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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.

Independence Depends…

Thursday, July 4th, 2013

July 4, 2013

Some 237 years ago we made a clean break from the corrupt Old World of Europe. Fifty-six men risked it all to proclaim in the Declaration of Independence that

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. . . .

That sums it up — the grand total of good government. The rest is history. Freedom prospers. A country of empowered citizens works a whole lot better than a nation of subjects following a dictator.

But the most striking lesson of history is sadly the opposite of America’s July 4, 1776, birth. So much of the world has long lived under political oppression.

In Syria, more than 100,000 have lost their lives. Egypt is enjoying a military coup. People yearning to be free in China, Iran, Russia, and around the world, risk it all, arrest, torture, death, to speak out, to protest, to demand change.

I’m frustrated that there is so little I can do to help them.

And then it occurs to me: the best thing I can do, as an American, is to fight to keep our country all that it should be.

That’s no easy fight. As you well know.

Our governments from Washington, DC, to Hometown, USA, are out of control.

What’s the trouble? Spending. Debt. Government as ATM. Regular attacks on our property rights. The list runs long: Corruption. Arrogance. Nanny-statism. Those relentless assaults on any process of reform — from term limits to voter initiative, referendum and recall.

The philosophy running government for far too long now directly opposes the creed of 1776: The career politicians and the special interests believe in unlimited government, the idea that everything is permissible, anything is affordable (with your money), and nothing is sacred.

Disaster is on the horizon; the storm clouds of several coming catastrophes are dark and visible.

Politicians cannot stop the rain or the rise of the oceans. Though they act as if they can.

But all hope is not lost. I have faith in you. And in Common Sense.

Our political problems are absolutely solvable. But your work and commitment to freedom is ultimately the difference maker.

And I like to think Common Sense helps. By laughing at the sad absurdities. By voicing a little righteous indignation. And by using wit . . . whenever I can find it.

But mainly Common Sense does its job by connecting the outrages of unaccountable government with the great people all across America who stand up to defend their rights and the rights of their neighbors from politics gone wild.

Common Sense helps bring folks together to put citizens in charge and ensure that government is accountable to the people.

This Common Sense program is run on a shoestring. But even shoestrings cost money. We need to raise $52,000 to cover the program for the remainder of the year and to step up our marketing of the program.

On July 4, 1776, they pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor.

This July 4, 2013, I’m asking you to pledge some of your fortune to help keep Common Sense on the air, online and in your email Inbox — and to help us reach out to new audiences.

A number of readers and listeners have made a monthly pledge of $17.76. That’s a big help. Can you make the same pledge?

Or give a one-time contribution of $176 today? If you can, please consider donating $1,776. Or $10, $25, $100 — whatever amount works for you.

The antidote to government gone wild is simple: Common Sense. Help us keep it coming.

Happy Independence Day!

Precious Gifts

Tuesday, December 25th, 2012

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, 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!

What Goes Up, China Edition

Thursday, November 22nd, 2012

Skyscrapers inspire.

Sometimes they inspire shudders.

I am an admirer of such neo-Babels, and you can’t find a better Schelling point for New York than the Empire State Building. Civilization’s highest erections symbolize something good about humanity.

And yet, I wonder about the latest Chinese engineering effort, Sky City, to be built in Changsha in record time, 90 days.

It’s supposed to house over 31,000 people, contain hotels and restaurants and schools and shops, too, and tower up 163 floors to a height of 2,749 feet.

How could such a thing be so quickly constructed, and still be safe?


Well, not really. It’s prefab. Much of the work has already been done. Building it will be a job of putting pre-fabricated pieces together. The company responsible for the effort has had some success on prefab buildings before, and . . .

The whole thing still sounds a tad hubristic. I wish the builders (and inhabitants) the best, but, even if it succeeds, there’s an ominous aspect to the whole project, if economist Mark Thornton’s theory about new-building skyscrapers has any truth to it. Tall buildings are built when people are optimistic. People are most optimistic during booms. Booms — at least inflationary booms — yield to busts, and many of the major economic depressions have been marked by unfinished or just-finished record-book skyscraper projects.

Does Sky City signal a Chinese bust coming soon?

It may. For the story of our time might be this: China is to America, now, what America was to Great Britain in the 1920s and ’30s. Similar monetary policies and bailouts.

And the loaning nation doesn’t get off free. At least, we didn’t in the decade in which the Empire State Building was finished.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.