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Naked Truth Up North

Monday, March 17th, 2014

In the U.S., broadcasters and savvy consumers worry about the behavior of the Federal Communications Commission, which regulates the electromagnetic spectrum not by defending property rights, but by licensing segments of the spectrum within locales. The FCC even regulates content to some extent, by threat of withdrawing licensure.

But it could be worse. We could be in Canada.

How so? Well, Canadian politicians have long picked at a cultural scab: their identity crisis, their fear of being overshadowed by the U.S. So, up north, regulation of broadcast content centers on the promotion of “Canadian” artistry and talent in place of programming generated elsewhere, chiefly America.

Yes, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has quotas.

And like all quota systems, it has long ago embraced absurdity.

The latest nonsense?

The demand that two Canadian porn channels provide more home-grown pornography. In addition, the channels have been charged with not been providing enough closed captioning. (Just what adult movies need, careful transcription.)

AOV XXX Action Clips and AOV Maleflixxx are on notice, and their respective licenses are under review:

The X-rated specialty channels are supposed to air 35 per cent Canadian programming over the broadcast year and 90 per cent of its content should have captioning.

As part of proposed licence renewals, the commission plans to hear evidence on the apparent non-compliance.

It might be awfully funny to horn in on those hearings, listen to what people will say about upping Canadian porn production to meet standards that encourage, uh, national pride.

But the dirtiest truth is that most regulation of the airwaves is just as ridiculous, if not quite as nakedly so.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Equality on the Brain

Thursday, January 16th, 2014

We’re told that “economic inequality” is on the rise.

Ronald Bailey, at Reason’s site, does a pretty good job of setting the record straight. The rich may be getting richer, but the poor aren’t getting poorer.

Further, “the rich” aren’t the same folks one year to the next. There is still income mobility in America. Some poor folks become super-rich; a majority of super-rich “1-percent-ers” will fall out of that 1-percent category.  Over time, most folks move from one quintile to at least the next.

What prevents widespread understanding of this? Intellectual muddles. The difference between income and wealth often get fuzzed up, for example. Take two high-income workers, earning the same pay: The one who saves will wind up with much more wealth than the other who spends it all. And rates of savings vary radically from person to person.

As does everything else.

Making things more complicated? Government policy. Bailouts are now an integral feature to aid some of the rich, to prevent their losses (we’re told) from spreading “financial contagion.”

Considering the moral hazard involved, I’d say “financial contagion” is endemic . . . on a whole different level.

And the same President Obama today decrying income inequality was yesterday bailing out rich folks.

A question for the inequality obsessed: Since the War on Poverty really set in, poverty rates have leveled off and even worsened (that is, the numbers of the officially impoverished have increased, despite increases in after-tax/after-subsidy incomes) — could you be missing the moral hazard that any sort of bailout portends?

Real economic justice, as I suggested in my most recent weekend column, is just that, justice. Establishment of good rules, no special privileges.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.


Graph on this page shows income per household, courtesy Cafe Hayek. Caution: Households changed complexion radically in the 1960s-1980s.

Freedom for All Not a Free-for-all

Thursday, December 26th, 2013

“Colorado’s ski resorts and mountain towns are bracing for an influx of tourists,” writes Trevor Hughes in USA Today, “seeking a now-legal Rocky Mountain high.”

Recreational marijuana legalization worries some “police and ski area operators,” Hughes explains. Marijuana tours have been set up by some enterprising folks, and the locals worry “that tourists who don’t understand the rules will be sparking up on the slopes.”

Or in their cars.

Or on the sidewalks.

One sheriff clarified: “We do have this misperception . . . where people have smoked in public, been charged, and were under the perception that it’s a free-for-all.”

An over-reaction to what appears to be an end to the war on drugs? A lack of awareness that all sorts of things get regulated at the local level?

Or perhaps a few people don’t really understand the nature of liberty.

Liberty — freedom for all — isn’t a free-for-all!

That is, the freedom that we all can have isn’t a “do anything you want/anywhere you want/any time you want” deal. The freedom we can all have is a freedom from initiated force, from intrusive coercion, from interference with our persons and our property.

“Free speech” doesn’t mean you can barge into my home and shout in my face. “Freedom of association” doesn’t mean the Skeptic Society can hold a conference in a Christian Science Reading Room, or the Klan can march through the campus of Howard University. “Free Exercise of Religion” doesn’t mean you will be allowed to hold a candlelight vigil in a fireworks factory.

There’s a logic to liberty. Most Americans get that. Even most tourists.

This worry should should vanish like a puff of smoke.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Precious Gifts . . . 2013 and Beyond

Wednesday, December 25th, 2013

There’s a quiet on Christmas morning . . . after Santa has come and gone . . . and the kids are still sound asleep . . . sugar plum fairies dancing to their gentle snoring.

A moment to stop and think.

I hope they’ll like their presents; they always do. There’s so much love my wife and I want to share, to give to them.

Of course, the biggest gifts are never under the tree. The most important being a staple home, with love, and the freedom for children to grow into themselves.

My parents gave me that . . . along with the bicycles and baseball gloves and some really good books. I’ve tried to be the same kind of parent.

Another incredible endowment I’ve enjoyed is to be born in a country “conceived in liberty.” A place where individual citizens are the sovereigns, creating government to be a servant and not a master. Land of the free.

What a gift!

But Tom Paine told us that, “What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly, ’tis dearness only that gives everything its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated.”

Freedom is under siege. And, therefore, we who love freedom, grateful for our historic luck, must come together to protect our “expensive” gift.

Some may get discouraged after setbacks, recent and not-so-recent, but none of us got involved in politics because we like “the game” and figured we’d pile up a shelf of trophies. We’re engaged because we must be and we seek victories because, as Churchill once put it, “without victory, there is no survival.”

In 1776, on this very day, General George Washington and his soldiers of the American Revolution crossed the Delaware River to score a surprise military victory against the British at Trenton, New Jersey.

Thank goodness, for these brave patriots and their muskets. Three Americans gave their lives in the battle. To secure our liberty.

Today, the Gift has been handed to us. Not to play with on Christmas morning and forget about, not to let get broken without our fixing it, but to protect and defend and cherish.

My commentary strives to illuminate, to amuse and to motivate toward action, bringing citizens together. Citizens in Charge protects the initiative process — the best weapon citizens have to cut taxes, term-limit politicians, stop the drug war, protect property rights, and place limits on government. The Liberty Initiative Fund partners with leaders across the nation putting measures  on the ballot to protect freedom and hold government accountable.

Thanks for your gifts to these efforts and to the many other important ones. We aim to protect the precious gift of freedom.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob. Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays!

You Ignorant Fool

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

About the title  —  that’s the FDA talking, not me. It’s their apparent attitude toward people who dare learn about their genes.

For $99, 23andMe analyzes your saliva and tells you about your DNA. Their site includes plenty of caveats about the possible emotional impact of the information, the possibility of errors, the limits of what one can infer about health tendencies, the advisability of taking no remedial action without further testing and consultation.

Nevertheless, the FDA has sent a WARNING LETTER to 23andMe co-founder and CEO Ann Wojcicki expressing concern that customers may, for example, rush to have dangerous prophylactic surgery like breast removal if they learn about some genetic risk factor. The company must stop marketing its product until it satisfies FDA regarding false positives, recipients with no common sense, etc. Otherwise, the agency just may have to seize 23andMe and impose penalties.

Yet, as Harry Binswanger notes, “A false positive does not force you to obey it.”

Wojcicki has now spoken up about the FDA’s letter, allowing that 23andMe is “behind schedule” in providing FDA with information, calling the bullying agency a “very important partner,” and in general speaking very carefully while stressing that new technology is not per se a bad thing.

What she doesn’t say is that any FDA interference with our ability to buy and evaluate information about our DNA, and Wojcicki’s right to discover and sell it to us, would be a very bad thing.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Can’t Complain

Monday, November 25th, 2013

During the Soviet era, there was a joke going around about how Soviet citizens expressed their feelings about life under Communist rule.

Whatever a citizen is asked about, he shrugs and says, “I can’t complain.” Finally the exasperated interviewer asks, “Well, is there anything about life in the Soviet Union that you do dislike?” Of course the answer is “I CAN’T COMPLAIN!!!”

In certain societies, persons who complain too pointedly or publicly are subject to arrest and imprisonment, if not worse. Luckily, being arrested for complaining, especially in a civil, peaceful, non-rights-violating way, would never happen in the U.S., right?

Don’t tell it to Jim Howe, the Tennessee parent arrested by a splenetic officer, Avery Aytes (“Officer Absolute Obedience” as Cory Doctorow dubs him), for calmly articulating disagreement with a new school policy on how his kids were to be picked up from school. The policy created traffic jams, so Howe walked to the school to get his kids. When he continues to calmly express his viewpoint despite being told to zip it, Aytes slaps on the cuffs.

The crime: talking.

County Sheriff Butch Burgess says he doesn’t even need to look at the starkly unambiguous video of the incident to know that the arrest was justified, Aytes was just doing his job. This means that all arrests by law enforcement officers are per se justified because they are arrests by law enforcement officers. Which is a prescription for cowed submission to tyranny.

That’s not common sense.

I’m Paul Jacob.

Taboos Against Toke Talk

Monday, November 4th, 2013

Not all taboos are alike. Some are backed by the full force of law. Other taboos are enforced merely by polite opinion and the snubs of the cold shoulder.

Have you noticed how the latter kind feeds the former?

John Payne, executive director of Missouri’s Show Me Cannabis Regulation, was recently asked on Mike Ferguson’s Missouri Viewpoints why the politics of marijuana has changed in recent years. His answer is worth contemplating:

[O]ne thing that’s finally changing is that the taboo around talking about this has finally started to drop away. Pretty much, people have thought that any discussion of the issue . . . has been labeled almost criminal in and of itself. Just talking about legalizing it means that not only do you support the use but you yourself are a user.

He calls the old view a “stereotype,” and says that its repulsive — shaming? — effects seem to be dwindling — the town meetings he has been conducting around Missouri have certainly been drawing huge crowds.

Interestingly, later on in the show, the pro-drug war gentleman shot back exactly in the old-school manner. He demanded to know “why [marijuana legalizers] don’t frankly come out and say ‘because we want to get high!’” He was dismissive of Mr. Payne’s reasoning. He’ll only accept the confession: “I want to get high.”

Apparently, individual freedom coupled with personal responsibility — principle — is not something the drug warrior finds very convincing. Unlike growing numbers of Americans who now seem, at the very least, more than willing to engage in what Payne calls a “rational debate.”

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.