What Freedom of Speech?

In a telephone conversation recorded on April 9, Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling and his girlfriend, V. Stiviano, engaged in a heated exchange centered on her friendship with a number of current and former professional basketball stars, including Magic Johnson.

In the recorded conversation, obtained by TMZ Sports, Stiviano, who is half black and half Mexican, apologized for the color of her skin, to which Sterling replied, “That isn’t the issue. You’ve missed this issue… The issue is we don’t have to broadcast everything.”

When Stiviano protested that she’s wasn’t broadcasting anything, Sterling asked, “… And why are you taking pictures with minorities…why?”  He went on to explain that “there’s a culture.  People feel certain things.  Hispanics feel certain things towards blacks.  Blacks feel certain things toward other groups.  It’s been that way historically, and it will always be that way.”

To which Stiviano replied, “I’m a mixed girl, and you’re in love with me.  And I’m black and Mexican, whether you like it or not, whether the world accepts it or not.  And you’re asking me to remove something that’s part of me and in my bloodstream because the world thinks different of me and you’re afraid of what they’re going to think (or) see because of your upbringing?  You want me to have hate towards black people?”

Sterling replied, “Yeah, it bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people.  Do you have to? … I don’t want you to have hate.  That’s what people do, they turn things around.  I want you to love them… privately.  In your whole life, everyday, you can be with them… every single day of your life.”

Puzzled, Stiviano asked, “But not in public?”

Sterling replied, “How about your whole life, everyday, you could do whatever you want.  You can sleep with them, you can bring them in, you can do whatever you want.  The little I ask you is not to promote it on that… and not to bring them to my games.”

When Stiviano suggested that Sterling was being negative, he responded, “There is no negativity.  I love everybody.  I’m just saying, in your lousy f_ _ _ ing Instagrams, you don’t have to have yourself with, walking with black people…”

The conversation set off a firestorm of controversy in the major media, including the normally level-headed and common sense journalists of Fox News.  What no one seemed to notice in the rush to crucify Sterling was that, although his attitude toward blacks might have been a popular view among Democrats in the mid-19th century, his 1st Amendment free speech rights were being totally trashed for expressing the same views in the early 21st century.

Because the conversation was based on race, the NBA was panicked into taking immediate action.  In a New York press conference on Tuesday, April 29, Commissioner Adam Silver yielded to the law of political correctness and dropped the hammer on Sterling.

In a prepared statement, he said, “The views expressed by Mr. Sterling are deeply offensive and harmful.  That they came from an NBA owner only heightens the damage and my personal outrage.  Sentiments of this kind are contrary to the principles of inclusion and respect that form the foundation of our diverse, multi-cultural, and multi-ethnic league.

“I am personally distraught that the views expressed by Mr. Sterling came from within an institution that has historically taken such a leadership role in matters of race relations and cause former and current players, coaches, fans, and partners of the NBA to question their very association with the league…

Effective immediately, Silver imposed the following punishments on Sterling:

  • He is banned for life from any association with the Clippers organization or the NBA,
  • He is prohibited from attending any NBA games or practices,
  • He is banned from participating in any business or player personnel decisions involving the Clippers,
  • He is barred from attending NBA Board of Governors meetings or any other league activity,
  • He is required to pay a $2.5 million fine.

In addition, Silver announced that he will urge the NBA Board of Governors to exercise its authority to force a sale of the team, and that the $2.5 million fine, the maximum allowed under the NBA constitution, will be donated to organizations dedicated to anti-discrimination and tolerance efforts that will be jointly selected by the NBA and its Players Association.

Although I share none of Mr. Sterling’s feelings toward any group of people based on the color of their skin, I would defend to the death his right to feel as he does and to express those feelings, either publicly or in private conversation.

Yes, the NBA has a set of rules freely agreed to by all of the team owners.  Under those rules, it is within the power of the NBA to ban him for life from any association with the Clippers or any other NBA team; it is within the power of the NBA to ban him from any business or player personnel decisions of the Clippers; it is within the authority of the NBA to bar Sterling from attending and participating in NBA Board of Governors meetings; and it is within the power of the NBA to fine him $2.5 million for bringing discredit upon the NBA.  However, the NBA does not have the power to prohibit his attendance at NBA games.  Just as the league may not dictate what Sterling thinks or says, neither can they prohibit his freedom to buy a ticket to any sporting event of his choosing.

So far as the $2.5 million is concerned, it remains to be seen which organizations are chosen to receive a portion of those funds.  I would suggest that organizations such as the NAACP, Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, and Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow/Push organization would fail to qualify under the parameter dictated by Commissioner Silver.  None of those organizations can claim to be free of racial bias; none can lay claim to racial or political tolerance.

The fact is, I feel just as strongly about liberals and Democrats as Mr. Sterling feels about black people… perhaps moreso.  It is through the profound ignorance of Democrats and other “low information” voters that leftist radicals such as Barack Obama ascend to power, so if I had a teenage daughter and I found that she was dating a Democrat… whether an intellectually  committed socialist or a typical non-thinking, low information zombie… I would not be happy.

The damage that Sterling does by voicing his dislike of black people is inconsequential.  The only real harm it does is to tarnish his personal reputation as a highly successful entrepreneur.  But to pull the Democrat lever in election after election, in support of candidates who provide moral and political support for the likes of Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi, does real harm to the country.

What has been largely overlooked in the Donald Sterling “tempest in a teapot” is the fact that he has every right not to like black people.  Unfortunately, amidst all of the sound and fury, no one has thought to ask exactly what it is that he doesn’t like about them.

In the decades since the New Frontier and the Great Society, a great many minorities have been cynically lured beneath the smothering blanket of the welfare state… and not because liberals and Democrats give a damn about the welfare of black people.  Democrats are interested in black people only to the extent that they pull the Democrat lever on Election Day.  And what better way to keep them pulling the Democrat lever than to offer them an endless variety of “freebies” out of the federal treasury.  Unfortunately, in yielding to the irresistible temptation of the welfare state, most blacks have rejected the limitless opportunities that the capitalist system holds out to those who rely on education, hard work, good behavior, and perseverance.

In the process, liberals and Democrats have created a highly unflattering stereotype of black people in the minds of many whites.  Is it that stereotype that motivates Sterling’s attitude toward blacks?  Surely he has an answer to the question, but has anyone thought to ask him?  Certainly, if someone were to ask me what it is that I have against liberals and Democrats, I could speak for hours on the subject… then I’d have to rest for a few minutes before speaking for several more hours.

RELATED VIDEO:

[youtube]http://youtu.be/AlfFhqvW5h8[/youtube]

Spirit of Ambassador Stevens Doesn’t Want Benghazi Investigation

TPC News, Washington DC – In an effort to cooperate with Republican calls to investigate the events leading up to the attack on Benghazi, House Democrats on Thursday took the unusual step of going straight to the source of the controversy.

“Only one person can answer all their questions,” explained Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, “and though he has passed on, Ambassador Stevens can still be summoned from the beyond, and this is what we did.”

“No one whom Republicans want to investigate was actually in Benghazi as a witness. So this is nothing but a desperate attempt to win political points for the next election. When they tried to get House Democrats to participate in their grandstanding and pretend it’s anything other than political theater, we decided that enough was enough and went to the only person that could clear things up. We went to Mme. Blavatsky,” Pelosi said.

Mme_Blavatsky.jpg Mme. Blavatsky, a long time resident of Washington DC, is a trusted spiritual medium of the old school, who conducts seances by special request. With very few people outside the Beltway familiar with her name, Mme. Blavatsky is nonetheless a highly influential figure in the salons of the Democratic Party.

Though the press is rarely present at such Democratic Party events, this one warranted extensive media coverage. The invited journalists and bloggers were asked to stay behind the roped-off area in complete silence, as high-ranking House Democrats sat at a large round table holding hands, with the striking Mme. Blavatsky at its head.

“Shhh!” she said after a long silence, and called on everyone at the table to close their eyes and concentrate.

The seance went through the usual standard operating procedures (we mustn’t bore our readers with those details), and within a reasonable period of time Mme. Blavatsky was alternately speaking tongues, laughing, weeping, and gossiping with famous dead people who were idling their time in the beyond.

The trivial chatter eventually shifted to Benghazi and her wish to speak to Ambassador Stevens.

As Mme. Blavatsky went quiet, the House Democrats at the seance table became noticeably fidgety. Many opened their eyes and saw an amazing thing happen.

As if all of a sudden, a doorway to an adjoining room opened, revealing a spectral figure of a bespectacled man. He appeared old and worn, looking more like Harry Reid than Ambassador Stevens. Did Stevens wear glasses?

“I am Ambassador Stevens,” the shadowy shape said. “Why do you summon me?”

Mme. Blavatsky explained the situation.

“Benghazi?” said the spectral form in the doorway. “Please, I ask that you don’t investigate that unfortunate misunderstanding. There’s nothing to be gained. You’ll only aggravate old wounds. I know better than you, as I am a spirit, and again I ask you to stop the investigation.”

With that desperate plea from beyond, the seance seemed to be over. Mme. Blavatsky thanked the spirit for dropping in, fully expecting him to skedaddle. The high-ranking Democrats around the table seemed to expect the same thing, lowering their hands and beginning to chit-chat.

But the ethereal spirit didn’t seem to have gotten the memo.

“If you want to investigate anything,” he said, showing no intention to vanish back from whence it had come, “you should investigate those Koch brothers. I’ve been up here in heaven for a while and I’ll tell you God doesn’t like those Koch brothers. I’ve got it on good authority from up there, at the highest levels of heaven, that the Koch brothers are doing the work of the devil and that’s why they’re behind global warming. I ask from beyond the grave here: stop this right-wing Koch-fueled conspiracy about Benghazi and investigate those damn evil Koch brothers from hell! I repeat, investigate the Koch brothers!”

Just then the lights suddenly went out and security hurriedly led the assembled press corpse out of the mansion and back into the light of day with a news story, which boiled down to one sentence: Spirit of Ambassador Stevens asks the Democrats to stop investigating Benghazi and start investigating the Koch brothers.

Pop Quiz: Which of these does the Left think is an agent of “white privilege”?

During his White Islamophobia workshop at the White Privilege Conference, Amer Ahmed personally attacks Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer for their work fighting back against the radical Jihad movement in America.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/6sWu68OVeQU[/youtube]

Transcript of the above video, from Progressives Today:

We have these peddlers. These Islamophobes who make it their career now peddling hate. We have Robert Spencer… and he’s with Pamela Geller who gets access to media. It’s interesting because Muslim people are a group of people you can vilify and there isn’t an outrage. She put up these posters in subways and things like that, that say, “In the war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man.

Here is my response:

Long before the international media and Michelle Obama woke up to the evil of Boko Haram, the only people calling attention to their evil and violent actions were those of us who were accused of being “racist” for opposing jihad terror and Islamic supremacism. The ridiculousness of equating resistance to jihad terror with white privilege was epitomized recently by Hamas-linked CAIR’s Ibrahim Hooper, a blonde-haired, blue-eyed white man, lecturing Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a black Somali ex-Muslim, about her “Islamophobia.” Who was the bearer of “white privilege” in that exchange? And in general, who speaks for the black and brown victims of jihad terror? Only the people who are being charged with “white privilege.” This shows the absurdity of the entire Leftist perspective on jihad terror.

And here is Pamela Geller’s:

It is absurd to mention me and my work in the context of “white privilege,” and shows how deeply dishonest the entire “Islamophobia” initiative really is. Is it “white privilege” to speak out in defense of the victims of Boko Haram’s jihad in Nigeria? The world knows about the abducted schoolgirls, but for years I was one of the very few people who were chronicling their numerous atrocities, and defending their victims. Is it “white privilege” to stand up for the victims of the Westgate Mall jihad massacre in Nairobi? Or the Mumbai jihad massacre in India? Or the thousands of victims of the jihad in Thailand?

This is a ridiculous attempt to perpetuate the myth that opposing jihad terror is “racist.” What race is jihad terror? What race is hijacking planes and flying them into buildings? What race is abducting schoolgirls? By condemning opposition to jihad as “white privilege,” the people at the white privilege conference were aiding and abetting murder and oppression.

RELATED STORY: Wisconson taxpayers to help fund White Privilege Conference

Go Directly to Jail: The Criminalization of Almost Everything by George C. Leef

Our Legal System Poses a Grave Threat to Our Liberty.

In the gigantic theater that is American politics, one of the favorite roles for politicians to play is that of the tough guy who is determined to “crack down” on something or other. Such actions are predictably cheered by whatever voting groups the politician wants to curry favor with. An often-heard campaign line is, “Vote for me and I’ll push legislation to make it a crime to. . . .” We already have an enormous criminal code, but adding one more thing to it serves to show the voters that the pol really means business.

Like most features of our politics this mania for the criminalization of behavior is harmful. As is usual with government, the unseen problems dwarf the seen benefits. The more we criminalize conduct that voters dislike, the more we put people who never intended any wrongdoing into the quicksand of criminal prosecution. With legions of prosecutors who are more interested in making names for themselves than in doing justice, Americans are living in an increasingly dangerous country.

That’s the point of Go Directly to Jail, edited by lawyer and Cato Institute writer Gene Healy. “At one time,” he writes, “the common law doctrines of mens rea (“guilty mind”) and actus reus (“guilty act”) cabined the reach of criminal sanctions, but those protections have eroded dramatically over the past 50 years. Today it’s possible to send a person to prison without showing criminal intent or even a culpable act. . . .”

Consider this case. Edward Hanousek worked for a railroad in Alaska. One day, a backhoe operator working under his supervision accidentally ruptured an oil pipeline while removing some boulders from the tracks. Hanousek, who wasn’t even at the site of the accident, was nevertheless prosecuted for having violated the Clean Water Act, which makes it a crime if a “negligent failure to supervise” leads to any discharge that might pollute water. Hanousek was convicted for someone else’s accident. His case was appealed to the Supreme Court, which declined to review this legal abomination. Americans must now worry about criminal prosecution for all sorts of conduct that a few decades ago hardly anyone would have thought should be illegal.

The book has six chapters by different authors. Erik Luna’s “Overextending the Criminal Law” explores the unfortunate tendency for politicians to use criminal sanctions as an all-purpose tool of social control. It’s impossible to disagree with Luna’s assessment that “When the criminal sanction is used for conduct that is widely viewed as harmless . . . the moral force of the penal code is diminished, possibly to the point of near irrelevance. . . .”

In the second essay, “The New Criminal Classes: Legal Sanctions and Business Managers,” James V. DeLong observes that the spread of criminalization means that nearly anyone can fall victim to prosecution for some regulatory crime, and often the defendant finds that the law accords him a lower degree of protection for his rights than do old-fashioned criminals who rob and murder. The Fourth and Fifth Amendments have been subverted in the crusade to send people like Ed Hanousek to jail.

Legal scholar Timothy Lynch, in “Polluting Our Principles: Environmental Protection and the Bill of Rights,” shows that the incentives for environmental regulators to produce “results” (that is, convictions to prove how dedicated they are to safeguarding the environment) lead to terrible travesties of justice. The vagueness of many environmental regulations gives the enforcers almost unfettered discretion to prosecute business people. Lynch notes that individuals accused of environmental crimes are often subjected to procedures that the courts would not tolerate for normal criminal defendants. He calls it the “environmental exception to the Bill of Rights.”

Galen Institute president Grace-Marie Turner discusses criminalization in medical care, specifically, the dangerous trend toward criminal prosecution in the futile crusade against Medicare and Medicaid fraud. An especially frightening feature of the law here is that the enforcers get to keep a percentage of the fines they impose.

Editor Healy contributes a chapter on the rampant federalization of crime. To provide just one example, President Bush’s Project Safe Neighborhoods has led to a surge in federal prosecutions for illegal firearms possession. Healy writes that this law “violates the Tenth Amendment, clogs the federal courts, encourages a mindless zero tolerance policy and opens the door for every special interest group in Washington to politicize criminal justice policy.”

The book’s final chapter, again by Erik Luna, examines the nation’s sorry experience with federal sentencing guidelines, which he argues “saps moral judgment from the process of punishment.”

The U.S. is off track in many, many ways. Go Directly to Jail leaves no doubt that our legal system is careening out of control and poses a grave threat to our liberty.

ABOUT GEORGE C. LEEF

George Leef is the former book review editor of The Freeman. He is director of research at the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.

RELATED STORY: ‘She’s Just a Child’: 9-Year-Old Taken Away in Handcuffs

EDITORS NOTE: The featured photo is courtesy of FEE and Shutterstock.

4 Things You Should Know About Mass Incarceration by Daniel J. D’Amico

It’s now common knowledge: The United States is the world’s leading nation when it comes to imprisonment. With an estimated 1,570,400 inmates by the end of 2012—and an incarceration rate of 716 prisoners per 100,000 citizens—the United States holds more human beings inside cages, on net and per capita, than any other country around the globe (and throughout history). In general, we build more prisons, we spend more money on prisons, we employ more prison workers, and we utilize imprisonment for a wider variety of behaviors than anyone else.

Nations like China and Russia likely use more corporal punishment and execute more people. Removing that context from their incarceration rates might make them look less punitive than they really are. Still, it is revealing that only totalitarian regimes, past and present, are serious contenders with the “land of the free” when it comes to the business of incarceration.

Today’s total American prison population exceeds the estimated amount of citizens detained within the Gulag system under the former Soviet Union. If we include those sentenced but not yet incarcerated, as well as those released upon probation and parole, there are more young black men embroiled in the American criminal justice system than were estimated to be enslaved in America circa 1850. These statistics are not to say that the United States is totalitarian, or based on chattel labor. Instead, these numbers emphasize that, insofar as despotism requires enforcement, our own government is more than capable of imposing serious and pervasive social control.

The terms “mass imprisonment” and “mass incarceration” typically refer to the uniquely modern characteristics of the contemporary prison system, including its rapid growth and racial disparities. The United States is the archetypical case. While the recent media attention given to mass imprisonment is a step in the right direction, facets of mass incarceration still remain relatively misunderstood and unrecognized.

Here are four things those interested in free market economics and the classical liberal tradition should keep in mind when thinking critically about modern global prison trends.

1. Private prisons did not cause mass imprisonment.

Private prisons are derided for profiting off of high crime and for creating corporate incentives to foster tough punishment policies. These statements are both true and disconcerting. But private prisons don’t, by themselves, explain the origins, extent, or long-term effects of America’s mass incarceration.

For starters, there just aren’t that many private prisons as a proportion of the American total. Of the over 1.5 million inmates recorded in 2012, only 128,300 (approximately 8 percent) were held in private facilities, 96,800 of them federally as opposed to state-contracted facilities. Several other nations with significantly lower total incarceration rates utilize private contractors at higher percentages: for example, England and Wales 14 percent, Scotland at 17 percent, and Australia at 19 percent.

Private prisons do stand out, though, because the most pronounced area of prison growth has occurred at the federal level—which is where most of the privatization is concentrated.

At both the state and federal levels private prisons represent a sort of budgetary coping mechanism. With high rates of sentenced inmates, but thin budgets incapable of supporting new prisons or their labor forces, states turn to contractors as cost-saving alternatives without significant quality degradations. “Private” (read: state-contracted) prisons tend to hold specialized populations such as juvenile offenders, aging inmates with more extensive medical needs, illegal immigrants, and organized crime leaders because these groups have unique logistical needs that regular facilities can’t always accommodate. When objectively compared on a variety of performance margins, there’s almost no quality difference between public and private prisons. What matters is the quality of monitoring, accountability, and liability processes. For private firms, running afoul of those constraints often means losing contracts to alternative agencies. For public workers placed by appointment and sometimes election, though, necessary feedback can be vague and ineffective.

While for-profit prison models do appear conspicuous for creating incentives to lobby for tougher penalty regimes, the incentives that public employees face throughout the criminal justice system are not systematically different. There’s no group larger, more concentrated, or more vested in tougher penalties than the employees of service industries surrounding publicly financed and managed criminal justice institutions and penitentiaries.

2. Marijuana legalization is not a panacea.

Drug sentencing has accounted for about a third of the new American prison growth since the late 1970s. Marijuana charges produced a significant proportion of those sentences. But it does not follow that marijuana legalization or clemency would alleviate the problems associated with mass imprisonment. First, even if nonviolent marijuana violators were released, America would still be a world leader in incarceration rates and expenditures. Second, simply put, people adapt.

Marijuana legalization, without broader judicial, legislative, and or penal reform, may create new opportunities for drug production, consumption, and enforcement, thus shaping outcomes in unforeseeable ways. From the perspective of drug sellers and users, the risks of arrest and incarceration are obviously costs; but complying with formal regulations and licensure under a more legalized regime may also be costly. Higher costs means less of a behavior and visa versa. But the relevant question is whether a new, legalized regime would be perceived as a higher or lower cost for buyers and sellers than status quo prohibition. It’s difficult to predict the outcome with precision. But such a regime would differ structurally from the current one. It wouldn’t simply cut marijuana arrests out of the total number.

Take medical marijuana. People with ailments that marijuana can alleviate will benefit from a regime that allows for prescriptions rather than across-the-board prohibition. But a decriminalization regime for just marijuana will shift supply and demand in other markets. For example, current users who are underage under the new regime may end up facing more difficulty accessing weed relative to the status quo. That could lead to decreased consumption, or it could lead them to substitute other drugs. Similarly, current black-market sellers will likely face lower prices and smaller profit streams for producing and selling pot with competition from legal sellers, making other drug markets more appealing. Just as pot becomes harder for some people to get, other drugs—such as prescription painkillers or mood-altering drugs (such as Xanax)—could become more readily available.

This last point seems also bolstered by the fact that a new network of legal and regulated marijuana sellers will represent a newly concentrated and vested interest group in favor of suppressing the illegal production and distribution of marijuana. I doubt current illegal pot growers and sellers will be the same individuals awarded the privilege of growing and selling weed under legalization. If legitimate production is to be regulated, regulation will require enforcement. It could be the case that enforcement costs and complexity will grow amid marginal decriminalization.

Last, targeted legalization to individual substances without matching fiscal, legislative, and or penal constraints may simply free up enforcement resources for tougher enforcement of the remaining prohibitions. The potheads freed from prison might simply be replaced by more junkies and cokeheads and their suppliers. Hence the associated inefficiencies and social consequences of prohibition in those drug markets will likely grow, adapt, and tend toward unique and unforeseeable equilibriums.

Prohibition against the pot trade is riddled with bad incentives and inefficiency and should be addressed as such; but many of the most challenging aspects of the criminal justice system—especially mass imprisonment—seem to transcend the relatively smaller issue of illegal weed. Simply legalizing marijuana does not untangle the myriad, complex incentives that allowed for prohibitions initially or the ballooning of the War on Drugs. This tangle of incentives explains the lag between policy reform and the advent of significant public approval for legalization and decriminalization. As long as those incentives and opportunities persist, we should expect political entrepreneurs to manipulate policies and resources for private gain.

3. The problems of prison growth transcend drug prohibition.

Again, at first glance much of America’s prison growth appears to have come in lockstep with the War on Drugs. But other trends suggest drug prohibition is neither the only, nor the essential, cause of mass imprisonment. Repealing prohibition across substance types would eliminate many of the adaptive problems at play with piecemeal legalization, but that doesn’t have enough public-opinion support to make it politically viable. After all, drug prohibition came into being in part because enough of the public wanted it.

Assuming political opinion away for the moment, drug legalization still does not fully resolve the challenges of mass imprisonment. After releasing all nonviolent drug offenders, the United States would retain an extremely large and expensive prison-industrial complex, a bloated and inefficient criminal justice system, and a political process that systematically leverages the tendencies of a largely vengeful public. Instead, some theory and evidence suggests that both drug prohibition and prison growth are likely similar symptoms of broader trends surrounding governments’ power to administer violence and regulate social behaviors.

Everyone around the world criminalizes drugs. Only the United States literally fights a war on drugs, and fights it at the federal level both financially and managerially. The production, distribution, and usage of the standard list of illegal drugs (marijuana, heroine, cocaine, methamphetamines) is generally illegal everywhere on Earth (save for Portugal and Amsterdam). What sets the United States’ relationship with drugs and drug enforcement apart, however, is how we organize our legal and enforcement processes surrounding prohibition.

Crime has been a relatively local issue in most nations throughout time. Neighborhoods, counties, and other smaller jurisdictions generally finance and manage police forces, criminal court systems, and even prison construction and operation. In the United States, the war on drugs is one of several federally managed criminal enforcement strategies, along with immigration controls, homeland security, and tax enforcement. The federal government incarcerates more inmates in federal facilities than does any individual state, and its activities represent one of the largest sectors of prison expansions in recent decades. Second, if one looks at which states are most plagued by mass incarceration, it is easy to notice they are most often border states like Florida, Louisiana, Texas, and California. Those states must enforce their own laws as well as federal sanctions pertaining to drug importation and immigration.

In short, imprisonment patterns and trends lag behind policy and strategic changes. At the same time, central financing and management of the criminal justice system produces harsher prohibition regimes and sets the trend for drug policy.

4. Mass imprisonment transcends the American experience.

Contemporary prison growth has been a relatively global phenomenon. From 1997 through 2007, prison populations grew in 68 percent of nations researched around the world. Developed, Western nations have led this growth in incarceration rate. So what does this mean?

Maybe there’s something about American society that just requires more prisons. Or, given similarities in crime trends across countries, maybe the United States is simply overpaying somehow.

Or maybe the United States isn’t all that unique, considering just the countries that have experienced a proportionally similar increase in prison populations. Maybe this group of countries shares a characteristic feature that relates to imprisonment.

Recent scholarship on crime, punishment, and mass incarceration has converged upon a mild conclusion familiar to modern macroeconomists: Institutions matter. Nations with similar institutions tend to foster similar cultures, similar criminal justice regimes, and similarly sized prison populations. But the question remains: What particular institutional arrangements have contributed to the prison status quo and associated problems? And how can they be reformed?

Conclusions

Mass incarceration is not an isolated social problem to be understood devoid of context. The fiscal and quantitative trends surrounding mass imprisonment are paralleled by similar growth trends in drug enforcement, the length and complexity of the criminal code, military interventionism abroad, the adoption of militarized police equipment and tactics domestically, the governmental gathering and storage of information about citizens without warrant or consent, and several other similar trends.

The financing and administration of violent power, measured by all of these trends, has pointed to increased governmental authority. This was true throughout the twentieth century, and became especially true in recent decades. Since the beginning of the 21st century, such centralization has been mirrored throughout the size and scope of government. Hence measured estimates of economic freedom have sharply declined in recent years, particularly in America.

Various research and theories regarding the causes of crime and punishment imply that they’re predominantly shaped by unplanned and complex social factors. Adam Smith and other early writers in the classical liberal tradition believed simple prosperity was the factor most responsible for maintaining low crime rates. Broken-window theories and eyes-on-the-street models suggest these early liberals were correct. When streets are clean, well lit, and filled with commercial and civic activity, there is little opportunity for crime to occur and strong incentives for citizens to participate in the justice process. Steven Levitt infamously demonstrated a statistical correlation between abortion policies and lower violent crime rates. John Lott and Bruce Benson tend to emphasize private activity, like growing gun ownership and increased investment in the security industry.

All imply similarly that punishment policies are probably very difficult to plan strategically, effectively, or optimally. Again, such pervasive trends in the growth of government are not unique to the American context. So changes in particular policies and/or changes in partisan power are likely limited in their abilities to bring full or effective reform. For example, a candidate taking office who is opposed to marijuana prohibition is not likely to change the very real and vested incentives that have allowed the War on Drugs to escalate as it has. Mass imprisonment seems more an endemic feature of how governmental institutions are arranged and have changed throughout the modern era. To promote reform and social change regarding imprisonment will first require a sound and thorough understanding of how institutions, individual behaviors, and social processes relate.

ABOUT DANIEL J. D’AMICO

Daniel J. D’Amico is William Barnett Professor of Free Enterprise Studies and an Associate Professor of Economics at Loyola University. He writes about the intersection of Austrian Economics, Public Choice Theory and New Institutional Economics, as well as current trends in incarceration.

EDITORS NOTE: The featured photo is courtesy of FEE and Shutterstock.

An Open Letter to the Anti-Defamation League

Robert Tanen, Associate Regional Director
Anti-Defamation League, Florida

Dear Mr. Tanen:

adl director with imam

Robert Tanen (right) with Imam

Your alert about the peril of the Nazis on April 20 was brought to my attention in good time, but I was so busy alerting friends about the Muslims that I forgot. As it turned out, I was more correct than you, which is a shame, since you’re an associate regional director of the ADL, Florida, and one would expect that you would be far more informed than I.

I’ve been busy reading about all the Muslim activity against Jewish kids throughout the country, particularly on the west coast, but also in your state. (Do you know about Florida Atlantic University – FAU?) Jewish students are in danger at most colleges and universities these days, from Muslims and sympathizers, and I find the lack of reference to be unnerving.

I’m reminded of an outreach event I attended at the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage in my state, Ohio, where one of the two guest speakers was an imam – and not just “any imam,” but the director of ISNA – that’s the Islamic Society of North America. In case, you haven’t heard, ISNA is the largest Muslim organization in the US (and Canada), and it has been around since 1963. The attacks against the Jewish kids are perpetrated by the Muslim Student Association, which is under the ISNA umbrella. ISNA was one of the unindicted co-conspirators in the Holy Land Foundation terrorist-financing case, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood with ties to the terrorist Islamic Association of Palestine and Hamas. In fact, Sami Al-Arian, an assistant professor at University of South Florida, who was called a “master manipulator” by a federal judge, pleaded guilty to one count of “Conspiracy to make or receive contribution of funds, goods or services to or for the benefit of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a Specially Designated Terrorist.” (I believe he served no time but agreed to being deported.)

ISNA and this Imam, Mohamed Magid, have been providing the US Bureau of Prisons with extreme orthodox Wahhabist clerics who promote their radical political, ideological, and theological agenda; and he provides as much as 79 percent of the imam clerics for North American mosques. Aren’t you wondering why the Maltz Museum hosted this fiasco? I did.

Everything this imam said was a lie, but Islam (not Nazism) is at war with the Jews, Christians, and all non-believers of Islam, and Islamists far outnumber the Nazis. I knew to expect his rhetoric, lies and propaganda, because these are Islam’s weapons of war, at least for now. However, there’s plenty of proof that once the Muslims hit a certain percentage of the population, then they can start their riots, threats, rapes, and all-out bloodshed. The evidence is obvious in France, Sweden, Norway, Belgium, Nigeria, and … Actually, proof abounds that Islam is at war with five religions in about 40 countries.

What really bothered me most, Mr. Tanen, was the rabbi, Robert Nosanchuk of Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple. He must be getting his information from your sources. No matter what the imam said, the rabbi sat there, quietly. It appeared that he agreed that Islam and Judaism have the same God. He also sat quietly while the Imam said that Sharia law (the harshest legal system on the planet – that controls everyone’s life, torture and death) is like Kashruth – an extremely compassionate method of preparing animals for food. Jews don’t even slaughter animals the way Muslims slaughter their own citizens – their own children, in fact!

And anyone with half a brain should know that the Qur’an demands Muslims not befriend Jews or Christians, except as a method of conquest, and the rabbi just sat there, both of them discussing their 10-year-friendship. Of all the social justice issues that interest him, not once did the rabbi mention the situation of Jewish students. His compassion also didn’t reach out to women, as this was just shortly after Ayaan Hirsi Alli was disinvited from Brandeis University. I raised this question during the Q and A, and was dismissed – the rabbi looked completely in the dark. In fact, they both had a very practiced method of ignoring questions they didn’t want to answer, or they answered in such a convoluted way, that baffled everyone and foiled challenge. Believe it or not, there was a charge for this mess; I’d rather the money had been directed to victims of Islamic programming and terrorism.

Are you and Nosanchuk naive? Hoodwinked by the dishonesty in the media? I even suggest that the rabbi is at war with the Jewish people – since he does nothing of value for our people. The temple over which he presides is Reform… so he may well be affiliated with J Street. J for Jihad, I figure.

What is the ADL doing these days? Is this organization protecting anyone at all? Are you contacting the learning institutions to advise them of Islam, or remaining focused on Nazism? Have you tried speaking out against the Common Core books that are so Islamized and sexualized that our kids don’t have a chance of getting a decent education? I have reviewed several current history textbooks and they are so distorted and whitewashed, that this generation will be the least intellectually capable of dealing with the subversive threat to our country, coming from the Muslim Brotherhood, its American Islamic supporters, and the Bill Gates Progressives. But they’ll be very non-thinking, compliant workers for an increasingly tyrannical regime.

I’d welcome your comments, Mr. Tanen, if indeed the ADL is doing something of value for our people.

The Problem with the ADL Global 100 Index of Antisemitism

Global100-feature-logo-380-blue-bgAs a last hurrah for long term National  Director Abe Foxman, the ADL released findings yesterday from its Global 100 Index of Antisemitism.  The overall finding was that 26% of the more than 53,100 respondents evinced the “deep infection” of Antisemitism.  Extrapolating that figure translates to over 1.09 billion of the World’s Population.  The polling was done by a survey contractor over the period from June 2013 to February 2014 via phone and personal interviews in more than 96 languages of the respondents.  An interactive website of the Global Index 100 results by country can be found, here. The ADL news release noted the high prevalence of Antisemitism among Muslim majority countries:

Among Muslims, which comprise 22.7 percent of the world population, 49 percent harbor anti-Semitic attitudes. In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), the number of Muslims holding anti-Semitic attitudes is 75 percent.

The ADL’s survey contractor used a battery of 11 questions to ascertain responses regarding perceptions of Jews and their influence locally and globally.  The ADL News release noted the basis for the Global 100 Index and Foxman’s cherished hope for an enduring legacy:

The overall ADL Global 100 Index score represents the percentage of respondents who answered “probably true” to six or more of 11 negative stereotypes about Jews. An 11-question index has been used by ADL as a key metric in measuring anti-Semitic attitudes in the United States for the last 50 years.

“For the first time we have a real sense of how pervasive and persistent anti-Semitism is today around the world,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director.  “The data from the Global 100 Index enables us to look beyond anti-Semitic incidents and rhetoric and quantify the prevalence of anti-Semitic attitudes across the globe. We can now identify hotspots, as well as countries and regions of the world where hatred of Jews is essentially non-existent.”

However, because of the low average  sample  per country,  approximately 521,  there is a serious question of whether the data base that Foxman hoped for from the ADL Global Index results would  have enough  detail  upon which to base an  enduring legacy to aid in developing prescriptive strategies in ameliorating  Antisemitism.  Antisemitism has existed because of nativist, religious and racial strains that have persisted for more than two millennia.  This despit anniversary , as a bastion and refuge for world Jewry in the heartland of the hate filled Middle East.

The country findings confirm other independent surveys, such as those conducted by the Pew Trust in Muslim countries of persistently high presence of Antisemitism; the highest occurring in the Palestine Authority and Gaza at 93%, and more than 15 other countries in the Muslim nations of MENA.

The Pew Trust Attitude Survey  in 2005 noted the extent of virulent Antisemitism across the Muslim Ummah. It interviewed more than 330,000 respondents in more than 60 countries. Antisemitism which many believe is a product of doctrinal Islamic  hatred towards Jews:

According to the Pew Global Attitudes Project released on August 14, 2005, high percentages of the populations of six Muslim-majority countries have negative views of Jews. To a questionnaire asking respondents to give their views of members of various religions along a spectrum from “very favorable” to “very unfavorable”, 60% of Turks, 74% of Pakistanis, 76% of Indonesians, 88% of Moroccans, 99% of Lebanese Muslims and 100% of Jordanians checked either “somewhat unfavorable” or “very unfavorable” for Jews.[3]

The top Antisemitic countries/territories ranked by the ADL 100 Global Index are:

  • West Bank and Gaza – 93 percent of the adult population holds anti-Semitic views
  • Iraq – 92 percent
  • Yemen – 88 percent
  • Algeria – 87 percent
  • Libya – 87 percent
  • Tunisia – 86 percent
  • Kuwait – 82 percent
  • Bahrain – 81 percent
  • Jordan – 81 percent
  • Morocco – 80 percent

The lowest-ranked countries in terms of Antisemitism  in the ADL Global Index are:

  • Laos – 0.2 percent of the adult population holds anti-Semitic views
  • Philippines — 3 percent
  • Sweden – 4 percent
  • Netherlands – 5 percent
  • Vietnam – 6 percent
  • United Kingdom – 8 percent
  • United States – 9 percent
  • Denmark – 9 percent
  • Tanzania – 12 percent
  • Thailand – 13 percent

However,   there is a problem. The ADL Global 100 Index didn’t address the matter of hatred of Israel, other than the dual loyalty question.   19th and 20thCentury Antisemitism was  evident  in  the Czarist Forgery , The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and earlier the anti-Dreyfusard  French Anti-Semitic political  Publication, La Libre Parole .  They  portrayed Jews as a controlling octopus of influence in international finance, culture and   governments. This, plus racial strains characterizing  Jews as sub-human,  paved the way for Hitler’s Final Solution that resulted in the murder of Six Million Jewish Men, Women and Children in the Holocaust.  The ADL Global 100 Index found that slightly more than half (54 percent) of survey respondents had heard of the Holocaust.  A fore telling that when the last survivors are gone, so will the World’s institutional memory of this genocide committed by the Nazis against European Jews.

The missing question(s) in the ADL Global 100 might have changed the results for respondents in Europe who ironically now consider Israel as the moral equivalent of Nazis for “oppression, and occupation” of the people in the disputed territories, the Palestinians.

What this ADL Index lacks are questions on anti-Israelism that the former chairman of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld, used to derive the extent of European Antisemitism.   His estimate was that fully 150 million Europeans in the EU countries harbor such anti-Israelism/ Anti-Semitic opinions. Opinions that verge on moral inversion: i.e., buying into the Palestinian meta narrative that Israel is the new Nazi state.   Where Israel was once David, it is now perceived as Goliath fighting the Palestinian David.  If the ADL Global 100 Index had posed the anti-Israel questions used by Gerstenfeld in developing his estimate the results for European counties may have been dramatically different. See our NER review of  Demonizing Israel and the Jews by Gerstenfeld.

When we interviewed Gerstenfeld in the  September 2013 NER, Anti-Israelism is Anti-Semitism,  he responded:

Gordon:  How did you arrive at the number 150 million?

Gerstenfeld:  I culled data from four surveys in which people were asked in nine European countries as to whether they agreed with the statement, “Israel is conducting a war of extermination against the Palestinians,” or alternatively, that Israel was behaving toward the Palestinians like the Nazis did toward the Jews.

Those who answered in the affirmative have deeply anti-Semitic views. In seven EU countries, the lowest responses to the first question were in Italy and the Netherlands – around 38% to 39%. Poland’s response was the highest at 63%. In the U.K, Hungary, Germany and Portugal, responses ranged from 40 to 49%. I then did a simple calculation based on the percentage of people 16 years and older in the European Union.  Broadly speaking 80% of about 500 million citizens in the EU are 16 years old or over. There are thus an estimated 400 million ‘adult’ Europeans. I applied a conservative estimate based on the lowest country response to the question about Israel exterminating the Palestinians which was 38%, to the 400 million adult Europeans. That is how I arrived at an estimate of 150 million.

When we noticed single digit responses in the ADL Global 100 survey results for some of the problematic European countries cited by Gerstenfeld, we had in mind his further response in our interview:

Gordon:  Why is anti-Israelism equated with anti-Semitism?

Gerstenfeld:  Hate-mongering by Muslims and others employs the same motifs that Medieval Christians and Nazi hate mongers used. The claim that Israel is exterminating the Palestinians is slanderous because the Palestinian population has only increased in past decades. Palestinian children and babies are cared for in Israeli hospitals. Palestinian patients are treated in Israeli hospitals and so on.

The anti-Israel hate mongers who claim that Israel harvests the organs of Palestinians are promoting a modern mutation of the anti-Semitic blood libel which was invented in England in the 12th century. There are demonizing anti-Semitic statements emanating from the Muslim world claiming that Jews are “descendents of apes and pigs.” This animalization of the Jewish people comes out of the Quran. One problem is that there are so few anti-Semitism scholars in the world that these things have not been properly exposed in great detail. There is no doubt that anti-Israelism is a third major type of anti-Semitism, like religious and ethnic/nationalistic anti-Semitisms were major types. This anti-Israelism has permeated the mainstream in several European countries. We find it for instance in many Socialist or Labor parties, including those in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, The Netherlands and Belgium.

Gerstenfield’s assessment is confirmed in independent surveys in European countries. Note the results of this Belgian survey of high school students reported in June 2013:

A major survey among Belgian teenagers indicated anti-Semitism was seven times more prevalent among Muslim youths than in non-Muslim teenagers.

Conducted in recent months by three universities for the Flemish government, the survey was published last month based on questionnaires filled out by 3,867 high school students in Antwerp and Ghent, including 1,068 Muslims.

Among Muslims, 50.9 percent of respondents agreed with the statement “Jews foment war and blame others for it” compared to only 7.1 percent among non-Muslims. Among Muslims, 24.5 percent said they partially agreed with the statement, as did 20.6 percent of non-Muslims.

The statement “Jews seek to control everything” received a 45.1 approval rating among Muslims compared to 10.8 approval among non-Muslims. Of Muslims, 27.9 percent said they partially agreed, as did 29.2 percent of non-Muslims.

About 35 percent of Muslims agreed with the statement that “Jews have too much clout in Belgium” compared to 11.8 percent of non-Muslimswho participated in the “Young in Antwerp and Ghent” survey. The results were part of a 360-page report which was produced for the Flemish government’s Youth Research Platform by the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Ghent University and Vrije Universiteit Brussel.

The problem with the ADL Global 100 survey is compounded by translation and differential responses to questions about Jews in countries where there is little presence or exposure, e.g., Laos.  Then there are the responses in Poland, Lithuania, Hungary, Greece and the Ukraine to survey questions regarding a Jewish population virtually destroyed during the Shoah.  Lingering historical  Antisemitism persists in these Eastern European  countries and Greece driving  their responses.

The Global ADL 100 index results masks the independent European responses from both the Gerstenfeld  and independent  analysis that found that Muslim émigrés had upwards of 8 times the Antisemitic responses  of  non-Muslim residents .  Responses from the PA, Gaza and Arab countries in the Middle East and North Africa uniformly reflect the hateful Islamic doctrine of Majority muslim MENA countries who  over 60 years ago drove out their “Saturday people”  Mizrahi and Megrabi  Jews. The MENA countries are presently forcing the expulsion of the indigenous “Sunday people”, the original Christian residents before the onslaught of Jihad 14 centuries ago.  There is the except in MENA. The stunning response in the ADL Global 100 Index that Iranians appear not to be inclined to follow the theocratic Antisemitism hatred of the Shiite Mullahs.  Having spoken with Iranian émigrés here in the US, they had 2,700 years of living in comity with Jews.  This despite the horrible period from the 16th to the 20th Century under the Safayid Empire and the Shiite mullahs. It was only in the 20th Century under the Pahlavi dynasty that indigenous Jews and Persian women flourished as did trade with Israel. That ended with the Islamic Revolution of 1979 that ended liberty for all Iranians. The largest listener audience for Israel’s Farsi language service today is Iranians.

Finally, there is the famous assessment about surveys and polls by that great fictional sociologist, Humpty Dumpty who had this famous exchange with Alice inThrough the Looking Glass:

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”
“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.”

Thus in the context of the ADL Global  100  Index, contrast the questions about perceptions of Jews  based on  the current US  Index versus those chosen by Gerstenfeld for analysis of Anti-Israelism as Anti-Semitism.  What is the careworn expression about polls and surveys?  You only get responses to the questions you choose to ask. Even then, because of differential negative perceptions of Jews, real or fantasized, you end up with the results reported by Abe Foxman and his team of pollsters.  The ADL Global 100 Index results may not comprehensively identify the roiling problems of Muslim and nativist Antisemitism globally and in the West.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on The New English Review. The featured photo is of graffito in a restroom at the University of Chicago courtesy of The Coffee Shop Rabbi.

Surviving Obama

In many ways, the November midterm elections are about surviving Barack Hussein Obama, the worst President this nation has ever had the misfortune to electing to that high office. His approval rating hovers around 47% and that means that nearly half of the likely voters still think he’s doing a great job.

If history is any guide, Democrats tend to not turn out in large numbers for midterm elections and we can only hope this holds true. Among Republicans, the TEA Party movement has pushed their candidates, incumbents and aspirants, to the right and that is a good thing. We have had our fill of RINOs (Republicans in Name Only).

In a recent La Jolla, California fund-raiser President Obama told the assembled Democrats, all members of the one percent wealthy enough to ante up to $65,000 per-plate to attend, that he thought Americans had developed the “wrongheaded” view that Washington wasn’t looking out for them and blamed conservatives who, he said, told people they’re “on their own.”

Was he including the millions on food stamps? And the millions on Medicaid? Others receiving college loans? Those receiving help paying their mortgage? Those using a free cell phone? Surely he wasn’t including those on Social Security. The benefits of Medicare have been reduced because its funding was cut by billions to fund Obamacare.

Obama blamed Republicans for the plight of the Middle Class, but we know that, other than telling lies, Obama excels at blaming everyone other than himself for the horrid economy that is struggling to recover after six years of his hand on the tiller.

And, please, let’s not mention the $17 trillion in debt he’s managed to run up in the process of wasting billions of taxpayer dollars on everything from his ill-fated “stimulus” to his “investments” in Green energy firms while delaying the Keystone XL pipeline that will generate jobs and revenue without costing taxpayers a dime.

That debt is going to have to be paid by ours and the next generation, but right now his job is to convince more Americans they are suffering from “income inequality.” And, yes, the federal government stands ready to redistribute the money from taxpayers to those who Nancy Pelosi has said should be grateful they don’t have a job so they can devote themselves to their hobbies.

This is the same President who just unleashed yet another report on the climate filled with various doomsday scenarios. Previous reports called “assessments”, largely drawn from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, were devoted to “global warming” until it became apparent to everyone that the planet was not warming thanks to a 17 year old cooling cycle that is still in play.

So “global warming” became “climate change” and now it is “climate disruption” because we all know how disruptive hurricanes, blizzards, tornadoes, forest fires, and droughts can be or how a rainstorm can spoil a picnic. The weather somewhere is always “disruptive.”

And this just tells you how stupid he thinks most Americans—at least those who still support him—are.

There is a slice of the population who most certainly are stupid. They are called the media and they are the same people who devoted the last six years to ignoring the scandals that keep popping up in an administration more devoted to crushing its political opposition and free speech than to solving the problems of the economy or responding to those it has encountered on foreign shores.

Obama’s solution has been to abandon the rest of the world as much as possible to a point where he is widely regarded by its leaders as spineless and/or totally unreliable. His recent appearance at the White House Correspondent’s annual bash was testimony to their blind love with the exception of those from the Fox News channel whom he referred to, tongue in cheek, as “a shadowy right wing organization.” Well, we hope it was tongue in cheek.

As for Obamacare, the Heritage Foundation recently noted:

  • Obama is backtracking for now on the enforcement of the individual mandate to buy insurance.
  • Obamacare’s higher taxes and its subsidies that drop off if you increase your income are a disincentive to work hard to improve your situation.
  • The employer mandate imposes new costs on businesses that undercut jobs and wages. It has been illegally and unilaterally delayed until after the midterm elections.
  • The Foundation found that, between 2013 and 2014, the number of insurers offering coverage on the individual markets in all fifty states has declined by 29 percent.
  • Obamacare guarantees major premium increases for single and family coverage.
  • Obamacare’s Medicare changes will result in reduced benefits and threaten senior’s access to care.

And that’s just a few of Obamacare’s negative impacts on everyone’s earnings—if they have a job; 92 million no longer do—and on the increased premiums they are required to pay. Three quarters of those that signed up for new coverage are those who had plans that were cancelled!

Surviving Barack Hussein Obama has become the number one priority for all Americans and for the nation.

© Alan Caruba, 2014

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Czech Book Dusting off Tucker (Benjamin, not Jeffrey) by Lawrence W. Reed

The literature of liberty, free markets, and individualism is immensely rich and getting richer with each passing year. Today’s great minds are building on yesterday’s greats. Taken as a whole, liberty’s library constitutes a most incredible collection of inspiration and insight into the boundless potential of human society. The only sad thing about it all is the extent to which those of an anti-liberty, statist perspective won’t tell their acolytes about it. Have you ever noticed how well “our side” knows Marx and Keynes while those on the other only think they know Hayek, Mises, Friedman, or even Smith?

Among the great thinkers of barely a century ago was Benjamin Ricketson Tucker. Critic of corporate welfare and a welfare state of any kind, Tucker edited and published a remarkable journal called Libertyfrom 1881 to 1908. It featured the bylines of many other great minds as well. Tucker was a fascinating advocate of “individualist anarchism,” which he also called “unterrified Jeffersonianism.”

In September 2013, the Foundation for Economic Education cosponsored a conference in the Czech Republic. Our partner in the effort was CEVRO, a private college in Prague devoted to advancing liberty ideas. Among the students in attendance was Lukáš Nikodym. He approached me afterward with a project he and his brother Tomas were contemplating: an online book of selected articles from Tucker’s old journal. “Will you write the foreword?” Lukáš asked. I hesitated not a second.

The book is now available, and I commend it to our readers, along with these related materials:

  1. The Individualist Anarchists: An Anthology of Liberty” (1881-1908)” by Greg Pavlik
  2. Forgotten Critic of Corporatism” by Sheldon Richman
  3. Liberty Fund’s Online Library of Liberty

Download fileDownload the PDF here

20130918_larryreedauthorABOUT LAWRENCE W. REED

Lawrence W. (“Larry”) Reed became president of FEE in 2008 after serving as chairman of its board of trustees in the 1990s and both writing and speaking for FEE since the late 1970s. Prior to becoming FEE’s president, he served for 20 years as president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy in Midland, Michigan. He also taught economics full-time from 1977 to 1984 at Northwood University in Michigan and chaired its department of economics from 1982 to 1984.

#DoNotRidiculeHashTagDiplomacy

It has come to my attention that #hastagdiplomacy is being actively ridiculed and parodied by right wing, knuckle dragging, Busheois TEA Party neanderthals. Well, this time the joke’s on them.

For a larger view click on the image.

That’s right, #hashtagdiplomacy has a proud history in America and it gets results. For example, this picture of General MacArthur looking concerned after being ordered to leave the Philippines was crucial in pushing the Japanese out of their conquered Pacific territories.

In fact, Emperor Hirohito later said that he was so moved by the picture he couldn’t bear to allow Hideki Tojo to prosecute a war against a people who showed such sensitivity and caring.

“This hashtag sign plus the deployment of two colorful awareness ribbons in August of 1945 convinced me it was time not only to surrender, but to publicly deny my divinity,” said the former emperor in an interview in 1988.

There you have it, comrades, history is on our side.

They ridiculed Reagan for SDI and “Tear down this wall,” and today the same forces opposed to progress ridicule Dear Leader and the State Department. They were wrong about Reagan and history will prove they’re wrong about #hashtagdiplomacy.

Chins up, comrades, and keep a cheery outlook knowing that Dear First Lady will be vindicated!

Kevin Durant: ‘MVP’ Son

Donald Sterling’s racist rant about Blacks last month put a huge amount of focus on professional athletes. Many sports writers and fans have labeled today’s athletes as spoiled, ungrateful, prima donnas who have no appreciation for those who came before them.

You can count me in this group. But, if what I have been seeing over the past two weeks continue, I may become a believer in the fledgling view that some athletes are beginning to “get it.”

First, NBA players made it clear to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver that they would boycott playoff games if Sterling was not banned from the game. The players won. Sterling was not only permanently banned from the NBA, but the league is in the process of forcing him to sell his NBA franchise.

For those who need more convincing that some professional athletes are beginning to “get it;” one need look no further than newly crowned MVP of the NBA, Kevin Durant.

His acceptance speech given last week during the presentation of the award will go down as one of the best speeches ever given by a professional athlete. Watch the speech in it’s entirely:

[youtube]http://youtu.be/kxVAOoQeNJ8[/youtube]

What manner of man is Kevin Durant that he was moved to give such a wonderful speech? He called each of his teammates by name and made a personal comment about each; and ended by giving his mother the best Mother’s Day gift possible. The above video speaks for itself.

The video immediately went viral and has continued to be discussed inside and outside of sports. But, in watching Durant’s impassioned speech, I could not help but notice an alarming fact that I have yet to hear any discussion of regarding his comments—his beginning and ending of his speech.

In the media and on various blogs, I have yet to see one mention of Durant’s public confession of his Christianity. Here is how he opened his speech, “First off, I would like to thank God for changing my life…for letting me realize what life is really all about…basketball is just a platform in order for me to inspire people and I realize that…”

He then closed his speech by saying, “last, I just like to thank God again…he’s the first and the last, alpha and omega. I thank you for saving my life.”

Talking about Durant’s speech without mentioning the role of God in his life is like having a hamburger without the bun; it’s simply just a piece of meat that is not complete. You know as well as I that if Durant had opened and closed his speech with him talking about being homosexual, it would be the lead headline of his whole speech. But because he talked about his belief in God, the media made a conscious decision to pretend it was never mentioned.

This is Exhibit A in the continued secularization of our society. Durant, by all accounts, is a great person on and off the court. He conducts himself in a manner that brings honor to his parents, the NBA, and society at large; and also is an avowed God fearing Christian.

Durant’s mother, Wanda Pratt, instilled these Christian values in him and his brother, Tony. As a single parent, she raised them as if she were a drill sergeant. She didn’t give them choices, but rather gave them direction. She took them to church, not asked if they wanted to go. She protected them with the shadow of her moral values and Christian beliefs. Christian values doesn’t stop you from doing wrong, it just stops you from enjoying doing wrong.

Talking about Kevin Durant without acknowledging his Christian values is like talking about Richard Nixon without discussing Watergate; or Nelson Mandela without discussing Apartheid; it would be an incomplete account of who they were. So, as we Christians celebrate the shining example of Durant’s life, let us not allow the media to edit out the essence of who Durant is — a God fearing Christian.

This is not about proselytizing or “wearing one’s Christianity on their sleeve;” but rather about telling the whole story of who a person is. Homosexual athletes receive praise from on high from the media and politicians when they come out of the closet; they argue that these athletes should not have to hide who they are.

So, why then should Christian athletes who come out as Christians not receive the same accolades from the media and politicians? Why should they hide who they are: The media, with their reporting, has truly shown who they are.

EDITORS NOTE: The featured photo of Kevin Durant (35) defended by James Harden at the Drew-Goodman game in August 2011 is by Game Face. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

Second-Banana Blues: Veep, cringe comedy, and laughing at Washington so you don’t cry by Michael Nolan

Political beliefs are great at ruining dinners, holidays, and family gatherings. In the Washington, D.C., of TV show Veep, they can ruin your career. And even at best, they—to say nothing of a conscience—are irrelevant.

The show’s creator, Armando Iannucci, doesn’t waste our time with fraught meditations on whether itshould be this way. Just keeping up with how it is occupies more than enough time and throws out more than enough opportunities for comedy. This is why he’s playing a different—and better—game than nearly every other fictionalizer of our Bizarro Olympus.

In this version of D.C., the meaning of whatever anyone does or says is determined after the fact, by the context it meets and how it affects the pursuit of and will to power. And it is always subject to revision. That is to say, almost all of the characters (crucially, though, not 100 percent) seem to have literally no selves inside their suits; they are the servants of power, the chief (maybe the only) virtue here.

So far, so what? Literally every show and movie about Washington makes this point. Veep stands out, especially among the power porn that generally defines Washington shows and movies, for using power as a setup for slapstick. And then Veep plays it deadpan, letting bits and jokes build on each other in the same way that every faux pas and errant bit of candor quickly metastasizes until it feels like Godzilla is marching up the Potomac.

That’s not to say, for all the His Girl Friday verbal ping-pong, that everything here is harmless and goofy. Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s Selina Meyer—the veep in question—generally winds up as the butt of every joke. Or at least the big ones, played by fate. When she declares occasionally that “I am the Vice President of theUnited States of America,” it sounds even more like a punchline than pulling rank inherently does anyway. But everyone has to clam up when she says that, particularly those who spend all day feverishly tending an image that not even Selina remotely buys. There are stakes. And for all the foibles, Selina can and will—like anyone with enough rank—destroy you. The threat of destruction and the promise of one day wielding that power drives everything else, from everyone else. You laugh because otherwise the horror is unbearable.

And it also appears to be inescapable, even setting aside that nearly every character here makes his or her own life miserable (or worth living—being a perverse bunch, I doubt even they can tell the difference) as a matter of choice. They all choose to live in and accept the terms of this world. If they didn’t, there’d always be plenty of others willing to take their places, even at the bottom of the totem pole, where all the whippings are handed out.

For example, one of Selina’s nemeses, an Ohio senator named Roger Furlong (played by Dan Bakkedahl, simultaneously starring in FXX’s Legit as an entirely different, half-decent kind of schmuck), manages to be as blatantly moronic as he is loathesome, and almost more vulgar than anyone else. And he relies entirely on his personal aide to complete most of his obscene neologisms, particularly when he wishes to insult said aide. That guy takes it and completes the punchlines. The fact that they’re usually still pretty ham-handed and almost always unwarranted actually adds to the hilarity. Though be forewarned: This isn’t the belly-laugh kind of hilarity; it’s closer to a near-desperate hysteria.

Point being, neither of these guys has to be here, even if Furlong—like everyone else on top—is the one who looks like he’s no good for anything else.

You Don’t Have to Be Awful to Work Here, but It Helps

This point matters, because it limits the amount of sympathy you can extend to any member of the cast. It’s a reminder that everyone here is getting something out of all of this, so how bad can their suffering really be?

The insularity of the Washington depicted here allows the show to keep its focus on relative merit rather than straying into the weeds of broad moral profundity. Expecting this out of people who want careers in politics is what got us here in the first place, after all. Nobody’s “good,” and it’s not clear that “bad” matters here, either. When someone from (more or less) outside this world pops up and says, “You people are monsters,” there’s a pause in which you can more or less see the thought bubbles above everyone else’s heads: Monsters? This guy thinks that matters?

I don’t think for a second that anyone on the show meant that “monsters” comment as an applause line. I don’t even really think it’s a punchline. It’s one of the occasional whiffs of real life that throws this world’s insanity into sharp relief.

What’s more, I was thinking the same thing as the other characters, and it was uncomfortable to realize. But I couldn’t help chuckling in admiration that the writers and cast had made me one of them.

And some people still don’t think of comedy as art.

Probably my favorite line thus far comes near the end of the second season. The context doesn’t really matter; just get a load of this: “There’s going to be difficult choices to make, like Sophie’s Choice choices, except more important because they’re gonna be about me,” Selina tells an aide. That line nearly knocked me out my chair. The way Louis-Dreyfus delivers it—and the way everyone else doesn’t react to it—is why they get to be actors and the rest of us don’t.

That line would be, if someone really meant it, a pretty lousy thing to say and a worse thing to believe. But it’s often a mistake to assume a one-to-one relationship between what’s said and what’s meant; here, italways is. At their least cringe-worthy, these kinds of lines come across as a kind of ritual commiseration, like smart, articulate, harried people handing off a gag gift that’s been making the rounds for decades, but putting a creative, novel touch to the wrapping first. At their worst, they’re unprintable here, but usually still also funny. In every case, they’re transgressive in at least one way. Sooner or later, whoever you are, they’re going to find one that steps on your toes, too.

Mr. Snark Goes to Washington

What I’m grateful for is that show brings cringe comedy into Washington. Veep doesn’t really belong in the same category as shows like Scandal or House of Cards, or even the long-suffering, martyred, back-patting that’s made Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert into, essentially, one-trick ponies (I mean, that’s not a fatal flaw—AC/DC and the Ramones are both one-trick ponies, too). That inures it from the unseemly power-fetishization that drips from everything you hear about the Underwoods.

But cringe comedy—the domain of Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, which includes the principality of Larry David—usually has a longevity problem. No matter how brilliantly it’s written, directed, and acted, it gets exhausting if it plays only that note. Even after it stopped just remaking UK episodes with different accents, the U.S. version of The Office remained inferior to the original for much the same reason it was able to earn a far longer run: the probably crazy but also probably crucial belief that everyone’s fundamental decency means things will—and should—work out okay for them in the end. David and company figured out a better way around the cringe problem starting with the second season of Curb Your Enthusiasm. Merchant’s current project, Hello, Ladies, hasn’t yet, so you barely get a chance to enjoy it before you have to turn away.

Veep has come up with a solution to this problem that’s entirely its own. Maybe it’s the sheer strength of the ensemble cast. Maybe it’s the occasional reminders that there are real stakes here and at least some of the characters are aware of them (Selina seems genuinely shaken when a hostage-rescue mission she gave the green light to mainly for political capital costs a soldier his leg). Or maybe it’s the sense of a vast, chaotic complexity within nearly all of the characters: When Selina’s daughter shows up and calls bullshit, Selina works her like any other opponent. When her daughter just wants a mother, you can all but see Selina calculating how to “win” this situation in one eye while, in the other, a donnybrook rages between her conflicted desires, a suspicion she might not be up to it, and something that looks a lot like guilt—and the ever-present need to deal with the current crisis. She always manages to disappoint, Selina does. But always in a new way.

Or maybe it’s just that nobody ever wins or really seems to lose, either. The show doesn’t fall into the trap of imagining a fantasy Washington where justice is served and the world is set right again. That said, for all that Veep’s world suits my biases just fine, it does feel from time to time like it’s trotting out one inside joke after another, mainly just showing the types that plague Washington—but that even the creators ultimately find worth putting up with. Or maybe real Washington people are more types than people anyway. This show won’t really help you sort it out.

If it was shooting for sheer realism, that might be a problem. But it would also dilute the comedy. It’s better this way, where power hovers and looms, but never truly alights. It’s as if everyone had the exact same floater in their eyes; the more they try to focus on it, the more elusive it becomes. But as far as they’re concerned, there’s nothing else worth looking at.

ABOUT MICHAEL NOLAN

Michael Nolan is the managing editor of The Freeman.

Looking Beyond Donald Sterling

By now, everyone knows the story of Los Angeles Clipper’s owner, Donald Sterling’s banishment from the National Basketball Association (NBA) for his racist comments captured on audio tape last month. What Sterling said was totally stupid and insulting. Period! I don’t think there is any disagreement from anyone on that issue.

In the past, I have been very critical of professional athletes for their unwillingness to take a public stand on any controversial issues. You can argue whether the NBA players were aggressive enough in their protests, but at least they did protest. The Sterling issue was so bizarre that even Michael Jordan publically denounced him. You’re talking about miracles!

For a generation of athletes who have no idea what real sacrifice is all about, they made me proud. Yes, they know about sacrifice relative to playing their sport (playing through pain and injury); but they have yet to show a willingness to give up their sport, even temporarily, to take a principled stand on anything – until now.

When I think of professional athletes taking a principled stand in sports, I think of people such as Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, Tommie Smith, John Carlos, Curt Flood, or Spencer Haywood.

So, to find out that these NBA players told the commissioner of the NBA in no uncertain terms that they were prepared not to play in their upcoming playoff games if Sterling were not permanently banned from the game and he was barred from ongoing ownership of the Clippers; this, indeed, was a historic moment for today’s athlete.

This Sterling situation was about racism, bigotry, and hate; no question about it. Relative to the Black community, there is an issue being overlooked: An alarming rise in the number of people and organizations who have contracted laryngitis when it comes to issues of racism, bigotry, and fairness involving the Black community. But like fools, many in the Black community take up the cause of every other group as their own and then get absolutely no reciprocity when Blacks are treated unfairly.

The Human Rights Campaign is supposed to be the homosexual version of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)—standing up for the equal and fair treatment of those who are homosexual. The National Council of La Raza is supposed to be the Hispanic version of the NAACP—fighting for the equal and fair treatment of Latinos. The National Organization of Women (NOW)—is the largest organization of feminist activists in the U.S. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU)—an organization of 2.1 million members united by the belief in the dignity and worth of workers and the services they provide and dedicated to improving the lives of workers and their families and creating a more just and humane society.

I went to each of these groups’ websites and none had issued one statement regarding the Sterling issue since it first broke. Not one word, not one sentence. Yet, liberal Black groups such as the NAACP lose their minds when someone says something considered insulting to homosexuals; or against amnesty for illegals; something deemed misogynistic towards women; or in opposition to increasing the minimum wage.

In fact, many of these Blacks spend more time supporting amnesty for illegals than they do issues devastating the Black community, like double digit unemployment. Black women constantly take on the battle for affirmative action for white women who are the biggest beneficiary of the program. Many of the workers at sports stadiums are Black and also members of SEIU.

All these groups claim to stand for fairness and equality for all, but somehow they never seem to be able to verbalize any support when the Black community is treated unfairly.

What Sterling said was an affront to all Americans, not just Blacks. If these groups hold themselves out to be the moral beacon of America; how then can they selectively show moral outrage when bigotry and racism rears its ugly head?

This type of behavior from other groups towards Blacks has been a consistent occurrence; and the main reason is weak leadership within the Black community.

These groups all know that these media appointed Black leaders will carry their water for them and will never ask or demand anything in return. These groups, with their words, claim to be in solidarity with the Black community; but with their actions, they show that they have little regard for the Black community. The only difference between them and Donald Sterling is that Sterling at least was man enough to say how he felt.

RELATED STORY: Tim Tebow Mocked While Michael Sam Praised

EDITORS NOTE: The featured photo is by Arnaud Klamecki from Lille, France. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

Explicit Lyrics: How the music crusaders of the 80s and 90s lost to the Internet by Chris Kjorness

Recently, artist and researcher Nickolay Lamm released a collection of graphs charting changes in pop song lyrics. These images reveal what many critics of contemporary culture have been saying for years: Popular music has become increasingly crass. Maybe this shift is the handiwork of the usual suspects—greedy corporations, say, or an increasingly godless society. But it’s just as likely an unintended consequence of the kind of political scheming you’d expect more out of TV dramas than out of real life.

In the early 1980s, Tipper Gore, wife of then-Tennessee senator Al Gore, was on a mission. Outraged after overhearing her daughter listening to the Prince song “Darling Nikki,” she took it upon herself to do something about the state of pop music. It resembles a storyline from House of Cards: Claire Underwood had the Clean Water Initiative and her campaign against sexual assault in the military; Tipper Gore had the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC), a group of Beltway wives dedicated to preserving the moral integrity of the nation’s children through a national media campaign designed to educate the public about the prevalence of explicit content in rock music. Her husband, a democrat representing one the  most religiously conservative states in the country, had his eyes on a 1988 run for the presidency. Senator Gore was therefore more than happy to accommodate his wife’s family-values crusade.

But the PMRC’s mission went beyond mere education; the organization also sought to re-establish control of children’s cultural environment through stricter regulation of music packaging and retail display. The group hoped that political pressure would compel the Recording Industry Association of America (a trade organization whose members produced more than 85 percent of available records at the time) to take these steps voluntarily.

This incident was not the first time that the record industry had been lobbied to better police raunchy lyrics. Religious groups had been staging protests, writing letters, and burning records since Elvis first shook his hips on the Ed Sullivan Show. And artists and entertainers had been fighting obscenity charges for live performances and records for decades. But suing artists and record companies proved ineffective. To be judged obscene, a work had not only to be offensive but deemed lacking “serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.” A more common strategy for those wishing to clean up music was to push for laws that limited children’s access to questionable material, both through a rating system, similar to the one used by the Motion Picture Association of America, and through restrictions on the placement of certain albums at major retailers.

While record labels bristled at the notion of censorship, most of them carefully monitored and crafted their content to appeal to the broadest audience possible. For example, the first commercial rap record, The Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight,” released in 1979, sounds rather wholesome compared even to recordings of the first live hip-hop performances from 1977 and 1978, let alone the gangster rap that caused a stir in the 1990s.

While the labels could ignore the threats of a few random fanatic groups, the PMRC represented something far more intimidating: the United States Senate, which could back up its threats with regulations.

But Congress could protect the industry, as well as regulate it—at least for a while. In the early ’80s, analog dubbed cassettes were eating into record-industry profits, and with Sony developing a digital audio recorder for commercial release, industry executives were looking to hedge their risks through a federal tax on all blank audio cassettes and cassette recording equipment. Not only would the tax increase the cost of home recording, the proceeds of the tax would be given to record producers and artists.

In the meantime, the PMRC was getting its way. The centerpiece of its campaign was the September 19, 1985, congressional hearings before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation on the vital matter of “porn rock.” During the hearings, senators passive-aggressively questioned artists ranging from hair metal singer Dee Snider to folk singer John Denver, suggesting something needed to be done—and that it would be a shame for the government to have to do it. One of the stars of the hearings ended up being Frank Zappa, who vigorously questioned the purported “education, not legislation” agenda of the hearings.

In all truth, the hearings were not aimed at legislation. Prior to the hearings the RIAA agreed to label cassettes and albums with explicit lyrics, as the PMRC had recommended, making the proceedings little more than political theater designed to show that the senators involved were in line with the rising tide of 1980s social conservatism.

Early implementations of music labeling were inconsistent. Labels and artists not only decided what material to label, but what the label in question would say, making the warning label a new medium for expression. For example, the warning label on rapper Ice T’s The Iceberg/Freedom of Speech . . . Just Watch What You Say (1989) read in part, “Parents Strongly Cautioned: Some material may be X-tra hype and inappropriate for squares and suckers.” While proponents of music labeling had called for labeled records and cassettes to be confined to separate rooms in music stores, rooms in which customers would have to show ID before entering, the voluntary labeling of records placed no obligation on the retailer—although many, most notably Walmart, chose not to carry albums with parental advisory labels.

By 1990, a uniform sticker had emerged. Record companies’ concerns that the labeled records would suffer at the cash register proved unwarranted. In an industry that placed a premium on rebelliousness, the warning sticker became a badge of honor among musicians and their teenage fans. The long-held American popular music tradition of coding racy material in symbols and double entendres gave way to overt crassness. Even artists who had largely steered clear of controversy in the past, like Michael Jackson, found themselves purposefully cultivating controversy to remain relevant.

If the PMRC’s aim was to convince the music industry to clean up its act by threatening record labels’ profits, it failed miserably. Not only was the music industry raking in huge profits selling teenagers music more provocative than the Prince song that led to the creation of the PMRC in the first place, but record executives got their music-dubbing tax as well.

The labeling kerfuffle and recording tax were inextricably linked: Hearings on the tax followed the “porn rock” hearings by a couple weeks. The following year, John Danforth (R-Miss.), who had chaired the “porn rock” hearings, proposed a 35 percent tariff on digital recorders sold without an anti-recording chip. Al Gore proposed a similar tax the year after that. Gore’s act was defeated. The industry finally got what it wanted with the Audio Home Recording Act of 1992, which included a tax on all digital recorders, the proceeds of which were filtered back into the record industry.

Songs still needed radio airplay and video plays on MTV, both of which still fell under the FCC’s decency guidelines. Fortunately for record producers, digital recording and editing had significantly lowered the cost of creating multiple versions of a song. Record labels that had once self-censored to reach the broadest possible audience developed an alternative, two-track song model: an explicit version for the album and a cleaned-up one for the radio, allowing artists like Dr. Dre to insult the moral sensibilities of just about anyone while simultaneously getting Top 40 airplay. And it all came from a convenient quid pro quo between an industry looking for favorable treatment and an ambitious politician and his wife.

The music market landscape is very different in the Internet age. Those seeking to rein in raunchy music in 2014 would not be able to confront a single entity like the RIAA. And in the virtual marketplace shelf space is virtually unlimited, so there really is no threat of a recording being kept from consumers by a retailer (though Walmart still carries the torch). More importantly, Internet services and content providers recognize parents’ concerns and offer a variety of mechanisms to filter what their children are exposed to. Parents can pre-scan albums on iTunes or Amazon before deciding to purchase them. Internet radio services like Pandora and Google Play are quickly taking the place of radio for teens and have explicit language filters that give parents the option to weed out explicit content. And contrary to alarmist notions that the relative anarchy of the Internet would send the decency standards of popular culture spiraling precipitously down, lyrics may be getting less dirty.

For example, a search for each of the seven words you can’t say on TV at Rap Genius’s Rap Stats website, which provides an online tool that plots the frequency of appearance of individual words in rap songs from 1987 to the present, reveals that four of the seven are found less often in rap songs released in recent years than in songs released in the late 1990s.

And here House of Cards is instructive in a different way. While initially there were great concerns over explicit content in original television series produced by subscription networks like HBO and Internet content providers like Netflix, all of which operate outside of traditional FCC broadcast content guidelines, television today is not a race to the bottom. The same can be said for the 2012 Supreme Court ruling that threw out fines the FCC levied for fleeting nudity and obscenity on broadcast networks Fox and ABC.

Media consumers don’t want raw pornography; they want great content. If the artistic license to use the F-bomb helps artists create a better show or song, audiences are more than happy to go along with it. It is this understanding among audiences, content providers, and producers that has ushered in what many are calling the second great era of American television.

Today, musicians and music producers’ greatest concern is what copyright and royalties will look like in the age of online streaming. As this debate continues, it is important to keep an eye out for those who would use debates about the delivery and compensation for content as a platform for censoring and shaping the content, as well. We’ve been down this road before.

ABOUT CHRIS KJORNESS

Chris Kjorness is a freelance writer and musician.

EDITORS NOTE: The featured photo is courtesy of FEE and Shutterstock.

The Real Cost of Healthcare: Questions Not Asked or Answered

A quick review of current literature on healthcare costs and healthcare cost containment is not a very productive use of one’s time.  Within minutes of beginning a review of the published literature, the researcher quickly finds himself so deep into the weeds that it is impossible to make any sense of what is being conveyed.

Throughout the entire public debate over the efficacy of Obamacare, no one seemed to be asking the pertinent questions.  No one has asked, why is healthcare so expensive, and who gets all that money?

I can recall once reading a story in the Philadelphia Inquirer about a Southeast Asian family who arrived in Philadelphia with their infant daughters… Siamese twins joined at the abdomen. Upon examination by a team of surgeons and pediatricians, doctors concluded that it would be possible to surgically separate the twins and that, after a period of recovery, the two little girls could expect to live happy and productive lives.

But then one of the reporters asked the operative question.  The Asian family had no healthcare insurance and very little money, so the question arose, how much would the estimated eleven-hour procedure cost?  The hospital spokesman responded, quite matter-of-factly, saying, “About a million dollars.”

No one batted an eye; no one questioned the estimate and no one asked for a cost breakdown.  Yet, it is necessary to ask, who gets all that money?  How many physicians would participate in the separation procedure?  How many nurses?  What would be the cost of disposable medical equipment?  What would be the cost of post-operative care?  A million dollars is a hell of a lot of money for an eleven-hour surgical procedure and a month or so of post-operative pediatric care.

If we assume five attending physicians… two surgeons, an anesthetist, an obstetrician, and a pediatrician… at $1,000 each per hour for eleven hours, the cost for physician’s services would come to $55,000.  If we assume five operating room and neo-natal nurses at $100 per hour for eleven hours, the cost of nursing care would come to $5,500.  If we assume a cost of $1,000 per hour for the use of the operating theater, the cost of surgical facilities would come to $11,000.  And if we assume a cost of $5,000 for drugs, medicines, and miscellaneous medical equipment, the direct costs accumulated on the day of the separation procedure would come to $76,500.

Then, if we assume a post-operative stay of 30 days for the twins, at $400 each, per day, for a bassinette in neo-natal recovery, that cost would come to $24,000.  And if we assume a cost of $1,000 per day to have surgeons look in on their patients, $500 per day for nursing care, and $500 per day for miscellaneous medicines, food, and diapers, the total cost of post-operative care would come to $84,000.  That would bring the total cost of the separation procedure and the post-op care to $160,500.

All of these estimated costs and daily and hourly rates are admittedly inflated.  So if the hospital prepares an invoice for $1,000,000, who gets the other $839,500?

No one in Congress, the White House, or in the mainstream media is asking the operative question that needs to be addressed.  No one is asking why healthcare is so expensive.  No one is asking, who gets all that money?

A part of the answer to that question was suggested by a recent caller to the Rush Limbaugh radio show.  The caller was a bookkeeper in the finance department of a major hospital; her husband was an orthopedic surgeon who practiced at the same hospital.  The woman explained that each time an orthopedic surgeon performed a hip-joint or knee-joint replacement, he/she was paid a flat rate of $1,250 for their time and talent.  However, when the manufacturer billed the hospital $8,000 for a prosthetic hip joint, the hospital routinely billed the patient, or the patient’s insurance company, $32,000… a 300% markup for the hardware.

Over the past three or four years, a close friend and neighbor has survived a serious bout with cancer.  And although I am unaware of the total cost of his cancer treatments by local physicians and cancer specialists at the M.D. Anderson Clinic in Houston, I am aware that the bill for his bone marrow transplant procedure came to approximately $1.2 million.

Again, how many physicians and nurses actually saw him?  How many hours did they spend treating him?  What was the actual cost of a few hours of operating room usage?  How was that $1.2 million split up between a few doctors, a few nurses, a few lab technicians, and the clinic itself?   Who got all that money?

In recent weeks, Dr. Tom Coburn has announced that he will retire from the U.S. Senate with two years remaining on his current term.  Dr. Coburn is one of the two or three finest members of the U.S. Senate and his departure will be a great loss to Oklahomans and to the country.  Unfortunately, Dr. Coburn suffers from cancer and is undergoing treatment at M.D. Anderson in Houston.  What caught my attention was a recent statement by Dr. Coburn, saying that each time he has a consultation at M.D. Anderson, he is billed for $32,000.

Again, how many physicians and nurses actually see him on each visit?  How many hours do they spend treating him or evaluating his condition?  What is the actual cost of the tests he undergoes?  How is that $32,000 split up between a few doctors, a few nurses, a few lab technicians, and the clinic itself for just a few hours of their time?   If the same team of doctors, nurses, and technicians see even as few as eight patients a day, the total income generated would come to $256,000.  Who gets all that money?

Those who work in the healthcare industry… in hospitals, clinics, and doctors’ offices… always have a ready answer.  They claim that it is the cost of high-tech equipment and facilities that runs up the cost of healthcare.  Baloney!  There are few hospitals or clinics in the country that cannot obtain the most expensive items of diagnostic equipment, such as MRI machines, through local philanthropy.

And those large portraits of distinguished-looking men and women hanging on the walls of hospitals and surgical wings?  Those are not oil portraits of the hospital’s “Employee of the Month.”  No, those are the portraits of the men and women who have shared their wealth by donating millions of dollars to build a wing onto the local hospital and whose names are enshrined in concrete and marble over the front door.

What is needed is a complete understanding by all concerned… especially those of us who pay the bills… of how a single dollar bill makes its way through the healthcare system and how it is divvied up at the end of the day.  To do so, it would be necessary to conduct a complete micro-economic study of a select number of major medical facilities, identifying over a specified period of time the source of every dollar that comes in the front door, and the recipient of every dollar that goes out the back door.

In other words, in any overhaul of our healthcare system, our first order of business should be to figure out exactly who is bilking the system… who is getting rich, and who is being bankrupted in the process.  Compared to the actual direct cost of healthcare, the price that consumers are asked to pay is far out of balance… perhaps by a factor of as much as four or five.  So who gets all that money?

Early in his first term, Barack Obama promised that he and congressional Democrats would reshape the American healthcare system.  They promised to insure 40 million uninsured, to substantially reduce the cost of healthcare for everyone, to save the average family as much as $2,400 a year in out-of-pocket healthcare costs, to increase the quality of healthcare for all Americans, and to do it all without increasing the number of doctors, nurses, and hospitals.

No one with an I.Q. larger than their hat size would believe they could do what they promised.  But enough low-information Kool-Ade drinkers fell for Obama’s false promise and they elected him.  Now they have to live with what he, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid have produced.  When the small company and large company extensions granted by Obama expire sometime in 2016, or before, everyone will be able to see the disaster that Obamacare is.

It is likely that, beginning in 2015, a Republican-controlled House and Senate will be left with the task of cleaning up Obama’s mess.  And when they do we can only hope that they will be wise enough to begin by asking the question, who gets all the money that pours into the healthcare system?  Until we confront that question, real healthcare reform will be nothing more than an impossible dream.