater roles than Siegel.”

One of those gamblers was Benny Binion, who left his Dallas bookmaking and racketeering empire and set out for Las Vegas in 1946 with his wife and children. Binion’s Horseshoe Club in downtown Las Vegas was a fixture from its opening in 1951 until his daughter, Becky, ran it into the ground in 2004.

The ability of gamblers and bookmakers to leave their clandestine operations behind in the east to re-open them unfettered in the bright sunshine of Las Vegas ended in 1955, when the Nevada Legislature founded the Nevada Gaming Control Board and the Nevada Gaming Commission.  Some long-time Nevadans observe that the Silver State has gone down hill ever since.

While Las Vegas was settled by gamblers and made men, Nevada’s newest licensee is a 65-year old singer/songwriter who turned 15 minutes of inspiration into a business empire.  Applicant James W. Buffett penned a little ditty back in 1977 called “Margaritaville,” that would spawn a happy-hour movement of the middle-aged.  The parrothead anthem has blossomed into an unmistakable brand for Buffett’s retail stores, restaurants, consumer products, and now, casinos.

It was all fun and games during Buffett’s 45-minute appearance before the gaming regulators, who did ask about a couple of colorful incidents such as the time a plane Buffett was piloting was mistaken by the Jamaican military for running drugs.

“They fired 115 times and only hit us twice,” Buffett said.

Perhaps the Jamaicans heard that High Times magazine had named Buffett the “smuggler’s favorite” recoding artist.

Buffett even admitted to William McKeen, author of the immensely enjoyable Mile Marker Zero:The Moveable Feast of Key West, “I guess everybody would like to be a smuggler.  It’s adventurous, romantic, swashbuckling.”

Buffett was once detained by authorities in France, accused of having the drug Ecstasy. It turned out to be medication for a heart palpitation.

“He laughed both stories off for the control board,” Howard Stutz reported for the Las Vegas Review Journal.

Buffett may have served as an alter boy growing up in Mobile, Alabama, but he’s had plenty of wild times.  He started out wanting to be a serious southern writer in the mold of William Faulkner, but took up the guitar while in college at Auburn.  He moved to Nashville and ended up with a record contract as a country singer.  But he didn’t like country.

Flat broke, Buffett signed on to do a gig at a Miami nightclub.  He left the Mercedes he couldn’t afford to fill with gas with his wife and went to stay with Jerry Jeff Walker in Coconut Grove.   When his Miami debut was delayed, he fixed Walker’s Cadillac and they headed for Key West.

“This was Kerouac stuff, and I loved it,” Buffett tells McKeen. Buffett recalled his first trip to Key West as a “tropical Fellini movie.”

Key West would become Buffett’s home, with a new wardrobe from Goodwill and a bicycle to get around town on.  He slept on a friend’s couch, playing and singing for free drinks around town.

As McKeen so wonderfully chronicles, Key West provided all the fodder Buffett would need to write songs and he became part of the artist/author community that had followed Hemingway’s sandy footprints to the island community.

Buffett took day-to-day life in Key West and “packag[ed] it for mass consumption,” writes McKeen.  The same month that Buffett and his Coral Reefer Band played for Jimmy Carter’s inaugural ball, the album Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes was released and tourists flooded into Key West to enjoy the paradise Buffett sang about.

The town had never quite recovered after the Navy pulled out.  “Margaritaville” gave it new life.

An editor from Billboard magazine advised Buffett to copyright the song after the singer discovering a shop in Key West, Fla., was selling bootleg “Margaritaville” T-shirts.  From that an empire was born.

Now the laid-back everyman Buffett will hold a gaming license–with all the privileges that go along with it.  As Murray Rothbard explained in Power & Market,

Licensing is a threat of violence that limits the permissible producers to particular
groups (those who have obtained the license). The ostensible purpose of most licensing
is to ensure quality and safety for consumers. Even so, the intervener necessarily
eliminates the option of lower-quality but cheaper services. On the free market, sellers of
adulterated products could be prosecuted for fraud and/or injuring the buyer’s body.

The Margaritaville section of the Las Vegas Flamingo Hotel and Casino is Buffet’s first Margaritaville-brand casino. However, two stand-alone Margaritaville casinos are under construction in Biloxi, Miss., and Bossier City, La.

“This is like grown-up stuff,” Buffett told the media after the hearing. “(A gaming license) is a really big thing for me that I will take very seriously. We’ve had success, but we’re going to have fun also.”

With the help of IP and licensing laws, he’s making a fortune branding the care-free lifestyle.

Bank of bad habits, the price of vice foretold
One by one they’ll do you in, they’re bound to take their toll
The wrong thing is the right thing until you lose control
I’ve got this bank of bad habits
It’s worth its weight in gold

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Bastiat Weeps For The Billionth Time http://libertarianstandard.com/2012/01/25/bastiat-weeps-for-the-billionth-time/ http://libertarianstandard.com/2012/01/25/bastiat-weeps-for-the-billionth-time/#comments Wed, 25 Jan 2012 20:19:19 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=10419
@pablodPablo Defendini
LOL self-pub is the new piracy! “@DigiBookWorld: Heard at #dbw12: Self publishing costs publishers $100 million in opportunity”

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