This Ain’t Laissez-Faire

Things are what they are, not their opposite. Can we accept that as a starting point?

Not if we’re scoring ideological points regardless of the cost to clarity.

Newsweek calls drug-war violence in Long Island “a harrowing example of free-market, laissez-faire capitalism.” To this, Cato Institute’s David Boaz objects that “the competition between the local Crips and Bloods [is described] in terms not usually seen in articles about, say, Apple and Microsoft or Ford and Toyota.”

Under a truly free market, the rights of buyers and sellers to peaceably trade are legally protected from theft and violence, and their contracts defended from fraud. Black markets, on the other hand, are made up of illegal exchanges, actively prohibited trade.

Sure, black-market trade has something in common with legal trade. As with legal exchanges, persons willingly participate in black-market trades and expect to benefit.

But economic activity that can easily get you jailed is fundamentally different in just this respect from that conducted in a relatively laissez-faire context.

The difference has consequences.

You can’t go to court if you have a grievance with a black-market trading partner or competitor. And persons less scrupulous, more violent, more criminal than the norm tend to be disproportionately represented among sellers of illegal goods that have especially big markups precisely because they’re illegal.

So Boaz is right.

The legal capitalism at K-Mart, J. C. Penny, or a post-Prohibition-Era liquor store isn’t fertile ground for the gang warfare invited by the War on Drugs. We can’t tell the difference, though, if we ignore the difference.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

The Groundhog Day Ban

Sometimes the only way to make your point is to keep repeating yourself. So it is when explaining why the law requires educational institutions that receive federal funding, like Ward Melville High School, to allow clubs such as the one formed by17-year-old student John Raney in 2013.

Students United in Faith meets to discuss faith and to plan charitable endeavors. Last year, Ward Melville officials sought to ban the club because of its religious character, but retreated after getting a letter from the Liberty Institute (dedicated to “restoring religious liberty in America”).

Near the beginning of this academic year, the school again moved to ban the club. Again, Liberty Institute intervened, threatening a lawsuit. Again, the school backed off.

If it were a private school, say, Atheist High, the school would well be within its rights to say “don’t come here unless you are willing to forgo any religious club.” Those hypothetical school officials wouldn’t be violating anyone’s rights.

But a public school funded by taxpayer dollars? Well, if it provides for extracurricular activities like clubs, it is acting as a part of the government to violate the right of freedom of association when it arbitrarily bans a club.

So what’s next? Either the administrators at Ward Melville High will keep trying the ban until they can get away with it; or, having finally learned their lesson, they’ll leave the group alone.

Thank goodness students and parents have the Liberty Institute in their corner.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

The Military vs. Weather

The purpose of a military — unless invading places for the hell of it — is to wield violence against violent threats to your country. What else are all the tanks and guns for?

The putative threats haven’t normally included . . . the weather.

But that’s been changing.

We probably shouldn’t be surprised to learn that Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is on board with scare-mongering about catastrophic “climate change,” supposedly wrought by mankind’s industrial contributions of carbon to the atmosphere. But Chuck needs to study harder if he thinks that hurricanes, tornadoes, and other rotten weather — or, for that matter, changes in average global temperature — are anything new on this planet.

He also credulously accepts the most dire predictions about melting glaciers, rising sea levels, islands sinking under the ocean, rising emigration and global unrest, etc. And without a touch of irony avers that we must be “clear-eyed” about “the security threats presented by climate change, and . . . proactive in addressing them.”

How are soldiers supposed to “address” variations in weather except, like all of us, by proactively wearing coats, carrying umbrellas, turning on air conditioning, moving away from eroding shorelines, building arks, etc?

Drop bombs on coal plants?

Not quite.

Secretary Hagel wants defense ministers to start attending UN climate-change conferences, for starters.

In other news, scientists say the rate at which plants are absorbing carbon dioxide (green things love the stuff) has been substantially underestimated in climate models.

Just when you think you’ve got the enemy figured out. . . .

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Houston, You’re a Problem

Will this installment of “Common Sense” be subpoenaed by the City of Houston?

The city first subpoenaed the sermons of pastors who oppose a controversial equal-rights ordinance and who have “ties” to conservative activists suing the city. When that raised howls of protest, the city, in its infinite wisdom, issued new subpoenas for “speeches” by these pastors.

The difference between sermons and speeches? None.

PDFThe Houston Equal Rights Ordinance expands what counts as illegal discrimination in the workplace to include any based on sexual orientation or “gender identity or pregnancy.” The ordinance seeks to eradicate the “diminution of dignity, respect and status” that it declares must result from any unequal treatment — regardless of the reason — related to any of 15 or so protected characteristics. The vagueness and catch-all character of this further workplace regimentation would doubtless spawn new lawsuits by dignity-diminished employees eager to interpret motives in the most lawsuit-conducive light.

My point, though, is not about governmental bullying of employers and violation of their rights, but governmental bullying of critics of government policy and violation of their right to speak freely. Speech that vexes you is not thereby properly subject to legal action. Indeed, political speech is precisely the kind of feather-ruffling communication that the First Amendment was designed to protect.

Nobody would bother trying to curb the flow of sermons (or speeches) about the weather.

Houston needs to be sued again — for issuing all of these subpoenas.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Townhall: The Deceivers

Will the Decepticons transform Arkansas? Not if the truth gets out to the people in time.

Click on over to Read. Enjoy. Then come back here for the necessary R&D.

And then: contact your friends and family in Arkansas. There is no reason to let the Decepticons win.


Video: Grading the Governors

Who gets the A’s, who gets the F’s:

“Deceptive” Charge “Misleading”

Many politicians serve as powerful arguments for term limits. Arkansas State Senator Jon Woods rivals the best.

Sen. Woods (R-Springdale) and State Rep. Warwick Sabin (D-Little Rock) authored a 22-page, 7,000-word constitutional amendment on this November’s ballot. They say Issue 3 is about ethics and transparency.

You decide.

Woods and Sabin threw together various ethics provisions and then stuck in a gutting of term limits. Their ballot title reads it is “establishing term limits” — without bothering to inform voters that it doubles how long legislators can stay in the Senate and more than doubles the House limit — to a whopping 16 years!

This week, Arkansas Term Limits debuted TV ads alerting the public to the scam, charging that legislators have “pursued a campaign of silence . . . letting the deceptive ballot title do their work,” so that “when Arkansas voters go to the polls there will be no mention of the doubling of term[s].”

The unrepentant Sen. Woods says that it is “misleading” to call his Issue 3 deceptive. Meanwhile, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that, after asking if Woods’s ballot language wasn’t indeed deceptive: “Woods said he doesn’t know.”

The senator’s response to the Arkansas GOP Convention’s nearly unanimous resolution against Issue 3? “You just have a couple of nuts that got together on a Saturday that were out of touch with Arkansans and passed a silly resolution that in no way reflects the point of view of all Republicans in Arkansas.”

Perhaps Democratic politicians are smarter. Democratic co-author Sabin is nowhere to be found in news coverage of Issue 3, likely hiding under his bed.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.