The Politics of Nostalgia

By Steven Horwitz

One of the more curious developments in the last couple of years has been left-wing nostalgia for the economy of the 1950s.

Don’t political progressives usually portray themselves as being on “the right side of history” — representing, as the term suggests, the march of “progress”?

Not when it comes to the economy.

Paul Krugman has written a number of columns over the last decade about how much better things were in the middle of the 20th century. More recently, we have presidential candidate Hillary Clinton making a major economic policy statement in which she longs for a time like the 1950s when workers had the structure of the corporate world and unions through which to lobby and negotiate for pay and benefits, rather than the so-called “gig” economy of so many modern freelance employees, such as Uber drivers. “This on-demand or so-called gig economy is creating exciting opportunities and unleashing innovation,” Clinton said, “but it’s also raising hard questions about workplace protection and what a good job will look like in the future.”

To protect Americans from the uncertain future, Clinton promised she would “crack down on bosses that exploit employees by misclassifying them as contractors or even steal their wages.”

In an economy where technology has enabled people to have a great deal more flexibility with their workdays and independence with their work choices, it’s now the “progressives” who are complaining about the economic organizations that have been agents of more efficient resource use, expanded choice for workers, and cheaper goods for consumers.

In short, the progressives are complaining about what would otherwise be called progress.

And let’s not let the conservatives off the hook here either, as they demonstrate their own nostalgia for an economy of the past, with cheers for Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant and anti-trade tirades and for his general love of dirigiste policies. Immigration and trade have also expanded the range of work available, lifted millions out of poverty through better-paying jobs in the United States, and enriched the rest of us through more affordable goods and services.

What’s particularly amusing about both sides, but especially the progressives, is how wrong they are about life for the average American being better back in the 1950s, including how much more secure they were. In a terrific paper for the Cato Institute, Brink Lindsey effectively demolished Krugman’s nostalgia with some actual data about the economy of the 1950s. He pointed out that the increase in income inequality since then noted by so many progressives is largely overstated, and that the economy they are nostalgic for is one that restricted competition in a variety of ways, mostly to the benefit of the politically influential. Limits on immigration and trade, in particular, prevented the 1950s economy from achieving the reductions in cost and increase in variety that we associate with our economy today.

Does anyone really want to go back to the stagnant, conformist, more poverty-stricken world of the 1950s?


It is more than a little ironic that modern progressives are nostalgic for the very economy that GOP front-runner Donald Trump would appear to want to create.

As I argued in a recent paper, when we look at the cost of living in terms of the work hours required to purchase basic household items, most goods and services are far cheaper today than in the 1950s. The equivalents of those items today are also of higher quality: think about the typical household TV or refrigerator in 1955 versus 2015. These substantial decreases in cost have had another effect. They have made these goods increasingly accessible to the poorest of Americans. American households below the poverty line are far more likely to have a whole variety of items in their homes than did poor families in the 1950s. In fact, they are more likely to have those things in their houses than was a middle-class American family in the 1970s.

When you also consider the number of goods that weren’t even available in the 1970s or 1950s, from technology like computers and smartphones, to innovative medicines and medical procedures, to various forms of entertainment, to a whole number of inventions that have made us safer, healthier, and longer-lived, it’s difficult to argue that things were better “back then.”

The effect of all of this change driven by increased competition is that our world is one in which the middle class and poor are better off, and the gap between poor and rich as measured by what they consume has narrowed substantially. Does anyone really want to go back to the stagnant, conformist, more poverty-stricken world of the 1950s?

Politicians do. And here’s one reason why: back then, it was easier to influence and control people’s economic lives. Progressives with a desire to shape their ideal economy aren’t happy with the world of freelancers, Uber, and independent contractors.

The economy of the 1950s and 1970s had organizational focal points where politicians could exercise leverage and thereby influence the lives of large numbers of citizens.

I’m thinking here of the auto companies in the 1950s, the oil companies in the 1970s, and any number of industries where large firms were created by restrictions on domestic and foreign competition, which were easy points of contact for politicians with a desire to control, and which had corporate leaders who were happy to reap the benefits of corporatism.

In a world of Uber, Airbnb, and all the rest, there are no central points of leverage. Facebook produces no content, Uber owns no cars, Alibaba owns no inventory. More important: Uber has no employees, only contractors. If you are Clinton or Trump, or even Krugman, there’s nowhere to go to exercise your power or to drum up support from workers in one place. There’s nothing to grab hold of. There are just people trading peacefully with each other, enriching everyone in the process.

The real irony, once again, is that what this decentralized economy has produced is more freedom and more flexibility for more workers. The same progressives who railed against the conformism of the 1950s a decade later are now nostalgic for what their predecessors rejected and are rejecting exactly the “do your own thing” ethos their 1960s heroes fought for.

The “gig” economy works for people who want options and who want flexible hours so they can pursue a calling the rest of the day. Or perhaps they want to spend a few hours a week driving an Uber because Obamacare caused their employers to cut their hours at their other job.

Whatever the reason, this economy offers the freedom and flexibility for workers, and the benefits for consumers, that represent the progress progressives should love. That progressives (and conservatives) with power are fighting against it tells you that they are much more concerned with power than with progress.

Nostalgia is a dangerous basis for making policy, whether left or right.


Walker: ‘I don’t know’ if being ‘gay’ is a choice

(THE HILL) — Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wis.) said on Sunday he is not sure if homosexuality is a choice.

The 2016 GOP presidential candidate refused comment on the issue during an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“I don’t know the answer to that question,” Walker said when asked if being gay is a choice.

“That’s not even an issue for me to be involved in,” he said. “I don’t have an opinion on every single issue out there.”


Paul renews call to cut off Planned Parenthood funding

(Louisville Courier-Journal) Responding to a controversial video released by an anti-abortion group this week, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul on Friday renewed his call to end federal funding of Planned Parenthood.

“The recent revelation that this taxpayer-funded organization is selling body parts of the unborn further proves that this agency deserves our scorn, not our tax dollars,” Paul said in a news release from his presidential campaign. His Senate office released a similar statement.

Paul’s statements refer to a video released by the California-based Center for Medical Progress that show a Planned Parenthood official talking about parts of aborted fetuses. The Center for Medical Progress says the video documents that Planned Parenthood sells fetal tissue for profit.


Marine shooting suspect blogged about ‘jihad’


Investigators are pulling together more and more information about the life of Mohammad Youssef Abdul¬azeez, 24, of Hixson, Tennessee, who shot and killed four Marines in the Chattanooga area on Thursday before being killed himself.

Among their findings? He blogged about “jihad.”

“Did you ever notice that in one certain period towards the end of the lives of the Sahaba (RA), almost every one of the Sahaba (RA) was a political leader or an army general?” he wrote at one point.

“Every one of them fought jihad for the sake of Allah. Every one of them had to make sacrifices in their lives,” he said, reported the Washington Post, which explained “RA” is a term of reverence in Islam.

Talk radio icon Rush Limbaugh said, pointedly, “Now, you would think that after all of the previous Muslim terror attacks, the authorities in the news media would start see a pattern. But they don’t want to jump to any conclusions, and they don’t want to move any faster than the glaciers move. They don’t want to bring up Muslim terrorism until we’ve gotten used to the idea that another four people have been killed. Nobody wants a backlash against Muslims.”

The Post reported the blog by Abdulazeez was started just days before the shooting.

Here’s a special bundle that includes “Stop the Islamization of America” by Pamela Geller, who has described what’s needed to prevent encroachment on America’s liberty.

It reported the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors online postings by radical Islamist organizations, revealed Abdulazeez was the author of “MYABDULAZEEZ.”

It was started July 13 and had just two entries.

The report said the first, titled “A Prison Called Dunya,” included a description of “everyday life” as a prison.

In Arabic, “Dunya” refers to earthly concerns as opposed to spiritual ones, the report said.

“Imagine that you are taken by force and placed in a prison. Once in the prison you realize that the living arrangements in this prison really aren’t that bad. There is a sun room, a TV to watch, computer to use, phone, different kinds of food, and even a section for exercise,” the writer said.

“After spending a couple weeks in the prison you get used to it and develop a routine. You still aren’t sure why you are in prison, or how long you will be there, but you are comfortable in your life. At this time one of the guards enters with a large folder that he hands you. You open the folder and read its instructions, stating that you will be spending the next couple years in this prison, and at the end of this term you will be given a test at a random time. It could be in 2 years or it could be in 4. The instructions state that passing this exam will result in you being released to the city of your choice and your living expenses will be paid as well as an allowance. Failing will lead to your transfer to another prison cell, one that has no windows or accessories except a hole in the ground for you to relieve yourself, and your meals will be the same oats and water day after day until you die.”

He then quoted the Quran’s statement about life being “amusement and diversion,” and concluded:

“This life we are living is nothing more than a test of our faith and patience. It was designed to separate the inhabitants of Paradise from the inhabitants of Hellfire, and to rank amongst them the best of the best and worst of the worst. … Take your study guide, the Quran and Sunnah, with strength and faith, and be firm as you live your short life in this prison called Dunya.”

The second posting was about “understanding Islam” and how different people perceive the same thing differently.

MSN reported Abdulazeez appeared to be “embracing jihad, or holy war.”

The report cited the online postings, and more.

“In addition to blog posts and information from his computer, investigators were also probing the foreign travels of Abdulazeez, 24, a Kuwait-born U.S. citizen who grew up in a conservative Muslim family in Chattanooga and worked as an electrical engineer,” the report said.

The report also said his parents had approached divorce in 2009, when the father said “he intends to take a second wife, as permitted under certain circumstances under Islamic law, in the parties’ native state of Palestine.”

Abdulazeez was born in Kuwait but attended high school near Chattanooga and a nearby college.

He boasted even then, “My name causes national security alerts. What does yours do?”

He was involved in the mixed martial arts and obtained an engineering degree.

The Daily Mail reported security was being beefed up at military stations across the nation because of the attack.

The attack happened during a period when Islamic State promoters had called for random Muslims to attack and kill people – during the Islamic events called Ramadan.



Don’t Worship the Free Market

By Sandy Ikeda

“I’m tired of hearing that ‘liberty’ will take care of it!”

My young friend was explaining to me why she’s become less enthusiastic about libertarianism than she was a few years ago. I suspect she speaks for many smart young people who are just learning about libertarianism and getting a lot of bumper sticker ideas. Our belief in human freedom can strike them more as religious doctrine than as reason.

“Liberty Will Take Care of It!”

I had been pointing out a building going up in my neighborhood that blocked a significant part of the public’s view of the Brooklyn Bridge. I said something to the effect that, if it were up to me, I’d lop off the top three floors of that thing because many, including myself, feel it exceeds the limit agreed to with local community organizations, and I thought there was probably some misrepresentation going on.

That’s when she told me how tired she is of the standard libertarian refrain: every time some social issue comes up in her discussions with libertarians — spillovers, poverty, inequality, health care, racial discrimination, the environment — their response is that the free market will solve the problem.

Liberty Is Not a Shut-Up Argument

There are libertarians who do simply chant the free-market mantra. They insist that market exchange and private property can solve all our problems — but they can’t, and we shouldn’t expect them to. (See my earlier Freeman articles “Property Rights Aren’t Always the Libertarian Solution” and “Moving Beyond Free-Market Minimalism.”)

My faith in freedom isn’t blind. It’s not really a form of faith, either — more of a shorthand for my understanding of theory and history.

Suppose, for example, that 50 years ago, when AT&T still had a government-granted telephone monopoly in the United States, someone asked how phone service could be provided by private companies that didn’t have that legal privilege. How, without eminent domain to take private property for those essential telephone lines and exchanges, would people be able to make and receive calls from their homes and businesses?

Fast-forward to today and we see practically every person over the age of 13 (and quite a few much younger) in the developed world carrying a cell phone or a smartphone small enough to fit in their pocket that combines telephone, Internet service, and a video camera. There are no cumbersome telephone poles, cables, or exchanges, and there’s not much eminent domain. The 1960s question was, “Who will build the heavy telephone infrastructure?” Today, who needs a heavy telephone infrastructure?

To say that liberty will take care of a problem need not be a shut-up argument, and it shouldn’t be used that way. But a free market operates on the principle that as long as people don’t initiate physical violence or fraud against anyone, anything else is okay.

To say that liberty will take care of a problem need not be a shut-up argument, and it shouldn’t be used that way.


That’s “okay” in the sense that, although you may not approve of what goes on, you are willing to tolerate it because it doesn’t infringe on your rights to your person or property. In that sort of social and psychological space, almost anything can happen. Smartphones can be invented. Medical centers can open in Walmarts, and urgent care facilities can pop up in city storefronts. Facebook and Google can emerge. Thousands of craft breweries and coffeehouses, serving beverages immeasurably superior to anything you could find even 25 years ago, can open their doors. We could each name countless other examples.

In that sense, the free market not only takes care of the problems we’re aware of; it also reveals flaws and gaps that we would otherwise never know existed.

The Seen and the Unseen

We who support the freedom philosophy are always at a disadvantage when arguing against interventionist proposals to provide nationalized health care, to impose regulations to address climate change, and the like precisely because appreciating and understanding the open-endedness and unpredictability of the social order are central to our political philosophy.

It’s easy to see an individual’s hourly pay go up from $7.25 to $15.00 after new legislation raises the minimum wage. It’s harder to see that she no longer gets tips, or that her benefits are lower — or that someone else, someone who is less skilled, is now going have an even harder time finding a job.

If AT&T had retained its legal monopoly until today — as the US Postal Service has — we might see every home with a handset in every room and in every car, but what we wouldn’t see are smartphones. We probably wouldn’t see broadband Internet access in so many homes, either — or wireless hotspots in so many public places.

Unlike many on the left, most libertarians take the limits of human knowledge and reason seriously, so we also take seriously the open-endedness of a liberal social order. Markets can be creative and spontaneous to the extent that billions of resourceful minds at every moment are free to use local, contextual knowledge to discover and address myriad problems large and small, simple and complex. With the right rules of the game — including private property, free association, and the rule of law — the creativity at the heart of that open-endedness will tend to promote social cooperation and well-being. That’s not faith. That’s an understanding of cause and effect in the social world.

But the temptation to substitute planning for spontaneity and coercion for liberty remains ever present because, as Henry Hazlitt argued in Economics in One Lesson, the short-term and local are usually more obvious than the long-term and global. It takes practice to see the unseen.

Quite apart from the morality of taking what belongs to someone else so you can use it for ends you happen to think are more important than theirs, or from banning someone else’s nonviolent actions because you don’t like them — and quite apart from the problems of corruption and cronyism that always accompany even the most well-meaning interventions — to the extent that you accept the practicability of central planning (even limited examples such as minimum guaranteed incomes or the minimum wage), you’re assuming that unpredictable human choices won’t find a way to mess up what you’re trying to do.

That assumption is demonstrably false. And because it’s false, you’ll find yourself encroaching further and further into the lives of ordinary people and constraining and directing their choices more and more in a futile effort to fix the problems caused by past interventions.

It is not a knee-jerk position to defend freedom when coercion’s track record is so bad.

Worshipping the Market versus Worshipping the State

I’m not defending all libertarians. I’ve often heard our critics charge, “You free-market types treat the market like some kind of god that will solve all our ills.” They’re right. Some market advocates do place a blind faith in freedom. Some may even worship the free market as a sort of deus ex mercatum (“god from the market”) that magically and inexplicably solves social problems. That’s perhaps because their commitment to economic freedom is in fact a part of their religious beliefs.

Others, like me, don’t see the need or the wisdom in linking political economy to a religious tradition, even if we do practice one of the traditional world religions. We already have a religion and we don’t need to worship the free market or the state.


Authoritarians Like Twitter, Too

By Kevin Munger

In May 2014, CNN aired footage of a Ukrainian helicopter being shot by pro-Russian militants. Taken with a cell phone camera and posted on social media, the video showed compelling evidence of the scale and technological sophistication of the Ukrainian conflict.

The video was also fake — it was actually over a year old, and from Syria. CNN retracted the footage and apologized, but the “incident” was still widely discussed on Russian and Ukrainian social media.

In the wake of the Arab Spring, enthusiasm for the power of social media ran high. Nothing else had shown the same power to mobilize protestors living under repressive regimes. With information democratized, the logic ran, dissidents could outflank the centralized media control and propaganda machines so crucial to authoritarian states.

But this logic is flawed, as the faked helicopter video demonstrates. Although social media may have given tech-savvy dissidents a temporary advantage over repressive governments that were unable to keep up, Twitter and its regional analogues are now a fully mature technology.

Just like radio and television, repressive regimes can and do use social media to solidify their grips on power. As a result, the net effects of social media on the possibility of democratic revolution are at best ambiguous. They may actually be negative.

This point has been underappreciated in the enthusiasm for what social media seems to make possible. Our optimism leads us to overlook what is at stake for those in power — and their capacity to evolve new strategies using new tools. We want to believe in magic bullets, hoping that the right technological advancement will empower people to successfully rise up. But it’s at least as likely that the millions or billions of tweets sent by dissidents make them vulnerable, because they are extremely visible, while the strategic responses of government actors often go unnoticed. It’s an ironic inversion of Frédéric Bastiat’s “That Which Is Seen and That Which Is Not Seen.” Rather than people overvaluing government actions because their direct benefits mask the hidden cost borne by individual citizens, those citizens’ actions on social media allow government action to hide in their midst.

Repressive regimes can and do use social media to solidify their grips on power. 


Some egregious and sophisticated uses of social media by repressive regimes have recently come to light. In a fascinating story in the New York Times Magazine, Adrian Chen explains the operations of a shady Russian “troll farm” that engages in large-scale, multiplatform acts of misinformation. At one point, they made up an explosion in a chemical plant in Louisiana, started a hashtag (#ColumbianChemicals), and relied on ordinary people to pass the story along, knowing they were unlikely to verify the details. This kind of operation, carried out on “foreign soil,” shows how seriously this Russian agency takes social media. The chemical plant explosion may simply have been an experiment, a proof of concept for what such attacks might accomplish in the future.

Their bread-and-butter social-media strategy is to pay people to pose online as regime supporters. People have acted as “sock puppets” — adopting fake personas on the Internet — since computer networks were first connected, but never at this scale, or with this degree of coordination.

Chen discusses this widespread practice in the Russian context. The existence of Chinese “50 centers” (bloggers and Weibo users paid 50 cents per pro-government post) has been known for nearly a decade. The presence of these people in online communities, voicing pro-regime sentiment, may have a profound dampening effect on protest movements.

Political scientists model the process of protest and revolution as a “coordination problem.” There are two parts to the problem: individual knowledge and common knowledge.

It makes no sense to act alone. Even if I’m completely convinced that the government is evil and needs to be overthrown, it still doesn’t make sense for me to go into the street by myself — I’ll just end up in prison, and the government will be stronger than ever.

But the main force of pro-regime sock puppetry need not be to persuade dissidents that they are wrong. All that is necessary is to confuse dissidents about what other people think. If dissidents think they are isolated, and that most other people support the regime — or even if they are merely uncertain about other peoples’ feelings — they will remain compliant. They have no way of getting accurate information about public opinion. Dissidents likely know that the people they talk to regularly are not a representative sample, and polls are either manipulated or suppressed. A horde of “50 centers” may be enough to cloak widespread resentment in a cloud of regime-supported “approval.”

And, as Duke University economics and political science professor Timur Kuran and others have argued, it’s not even enough to solve the individual knowledge problem; dissidents also must solve the common-knowledge problem. It’s not even enough for me to be convinced that everyone hates the government; unless everyone (or some threshold percentage of people) knows that everyone knows that everyone hates the government, a revolution cannot be successful.

That’s why these sock puppets and “trolls for hire” can be so powerful: they make it a lot harder to get a clear impression of what everyone else thinks, and thus whether a revolution will be successful. Because shared knowledge is so crucial to a revolution, uncertainty can be a killer.

The competition between dissidents and regimes to take advantage of new technology is constantly evolving, and no one can know what the next equilibrium will be. Hopefully, one effect of greater public awareness of repressive regimes’ online strategies will be an increased skepticism of unsubstantiated claims on social media — and an increased demand for depth in how we understand the world.


Guilty! Verdict reached in Aurora theater shooting

(Denver Post) A jury on Thursday found James Holmes guilty of murder for the Aurora movie theater attack, one of the worst mass shootings in American history.

The jury of nine women and three men delivered the verdict at 4:15 p.m., after deliberating for about 12 hours over two days. In doing so, they rejected Holmes’ plea of insanity. The jury began deliberating on Wednesday morning.

With the defendant, victims and victims’ families gathered in courtroom 201, the first of 165 counts were read.

The trial now moves to a second phase, where prosecutors will argue that Holmes, 27, should receive the death penalty and defense attorneys will ask jurors to spare Holmes’ life.


The Spy in Your Pocket

By Joseph S. Diedrich, Nicole Kardell

Does the government need a search warrant to know where you’ve been? Not if your cell phone provider knows. If you don’t like how that sounds, there may be ways to change it.

Take the case of Quartavious Davis, a Florida man convicted of robbing at gunpoint a pizzeria, a gas station, a drugstore, an auto parts store, a beauty salon, a fast food restaurant, and a jewelry store. The prosecution offered multiple lines of evidence, but there was one in particular that Davis’s lawyers objected to: records the government obtained from Davis’s cell phone provider, MetroPCS.

The records, which MetroPCS kept in its normal course of business, showed “the telephone numbers for each of Davis’s calls and the number of the cell tower that connected each call.” From this information, police concluded that “calls to and from Davis’s cell phone were connected through cell tower locations that were near the robbery locations, and thus Davis necessarily was near the robberies too.”

Prosecutors got their hands on the MetroPCS cell tower records using a court-ordered subpoena. In criminal cases like Davis’s, courts may grant subpoenas on “specific and articulable facts showing that there are reasonable grounds to believe” that the records sought “are relevant and material to an ongoing criminal investigation.” Although this standard is higher than that for typical subpoenas, it’s lower than the Fourth Amendment’s probable cause standard.

Not Even a Search

On appeal, Davis argued that the cell tower records were obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures. But the 11th Circuit — the federal appeals court encompassing Alabama, Georgia, and Florida — disagreed (United States v. Davis).

In fact, the government’s actions weren’t even a “search,” according to the court. In legal terms, a search occurs only when police invade a person’s reasonable expectation of privacy. For example, you have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the content of your phone conversations — what is actually said during your call — so eavesdropping on the conversation would constitute a search.

In Davis’s case, though, the police didn’t eavesdrop on his conversations. Nor did they use GPS to track his precise movements while he was making them. Because they merely obtained business records from a third party, the court says that the police didn’t invade Davis’s privacy:

Davis has no subjective or objective reasonable expectation of privacy in MetroPCS’s business records showing the cell tower locations that wirelessly connected his calls at or near the time of six of the seven robberies.… Instead, those cell tower records were created by MetroPCS, stored on its own premises, and subject to its control. Cell tower location records do not contain private communications of the subscriber. This type of non-content evidence, lawfully created by a third-party telephone company for legitimate business purposes does not belong to Davis, even if it concerns him.

Because there wasn’t a “search,” the Fourth Amendment didn’t even apply.

Outdated Doctrine Meets Modern Society

Despite the court’s logic, something about this case still makes many observers feel uneasy. Even AT&T filed a brief in the case, arguing that the government’s actions were illegal. We all turn over huge amounts of information to third parties every day, and almost all of our activities can be tracked through our “smart” devices. And as the amount of data that businesses collect on us grows, so do concerns over the government’s ability to access that data.

As the amount of data that businesses collect on us grows, so do concerns over the government’s ability to access that data.

So when the 11th Circuit focused its decision in Davis on something called the third-party doctrine, there was reason for a little gasp. The third-party doctrine was developed by the Supreme Court in the 1970s to draw a line between a person’s “reasonable” expectation of privacy and the information that person voluntarily shares with third parties. Back then, the Supreme Court held that a person has no reasonable expectation of privacy over his or her bank records, because that information was voluntarily provided to the bank. Nor can you have a reasonable expectation of privacy over the phone numbers you dial, because you furnish those numbers to the phone company in order to place calls. And so the government may subpoena these records from the business collecting them without meeting heightened standards under the Fourth Amendment.

The Davis court discussed these cases to support the premise that when people turn over their data to third parties by virtue of using those parties’ services, that information falls outside Fourth Amendment protection. A breathtakingly low point can be found in one of the judges’ concurring opinions:

If a telephone caller does not want to reveal dialed numbers to the telephone company, he has another option: don’t place a call. If a cell phone user does not want to reveal his location to a cellular carrier, he also has another option: turn off the cell phone.

In other words, if you want your information protected by heightened privacy standards, go off the grid.

Today, that position is practically untenable. And this is what makes the 11th Circuit’s opinion troubling: it allows the government easy access to your data by virtue of your participation in modern society. The court’s holding helps grease the slippery slope that takes us away from historically reasonable expectations of privacy.

The court attempted to soften the blow by categorizing the subject information as noncontent data. In other words, the data in the Davis case was less private because it was not the actual substance of phone calls, texts, or other communications. Instead, it was the nonsubstantive cell-tower data that allowed the government to track where Davis was when he made or received calls. But we all know that a precise record of our movements reveals a lot about us, as the dissenting judge in the Davis case pointed out:

A person who knows all of another’s travels can deduce whether he is a weekly church goer, a heavy drinker, a regular at the gym, an unfaithful husband, an outpatient receiving medical treatment, an associate of particular individuals or political groups — and not just one such fact about a person, but all such facts.

Toward Privacy

There is still a chance that the Supreme Court will reverse the 11th Circuit’s holding. Even if it doesn’t, other options exist. As mentioned in the Davis decision, Congress can still legislate greater privacy protections.

The market provides another option. Although a court order forced MetroPCS to provide its records, “federal law did not require that MetroPCS either create or retain these business records.” As technology changes, and as we all become more attuned to privacy issues, we will look to the market for options. When this happens, cell phone providers will benefit from offering an “enhanced privacy” version of their services. Some customers will prefer that their data not be collected at all — or that it be anonymized. Providers could charge a higher price for anonymous services, or customers could forego certain personalized services.

By providing customized levels of privacy, the market can create de facto immunity from third-party “searches.”


Coach jumps nude in 13-year-old’s bed, has sex

(MINNEAPOLIS STAR TRIBUNE) — The head coach of the girls soccer team at Champlin Park High School has been charged with having sex with a 13-year-old in the boy’s north metro bedroom.

Rebecca Lee Noonan, 31, of Minneapolis, appeared in court Tuesday on charges of third-degree and fifth-degree criminal sexual conduct and was released on $50,000 bail.

Read the WND story that started it all! The big list: Female teachers with students

Noonan has no other duties at the high school or in the district, said Jim Skelly, spokesman for Anoka-Hennepin schools. She joined the Champlin soccer program in 2007 as an assistant coach and became head coach in 2012, Skelly said.


America’s First Feminist Was a Radical Libertarian

By Lawrence W. Reed

Each week, Mr. Reed will relate the stories of people whose choices and actions make them heroes. See the table of contents for previous installments.

Opinions of Anne Hutchinson have, shall we say, covered the waterfront.

In his masterful tome, Conceived in Liberty, 20th-century economist and libertarian historian Murray Rothbard cast her as a staunch individualist and the greatest threat to the “despotic Puritanical theocracy of Massachusetts Bay.”

John Winthrop, the 2nd, 6th, 9th, and 12th governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, thought she was a “hell-spawned agent of destructive anarchy” and “a woman of haughty and fierce carriage, a nimble wit and active spirit, a very voluble tongue, more bold than a man.”

The state of Massachusetts apparently agrees with Rothbard. A monument in the State House in Boston today calls her a “courageous exponent of civil liberty and religious toleration.” She was, in fact, the preeminent female crusader for a free society in 18th-century New England, for which she paid first with banishment and ultimately with her life.

The story is bound intimately to the “antinomian” or “free grace” controversy involving both religion and gender. It raged in Massachusetts for the better part of two years, from 1636 to 1638. Hutchinson was an unconventional, charismatic woman who dared to challenge church doctrine as well as the role of women in even discussing such things in a male-dominated society. In Saints and Sectaries: Anne Hutchinson and the Antinomian Controversy in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, historian Emery Battis wrote,

Gifted with a magnetism which is imparted to few, she had, until the hour of her fall, warm adherents far outnumbering her enemies, and it was only by dint of skillful maneuvering that the authorities were able to loosen her hold on the community.

Antinomianism literally means “against the law” and was a term of derision applied against Hutchinson and her “free grace” followers. While the Puritan establishment in Massachusetts argued, as good “Reformers” of the day did, that Christian understanding derived from scripture alone (“Sola Scriptura”), the antinomians placed additional emphasis on an “inner light” by which the Holy Spirit imparted wisdom and guidance to believing individuals, one at a time.

“As I do understand it,” Hutchinson herself explained, “laws, commands, rules and edicts are for those who have not the light which makes plain the pathway. He who has God’s grace in his heart cannot go astray.”

As America’s first feminist, and a woman of conscience and principle, Anne Hutchinson planted seeds of libertarianism that would grow and help establish a new nation a little more than a century later.


Barely a century after Martin Luther sparked the great divide known as the Reformation, the Protestant leaders of Massachusetts saw antinomianism as dangerously heretical. Their theological forebears broke from Rome in part because they saw the teachings of priests, bishops and popes as the words of presumptuous intermediaries — diversions by mortals from the divine word of God. When Anne Hutchinson and other antinomians spoke of this supplemental “inner light,” it seemed to the Puritan establishment that the Reformation itself was being undone. Worse still, Hutchinson accused church leaders in Massachusetts of reverting to the pre-Reformation notion of “justification by works” instead of the Martin Luther/John Calvin perspective of justification by faith alone through God’s “free grace.”

In England where she was born in 1591, Hutchinson had followed the teachings of the dynamic preacher John Cotton, from whom she traced some of her anti-establishment ideas. When Cotton was compelled to leave the country in 1633, Hutchinson and her family followed him to New England. There she would live until her death just 10 years later, stirring up one fuss after another and serving as an active midwife and caregiver to the sick simultaneously. That she found the time to do all this while raising 15 children of her own is a tribute to her energy and passion.

Hutchinson organized discussion groups (“conventicles”) attended by dozens of women and eventually many men, too. This in itself was a bold move. It was empowering especially to the women, who were supposed to remain quiet and subordinate to their husbands, particularly in matters of religion and governance. But Hutchinson’s meetings were full of critical talk about the “errors” in recent sermons and the intolerant ways in which the men of Massachusetts ran the colony. Her influence grew rapidly and by all accounts, Boston became a stronghold of antinomianism while the countryside aligned with the establishment. It was only a matter of time before religious and gender differences spilled over into politics.

In 1636, Hutchinson and her antinomian, “free grace” allies such as Cotton, Reverend John Wheelwright, and Governor Henry Vale came under blistering attack by the orthodox Puritan clergy. In churches and public meetings, they were assailed as heretics and disturbers of the peace who threatened the very existence of the Puritan experiment in New England. Accusations of immoral sexual conduct, thoroughly unfounded, swirled in the flurry. Cotton was sidelined by the pressure. Wheelwright was found guilty of “contempt & sedition” for having “purposely set himself to kindle and increase” strife within the colony and was banished from Massachusetts. Vale was defeated for reelection and a Hutchinson enemy, John Winthrop, became governor in 1637. Despite initial wavering under the intense pressure, Hutchinson held firm.

In November 1637, Winthrop arranged for Hutchinson to be put on trial on the charge of slandering the ministers of Massachusetts Bay. He declared that she had “troubled the peace of the commonwealth and churches” by promoting unsanctioned opinions and holding unauthorized meetings in her home. Though she had never voiced her views outside of the conventicles she held, or ever signed any statements or petitions about them, Winthrop portrayed her as a coconspirator who had goaded others to challenge authority. Before the court, with Hutchinson present, he charged:

You have spoken divers things as we have been informed [which are] very prejudicial to the honour of the churches and ministers thereof, and you have maintained a meeting and an assembly in your house that hath been condemned by the general assembly as a thing not tolerable nor comely in the sight of God nor fitting for your sex.

Hutchinson mostly stonewalled the prosecution, but occasionally shot back with a fiery rejoinder like this one: “Do you think it not lawful for me to teach women, and why do you call me to teach the court?”

The first day of the trial went reasonably well for her. One biographer, Richard Morris, said she “outfenced the magistrates in a battle of wits.” Another biographer, Eve LaPlante, wrote, “Her success before the court may have astonished her judges, but it was no surprise to her. She was confident of herself and her intellectual tools, largely because of the intimacy she felt with God.”

The second day didn’t go so well after a moment of high drama when Hutchinson cut loose with this warning:

What Winthrop and his prosecutors hadn’t yet proved, Hutchinson handed them in one stroke. This was all the evidence of “sedition” and “contempt of court” that they needed. She was convicted, labeled an instrument of the devil and “a woman not fit for our society,” and banished from Massachusetts Bay. This was the verdict of her civil trial. She would be detained for four months under house arrest, rarely able to see her family, until a church trial that would determine her fate as a member of the Puritan faith. In that trial, because she would not admit to certain theological mistakes, she was formally excommunicated with this denunciation from Reverend Thomas Shepard:

I do cast you out and deliver you up to Satan . and account you from this time forth to be a Heathen and a Publican . I command you in the name of Christ Jesus and of this Church as a Leper to withdraw yourself out of the Congregation.

Hutchinson, her husband William, and their children departed Boston in April 1638. They trudged for nearly a week in the snow to get to Providence, Rhode Island, founded by Roger Williams as a haven for persecuted minorities. Five years later, on a terrible day in August 1643, Anne and her entire family but for one daughter were massacred by marauding Siwanoy Indians.

The woman who rocked a colony was gone, but as Rothbard writes, “the spirit of liberty that she embodied and kindled was to outlast the despotic theocracy of Massachusetts Bay.”

As America’s first feminist, and a woman of conscience and principle, Anne Hutchinson planted seeds of libertarianism that would grow and help establish a new nation a little more than a century later.

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