Free Market

Trump’s Nomination Doesn’t Mean Libertarians’ Involvement in the GOP Has Been Misplaced

[Editor’s Note: This commentary by former Federal Election Commission Chairman, Center for Competitive Politics Chairman and Founder, and Capital University Josiah H. Blackmore/Shirley M. Nault Professor of Law Bradley A. Smith is reprinted here with his permission.]


A libertarian professor friend of mine took the opportunity of Trump’s nomination to write on Facebook:

The fact that the GOP appears to be nominating Trump, and the fact that libertarian-leaning conservative intellectuals in the GOP are (rightly) frothing at the mouth the most about it, only provides more evidence for my long-standing view that libertarian intellectuals who thought their (our?) home was in the GOP were making a very risky “pact with the devil.”

He went on a bit but that gets the mood and core message of the piece.

My response, which I’ll reprint here with light edits, was this:

Red Starbucks Cups: A Story of Viral Outrage Marketing

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Everything on the internet is a lie, especially anything you hear about a “movement” or “boycott” or “outrage”. This is one of those.

On November 5, Josh Feuerstein, an Arizona preacher, Facebook vertical video ranter, and Fred Durst-style backwards cap-wearer, basically a Christian version of Howard Stern, posted a 1-minute 18-second video about a red-hued mass-produced beverage receptible. You see, he went to Starbucks to get his morning cup of coffee and was handed a simple red cup. He immediately felt triggered by this holiday-colored but not holiday-decorated design, so he retreated to his safe space of portrait-oriented internet video and expressed this offense to the world.

And horrifically, the world listened. As of this writing Feuerstein’s video has 12,247,900 views, 153,895 likes, 447,838 shares, and 36,094 comments. Normally I don’t recommend reading comments on internet posts, but in this case it’s illuminating.

The first three comments on Feuerstein’s post are from Feuerstein himself. First, he urges his viewers to use a specific hashtag when discussing the issue on social media. That helps people discussing it connect to each other and helps the topic trend if enough people use it.

The second comment is Feuerstein linking to his own blog post at theradicals.com about the topic. That gets people to his own advertising-supported website, putting money in his pocket with each hysterical pearl-clutching click. The third comment is Feuerstein tagging at least thirteen other mostly Christian conservative outrage-mongers like Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and Breitbart in an effort to get their social media managers to talk about the post and link to his website (*click*click*ka-ching*ka-ching*).

Sprint’s Decision To Skip Wireless Auction “Highlights The Folly” Of Federal Hubris

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Few industry analysts seemed surprised when Sprint’s new CEO announced “after thorough analysis” that the company won’t participate in next year’s auction of TV broadcast spectrum (known as the “incentive auction”). Analysts already knew that Sprint “has the spectrum it needs to deploy its network architecture of the future.” As a senior telecommunications analyst for Bloomberg Intelligence said in response to the news, “Sprint really has a lot more spectrum than its rivals, so they don’t have that pressing need to get more.”

FCC Net Neutrality Ideology Out of Step with Internet Reality

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“Today, we celebrate the first glorious anniversary of the Information Purification Directives. We have created, for the first time in all history, a garden of pure ideology—where each worker may bloom, secure from the pests purveying contradictory truths. Our Unification of Thoughts is more powerful a weapon than any fleet or army on earth. We are one people, with one will, one resolve, one cause. Our enemies shall talk themselves to death, and we will bury them with their own confusion. We shall prevail!” Apple advertisement, 1984.

There are now two Internets. The Internet envisioned by the ideology embodied in the FCC’s new net neutrality rules, and the Internet as it exists in reality. The “net neutral” Internet is “a garden of pure ideology” where content companies “are one people … with one cause” and network congestion is merely a figment of the imagination. The real Internet is different — congestion is commonplace and the interests of content owners are divergent.

There’s a major problem with arithmetic in the minimum wage debate

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The debate over Congress raising the minimum wage nationwide is all about numbers. What the rate should be, how many people it would help, how many jobs it would cost, how easy it would be if Evil Rich People just surrendered their money instead. But at least one of these numbers is horribly skewed, resulting in a false narrative about how many people are scraping by on pennies an hour.

The latest brick in this narrative construction project is a report from the Institute for Policy Studies showing that if all the bonuses given to Wall Street bankers were instead distributed among people working minimum wage full time, their income would double. Wow! Let’s do that! For the children! Quick, grab your pitchfork, I’ll get my torch!

Not so fast.

The report cites 1,007,000 as the number of people working full time making the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 or less. Is that right? IRS data for 2013 shows the number of people working 35 hours per week or more at or below hourly minimum wage to be exactly that number. But there’s a huge problem with that figure - it includes people who get tips.

Waiters and other tip-paid professions have a different minimum wage than most other hourly workers: currently $2.13. “What? How can anyone live on that?!”, you might gasp. They don’t, of course. $2.13 is only the base salary they are required to be paid. They are paid tips based on their performance on top of that, which usually adds up to much, much more than even the standard $7.25 minimum wage.

Today in Liberty: Email Scandals, Threats to Signature Legislation, and Netflix’s Discovery That Big Government Is No Friend

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Plenty of red meat in the news these days, from Hillary Clinton’s homebrewed email server to the US Ambassador to South Korea getting slashed in the face. Taken individually, these stories are just a fun diversion as part of surprisingly full news cycle. Taken together, however, they represent a potential sea change in how government functions — and how citizens and voters are reacting to it. Not surprising that things are changing in the time of NSA data gathering, a newly confident Russia, and the (continued) rise of the brutal Islamic State. So here’s a rundown for those seeking the little glimmers of liberty buried under the chaos.

CPAC happened last week and there was an air of excitement and momentum surrounding the incredibly deep GOP field leading into 2016’s presidential election. Scott Walker has ramped up his game and Jeb Bush tried to make the case that he’s not just the guy the Democrats would love to see make a run. And Rand Paul, as he usually does, won the straw poll largely due to the contingent of young voters who attend the annual gathering. A really great thing in fact because it means the millenials may actually be migrating to the right at a greater clip than anyone knew. But while Rand won the youth, social media and news data says that Scott Walker’s the one to watch…for now:

Green Energy, Corruption, Reform Conservatism, and the Size of Government

Congressional Investigation of FCC Spells Trouble for Net Neutrality

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Did the FCC chairman change his mind about Title II on his own, or did he capitulate to White House demands to avoid the disgrace of losing his chairmanship? A shocking investigative report by The Wall Street Journal suggests its the latter, and has prompted a pivotal Congressional investigation.

On Friday, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee initiated an investigation of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to determine whether the views expressed by the White House potentially had an improper influence on the development of draft net neutrality rules. A letter from the Committee’s Chairman, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler raised concerns about the independence of the agency based on a shocking investigative report by The Wall Street Journal.

The report indicates that the Imperial President improperly influenced Chairman Wheeler’s decision on net neutrality. If that proves to be true, it would provide a reviewing court with grounds to overturn the FCC’s decision as arbitrary and capricious. See DCP Farms v. Neuter, 957 F.2d 1183 (5th Cir. 1992).

EA Games seeks to raise up another generation of central planning-loving socialists

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If you were lucky enough to be a kid in the 1990s, you’re probably familiar with the urban planning megahit computer game series SimCity. It was first released in 1989 and spawned several sequels and spin-offs of varying popularity over the last two and a half decades, including the street-level, person-oriented, blockbuster Sims series.

If you were even luckier, you didn’t emerge from playing these games as a flaming utopian. The point of the games, after all, is to make the citizens of your electronic town happy by providing them with adequately zoned neighborhoods, utilities, parks, a modest tax rate, entertainment, and safety from occasional disaster scenarios.

The original SimCity did have a marginal laissez-faire premise, though. As mayor, you zoned specific areas for residential, commercial, or industrial construction, but the computer programming filled in the blanks with whatever kind of buildings your citizens might want.

However, a new version of the series for Android and Apple phones and tablets, SimCity BuildIt, removes all hints of spontaneous order and substitutes a Marxist paradise of master planning in its place. The new mobile game is rendered in smooth, stunning 3D graphics, so it’s a pleasure to play visually. But once you start to get into the weeds of the new mayor’s office, it becomes more of an annoyance than fun, especially as a lesson in economic theory.

Legalize Marijuana, Don’t Socialize It

The campaign to end the War on Drugs has gained momentum in recent years with state ballot initiatives legalizing recreational marijuana use in Colorado and Washington, and a similar referendum coming to Washington, DC on this year’s general election ballot. Along with the push to reform sentencing laws, even retroactively, for nonviolent drug offenses, it appears that huge strides are being made in allowing free citizens the right to enjoy relatively harmless substances as they choose. But as with any government effort, the reality is far from the idealized campaign promise.

In Washington state, which decriminalized small amounts of marijuana possession and consumption on the 2012 ballot, state-sanctioned retail sales just began in July. However, as this is still deep blue Washington we’re talking about, there is far from a free market for the stuff. The state has a strict licensing program that only allows certain retailers to sell marijuana legally, from only certain licensed producers, resulting in only one place to buy in all of Seattle on opening day. This isn’t exactly Starbucks for weed.


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