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Thanks for Freedom

Friday, November 28th, 2014

For two days my message has been about thankfulness. I’m going for the trifecta.

This may disappoint Sheldon, a commenter at, who pooh-poohed my earlier expression of gratitude. “It sounds as though one of the guests invited to your Thanksgiving table will be your very distant relative Pollyanna,” he teased.

Countering my view that “the abundance on our Thanksgiving tables” comes from “the freedom to work and produce and trade with each other,” he argued that this abundance “decreases yearly as government-produced inflation eats away at our purchasing power. Every single aspect of our ‘freedom to work and produce and trade’ and even to eat, drink, travel and enjoy life is surveilled, controlled, obstructed and regulated by ‘our’ government.”

Though I certainly didn’t notice any diminution of the “abundance” at yesterday’s feast, Sheldon nonetheless has a point. Heck, it sounds like he’s been reading these commentaries word-for-word!

There is, indeed, a lot that’s wrong in this world — and the power and arrogance of government is right there in the middle of most of it.

But in necessarily focusing on the problem, on our eroding freedom and lack of control over our lives, let’s not lose hope. Instead, let’s be thankful for what we do have: the ability to do something about it.

There are solutions. Even with all the political corruption and rules rigged to favor the insiders, we still have meaningful freedom to stand up, to speak out, to help create and organize and agitate for desperately needed change.

I’m thankful for that much freedom. Let’s use it to make more.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Happy Thanksgiving, 2014

Thursday, November 27th, 2014

Norman Rockwell and Cicero on Thanksgiving

And thank you for your continuing interest and support.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Thankful for Tomorrow

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

Tomorrow will be a day of Thanksgiving, a wonderfully unpretentious holiday in a terribly pretentious time.

Thanksgiving is a national celebration about simply having enough food to eat and about eating it together . . . and recognizing, at least for a moment, how great that is.

The “dining together” part is so important that enormous controversy has erupted in recent years as retailers jump the next day’s usual start of the Christmas season, “Black Friday,” by daring to open up on Thanksgiving Day itself. Many complain that stores are frustrating the feast by “forcing” their workers to work.

Last year, I made the point that families truly committed to eating a meal together could find a way to do so, and that workers are not “forced to work,” but actually enjoy a meaningful degree of freedom in when they work. And I remember being very grateful for the opportunity to earn a living by working on a holiday.

In fact, the abundance on our Thanksgiving tables every year is only possible through the freedom to work and produce and trade with each other. This American holiday is also about giving thanks for that freedom.

Freedom has, like it or not, led to long lines of eager customers waiting for those retail doors to open. I’m no big fan of shopping, but more power to those who are.

Still, freedom has also led to a full-throated public discussion — and backlash. A New York Post article credits social media with mobilizing public sentiment against stores opening on the holiday and causing some stores to roll back their hours.

Brian Rich runs Boycott Black Thursday, a Facebook page with over 100,000 likes. “We are not anti-capitalism,” says the Idahoan, who suggests shoppers spend to their hearts’ content on Friday, but celebrate “a good old-fashioned holiday at home” on Thursday.

I’m thankful stores can open if they wish and that customers have money to trade for products they want. And I’m mighty glad that we don’t have to shop if we don’t want to and that we can speak out freely against stores opening and in favor of folks spending more time with loved ones.

On Thursday, I’m grateful for all those in my family and my wife’s with whom I’ll get to break bread. On Friday, well, my youngest daughter will get me up way too early to take her shopping.

And, doggone it, as painful as it is: I’m thankful for that, too.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.


The Unknown Citizen

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014

No one knows his name. Or whether, when he was whisked away by several people who suddenly appeared in the square, he was rushed to the safety of friends or into police custody.

He’s “Tank Man.” His claim to fame is largely symbolic, blocking a whole line of People’s Liberation Army tanks for several minutes as they were taking a victory lap through Tiananmen Square mere hours after crushing the encampment of protesters. Tank Man stood in front of these massive treaded war machines, moved with them when they maneuvered to go around him, and, once the tanks stopped, he climbed on top of the one in front, banging on it and yelling at the driver.

For seven weeks, protests had taken over much of Tiananmen Square in the heart of the Chinese capital. Students began the demonstrations, which were then joined by working folks. They spoke truth to power and crowds swelled to hear calls for press freedom and individual liberty and basic democratic rights to control government.Remember Tiananmen: 25th Anniversary

But on this day 25 years ago, the Chinese communist leaders, the Butchers of Beijing, ended this Springtime burst of life and liberty by ordering the military to fire on civilians* and roll their tanks over people to clear the square. The Chinese government acknowledges that hundreds died; others put the death toll as high as 6,000.

Tank Man and the pro-freedom movement lost.

An obviously emotional ABC reporter told American viewers that “the voices of those who died calling for freedom and liberty are likely to be remembered long after the sound of the gunfire that attempted to silence them has faded away.”

Tragically, to this day, the Chinese government imprisons pro-democracy activists who speak out, blocks Internet searches for “Tiananmen Square protests,” and uses a massive police presence and arbitrary detention of “radicals” to prevent any commemoration of what happened a quarter century ago.

Still, the image of that lone Chinese worker, satchel in hand, serves as a symbol of the desire for freedom, for the defiance of tyranny. It is forever etched in the minds of liberty lovers everywhere.

We cannot bring freedom to the Chinese people. They will have to continue to struggle to achieve that on their own.

What can we do?

We can remain inspired by the bravery shown by Tank Man — and by bloggers and activists in prisons throughout the world. Working through non-governmental organizations, such as the Human Rights Foundation, we can assist the cause of individual freedom by bringing attention and pressure against tyrants trying to eliminate those who agitate for it.

And we can let these courageous people know they aren’t alone against the tanks and truncheons.Stand Up for Freedom

The most important thing we can do is to make certain that our freedoms, the rule of law, and citizen control of government through constitutional limitations and democratic checks on power continue to be defended, protected and expanded.

That really begins when responsible, caring, freedom-loving individuals come together with their neighbors, online, in social networks, at the workplace, through civic groups, at church or school to stand up for our right to be free.

This is Common Sense … and helping to inspire, inform and organize for freedom is our mission. I’m Paul Jacob … and working together I believe we can make a difference.

If you’re moved to support our effort to block the advance of Big Government please give generously … keep the Common Sense coming (and growing).

On the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, why not contribute $25 today?

Prussia, feb 25

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

In Law #46 of February 25, 1947, the Allied Control Council formally proclaimed the dissolution of Prussia.

Memes to Shun

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014

Wasn’t Rolling Stone once a clever and trendy magazine? Now it’s descended into history’s dustbin to publish a listicle showing just how low it can go. Jesse Myerson’s “Five Economic Reforms Millennials Should Be Fighting For” scrapes the bottom of the memetic barrel, almost all the way down to Communism.

  1. Public Works über alles. Can’t find a job? Work for the government, thus fulfilling the notion of “Guaranteed work for everybody . . . who wants to” sit around and look busy.
  2. Guarantee an income, or “Social Security for All.” Hoary. But the higher that guaranteed level is, the more it would nullify the make-work schemes of proposal no. 1, above. That’s only the most obvious problem.
  3. Seize the land. Yup, land communism. How 19th century. Because landlords, we’re informed, “don’t really do anything to earn their money.” For some reason, the author of this ignorant list of proposals doesn’t mention the most obvious problem with this old tradition: the tragedy of the commons. If mass poverty won’t convince you, what about environmental degradation?
  4. State Socialism, pure and simple, advertised as “Make Everything Owned by Everybody.” Yes, a major American magazine has now endorsed the very system that was tried by the worst totalitarian regimes in the modern world, the Soviet Union, Communist China, etc. No mention of Ludwig von Mises’ explanation as to why this cannot work.

At least Myerson’s fifth “reform” isn’t to eradicate money. It’s to

  1. Set up state banks.

Not as goofy as the other ideas, but hey: in a world where the government owns all the land and all the capital, and people don’t have to work — but can earn extra bucks in government “jobs” — what, exactly, will his beloved state banks be loaning us to accomplish?

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Thoughtful Kindness?

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

Bumper stickers. Now that’s free speech. Which I love. But that doesn’t mean I love all bumper stickers. Sure, some are cute, funny, occasionally brilliant. Others are just crude.

But my least favorite bumper sticker might surprise you. The bumper strip that ticks me off the most reads:

“Practice Random Acts Of Kindness And Senseless Acts Of Beauty.”

Now, most folks who put this one on their car are nice. They’re thinking about “kindness” and “beauty” — so, I’m certainly not gonna say anything if I see them at the market.

But . . . why waste kindness by doing it randomly? The random implies heedlessness, thoughtlessness. How much better to be provident in kindness, thinking ahead and in context.

Should the purse-snatcher really benefit as much or more from our kindness as the little girl in the neighborhood who is always helping us with our groceries?

Should our lazy, good-for-nothing brother-in-law get what time we have for kindness or should it go to someone who will take our kindness and turn it around into even more kindness?

Now, I’m not suggesting anyone be unkind to anyone. But precisely because practicing kindness is so important — it’s the glue that holds a friendly society together — it is worth taking the time to recognize and reward good behavior. Rather than bad. Or just sticking the dial on “random.”

And how can beauty ever be senseless?

How about a new bumper sticker: “Practice Thoughtful Acts of Kindness and Sensible Acts of Beauty”?

Happy New Year!

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

This installment of Common Sense first aired in November 2006.