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Star Trek actor fumes: Clarence Thomas ‘clown in blackface’

George Takei, the openly “gay” activist and Hollywood actor known for his decades-old role in the TV series “Star Trek,” issued a scathing criticism against Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, calling him a “clown” for failing to vote with the majority on the Supreme Court’s “gay” marriage case.

“He is a clown in blackface sitting on the Supreme Court,” Takei said, in an interview with Fox 10. “He gets me that angry.”

Takei made the comments in context of discussing the court’s 5-4 ruling that now compels states to allow same-sex marriage, and Thomas’s dissent. But he then went off on a tangent about racism and slavery, referencing the dissent Thomas wrote.

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Thomas, in his opinion, spoke of the “inherent worth” of all humans in God’s eyes, and wrote: “That vision is the foundation upon which this Nation was built. The corollary of that principle is that human dignity cannot be taken away by the government. Slaves did not lose their dignity (any more than they lost their humanity) because the government allowed them to be enslaved. Those held in internment camps did not lose their dignity because the government confined them. And those denied governmental benefits certainly do not lose their dignity because the government denies them those benefits. The government cannot bestow dignity, and it cannot take it away..”

Takei took offense at the slavery reference.

“For him to say slaves had dignity,” Takei said, the Hill reported. “I mean, doesn’t he know slaves were chained? That they were whipped on the back?”

How did America get from “Mayberry” to “gay marriage?” Here’s the explanation, in “A Queer Thing Happened to America: And What a Long, Strange Trip It’s Been.”

He also recounted his own family’s experiences with internment, saying in an op-ed for MSNBC he was “only a child when soldiers with bayonetted rifles marched up our driveway in Los Angeles, banged on our door and ordered us out. … To say that the government does not bestow or grant dignity does not mean it cannot succeed in stripping it away through the imposition of unequal laws and deprivation of due process. At the very least, the government must treat all its subjects with equal human dignity.”

Takei wrapped his interview with Fox 10 by blasting Thomas as unfit for court service.

“This man does not belong on the Supreme Court,” he said. “He is an embarrassment. He is a disgrace to America.”

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Home Education Inspires a Love of Learning

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.


The hero in this story is not any one person but rather nearly two million Americans — moms and dads who go the extra mile and who, often at great sacrifice to themselves, are rescuing children in a profoundly personal way. They are the homeschoolers, parents who give up time and income to directly supervise the education of their children. They teach, they arrange learning experiences within their home and elsewhere in cooperation with other parents, and they inspire an appetite for learning.

Of all the ingredients in the recipe for education, which one has the greatest potential to improve student performance?

No doubt the teachers unions would put higher salaries for their members at the top of the list, to which almost every school reformer might reply, “Been there, done that!” Teacher compensation has gone up in recent decades, while indicators of student performance have stagnated or fallen.

Other standard answers include smaller class size, a longer school year, more money for computers, or simply more money for fill-in-the-blank. The consensus of hundreds of studies over the past several years is that these factors exhibit either no positive correlation with better student performance or only a weak connection. On this important question, the verdict is in and it is definitive: The one ingredient that makes the most difference in how well and how much children learn is parental involvement. Homeschooling is the ultimate in parental involvement.

When parents take a personal interest in their children’s education, several things happen. The child gets a strong message that education is important to success in life; it isn’t something that parents dump in someone else’s lap. Caring, involved parents usually instill a love of learning in their children — a love that translates into a sense of pride and achievement as their students accumulate knowledge and put it to good use. As one might expect, time spent with books goes up and time wasted in the streets goes down, but there’s so much more to the homeschooling experience, as explained by Marianna Brashear, curriculum development manager at the Foundation for Economic Education:

Much time is spent not just in books, but seeing the world and participating in field trips with hands-on learning. There is so much knowledge that is gained through real-world exposure to a vast array of subjects far more lasting than reading out of a textbook. The word “schooling” in homeschooling is misleading because education takes place in and out of formal lessons. The biggest waste of time in schools comes not just from indoctrination, but also from “teaching to the test,” where kids memorize, regurgitate, and forget.

American parents were once almost universally regarded as the people most responsible for children’s education. Until the late 19th century, the home, the church, and a small nearby school were the primary centers of learning for the great majority of Americans.

In more recent times, many American parents have largely abdicated this responsibility, in favor of supposed “experts.” The context for this abdication is a compulsory system established to replace parental values with those preferred by the states and now, to an increasing degree, by the federal government. (It’s important to remember how much the current system was established as a reaction to immigrants, especially Catholics. See Robert Murphy’s “The Origins of the Public School” in the Freeman, July 1998.)

Twenty years ago, a report from Temple University in Pennsylvania revealed that nearly one in three parents was seriously disengaged from their children’s education. The Temple researchers found that about one-sixth of all students believed their parents didn’t care whether they earned good grades, and nearly one-third said their parents had no idea how they were doing in school. I can think of no reason to believe things have improved on this front in the two decades since.

Homeschooling is working — and working extraordinarily well — for the growing number of parents and children who choose it.

Teaching children at home isn’t for everyone. No one advocates that every parent try it. There are plenty of good schools — private and many public and charter schools, too — that are doing a better job than some parents could do for their own children. And I certainly praise those parents who may not homeschool but who see to it that their children get the most out of education, both in school and at home. Homeschooling almost always goes the extra mile, however, and it is working extraordinarily well for the growing number of parents and children who choose it.

This outcome is all the more remarkable when one considers that these dedicated parents must juggle teaching with all the other demands and chores of modern life. Also, they get little or nothing back from what they pay in taxes for a public system they don’t patronize. By not using the public system, they are in fact saving taxpayers at least $24 billion annually even as they pay taxes for it anyway.

In the early 1980s, fewer than 20,000 children were in homeschools. From 2003 through 2012, the number of American children 5 through 17 years old who were being homeschooled by their parents climbed by 61.8 percent to nearly 1.8 million, according to the US Department of Education. That’s likely a conservative estimate, but it equals 3.4 percent of the nation’s 52 million students in the 5–17 age group.

Parents who homeschool do so for a variety of reasons. Some want a strong moral or religious emphasis in their children’s education. Others are fleeing unsafe public schools or schools where discipline and academics have taken a backseat to fuzzy, feel-good, or politically correct dogma. Many homeschool parents complain about the pervasiveness in public schools of trendy instructional methods that border on pedagogical malpractice. Others value the flexibility to travel, often with their children for hands-on, educational purposes; the ability to customize curricula to each child’s needs and interests; and the potential to strengthen relationships within the family.

“When my wife and I first decided to homeschool our three children,” says Bradley Thompson, a political science professor who heads the Clemson Institute for the Study of Capitalism at Clemson University, “we did it for one reason: we wanted to give them a classical education — the kind that John Adams and Thomas Jefferson might have received when they were young boys.” He adds,

Within a couple of years, we added a second reason: we didn’t want our children exposed to the kind of socialization that goes on in both government and some private schools. Over time, however, we added a third reason: homeschooling became a way of life for our family, a way of life that was irreplaceable and beautiful. By the time our third child goes to college, we will have been homeschooling for 18 years. Those years have been, without question, the most important of my life.

Homeschool parents are fiercely protective of their constitutional right to educate their children. In early 1994, the House of Representatives voted to mandate that all teachers — including parents in the home — acquire state certification in the subjects they teach. A massive campaign of letters, phone calls, and faxes from homeschool parents produced one of the most stunning turnabouts in legislative history: by a vote of 424 to 1, the House reversed itself and then approved an amendment that affirmed the rights and independence of homeschool parents.

The certification issue deserves a comment: we have a national crisis in public education, where virtually every teacher is duly certified. There is no national crisis in home education.

Critics have long harbored a jaundiced view of parents who educate children at home. They argue that children need the guidance of professionals and the social interaction that comes from being with a class of others. Homeschooled children, these critics say, will be socially and academically stunted by the confines of the home. But the facts suggest otherwise.

Reports from state after state show homeschoolers scoring significantly better than the norm on college entrance examinations. Prestigious universities, including Harvard and Yale, accept homeschooled children eagerly and often. And there’s simply no evidence that homeschooled children (with a rare exception) make anything but fine, solid citizens who respect others and work hard as adults. Marianna Brashear informs me thus:

More and more early college and dual enrollment programs are available for rising 9th through 12th graders, and these programs, too, are quite eager to admit homeschoolers for their ability to take responsibility and to self-motivate, for their maturity, and for their determination to learn and succeed. For example, my 14-year-old daughter will be starting with a nearby technical institute in August and will receive high school and college credit simultaneously. She will be in a class with other high school students, and they are on track to receive AA degrees before graduating high school.

Homeschool parents approach their task in a variety of ways. While some discover texts and methods as they go, others plan their work well before they start, often assisted by other homeschoolers or associations that have sprung up to aid those who choose this option. Writing in the Freeman in May 2001, homeschool parent Chris Cardiff observed that because parents aren’t experts in every possible subject,

families band together in local homeschooling support groups. From within these voluntary associations springs a spontaneous educational order. An overabundance of services, knowledge, activities, collaboration, and social opportunities flourishes within these homeschooling communities.

My FEE colleague, B.K. Marcus, also a homeschool parent, identifies this natural “socialization” as a critically important point:

Homeschooling produces communities and participates in a division of labor. Homeschooling is social and cooperative, contrary to the stereotype of the overprotected child under the stern watch of narrow-minded parents. Traditionally schooled kids show far fewer social skills outside their segregated age groups.

A quick Internet search reveals thousands of cooperative ventures for and between homeschoolers. In Yahoo Groups alone, as of June 2015, about 6,300 results pop up when you search for the keyword “homeschool.” More than 800 show up in Google Groups. Facebook is another option for locating a plethora of local, regional, and national homeschool groups, support groups, events, co-ops, and communities.

In every other walk of life, Americans traditionally regard as heroes the men and women who meet challenges head-on, who go against the grain and persevere to bring a dream to fruition. At a time when more troubles and shortcomings plague education and educational heroes are too few in number, recognizing the homeschool champions in our midst may be both long overdue and highly instructive.

Common to every homeschool parent is the belief that the education of their children is too important to hand over to someone else. Hallelujah for that!

For further information, see:

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What Do We Celebrate on the Fourth of July?

By Sarah Skwire

I know exactly where I will be tomorrow. I’ll be sitting on a grass-covered hill in a small town in Maine, applauding as fire trucks and floats roll by, watching my kids wave to the parade royalty and chase down candy thrown by the marchers, getting just a little teary as the war veterans ride by, and celebrating this unwieldy and flawed conglomeration of people and history and ideas called America.

It has taken me a while to understand why I like the Fourth of July so much. I don’t like government or politics. The onset of yet another round of presidential elections fills me with a vague dread and nausea. I don’t even like the Pledge of Allegiance.

If I have problems with all of these bastions of Americana, why bother celebrating this weekend? Why don’t I treat the Fourth of July with the same indifference I show Election Day?

For me, the Fourth of July is not a political celebration. I understand that it is for most people. And yes, I do see all those local politicians driving by in bunting-draped cars during that parade I’m so fond of. But for me, vaunting celebrations of contemporary political issues and personalities are not the point of the Fourth.

Mixed feelings may well be the only appropriate kind.

I’m not even there for the historical aspects of the celebrations. (Though, for the record, one of the most surprisingly moving things I have done on a past Fourth of July was to attend a public reading of the Declaration of Independence. I was brought to tears at many points, and to full-on rage at others. You could read it this weekend, if you wanted.) The June 17 tragedy in Charleston has reminded us, yet again, that history is never as uncomplicated as we would like it to be. Mixed feelings may well be the only appropriate kind. And so, as interested as I am in America’s founding, and as inspired as I am by so many aspects of it, that’s not why I’ll be sitting on the hill watching the parade go by.

I’ll be watching the parade because I can, and because no one is making me. I’ve long thought that the American freedom to assemble is a freedom we don’t celebrate enough. We’re allowed to get together — when we choose and where we choose — to celebrate or mourn or express our opinions. There’s value in having a parade just to appreciate the right to have a parade. And there’s value in having one just to appreciate that you don’t have to have one. I’ve written for Anything Peaceful about Soviet May Day parades. These were enforced “celebrations” where workers had to check in with their bosses to prove they had attended, had shown their loyalty, and had expressed sufficient delight over belonging to the Soviet Union. No one will check to see if I attended the parade this weekend. That’s a pretty good reason to go.

I’ll be watching the parade because in with all the fire trucks and the government agencies are the local businesses, the city orchestra, the Girl Scout troop, the school of martial arts, the CrossFit gym, and all the other voluntary associations that Tocqueville correctly observed are such an important part of American life. I’ll be there because I think those organizations are worth celebrating, not only for the specific activities they promote, but also because they remind us all that “if men are to remain civilized or to become so, the art of associating together must grow and improve in the same ratio in which the equality of conditions is increased.”

But mostly, I’ll be watching the parade because everyone will be there. We will line the streets and watch the floats go by. And even within my own small family, we don’t all vote the same way (We don’t all vote!); we don’t all worship the same way; we don’t all agree on anything. But we’re all there, cheering for the parts of the parade we like best, politely acknowledging the parts we don’t care for as much, and helping the kids catch candy.

That’s plenty for me to celebrate.

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,

Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong,

The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,

The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,

The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck,

The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands,

The wood-cutter’s song, the ploughboy’s on his way in the morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown,

The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of the girl sewing or washing,

Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,

The day what belongs to the day — at night the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,

Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.

—Walt Whitman, “I Hear America Singing”

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Survey: 1 in 3 Americans would leave U.S.

(CNBC) — As the Fourth of July weekend looms and Americans prep their grills and ready their fireworks, some citizens are packing their bags.

A recent online poll of more than 2,000 adults by TransferWise, a peer-to-peer money transfer service based in the United Kingdom, revealed that 35 percent of American-born residents and emigrants would consider leaving the United States to live in another country.

This percentage greatly increases for those age 18 to 34. More than half of millennials, a whopping 55 percent, said that they would consider leaving the U.S. for foreign shores. Among them, 43 percent of men and 38 percent of women noted that a higher salary would be a factor in their relocation decision.

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Amazon Liberates Readers

By Stewart Dompe

Science fiction author Ursula K. Le Guin thinks Amazon represents everything that’s wrong with capitalism:

If you want to sell cheap and fast, as Amazon does, you have to sell big. Books written to be best sellers can be written fast, sold cheap, dumped fast: the perfect commodity for growth capitalism.

The readability of many best sellers is much like the edibility of junk food. Agribusiness and the food packagers sell us sweetened fat to live on, so we come to think that’s what food is. Amazon uses the BS Machine to sell us sweetened fat to live on, so we begin to think that’s what literature is.

She blames the online retailer for perpetuating a system that encourages authors to produce “sweetened fat” instead of the literature that nourishes the soul. She attacks the marketing of best seller lists (“BS lists”), and it would not be a mistake to infer that she believes these lists are comprised of an entirely different sort of “BS.” She writes:

Best Seller lists are generated by obscure processes, which I consider (perhaps wrongly) to consist largely of smoke, mirrors, hokum, and the profit motive. How truly the lists of Best Sellers reflect popularity is questionable.

If the literary world is a garden, then Amazon would be a gardener whose liberal use of fertilizer, Le Guin contends, has encouraged the growth of weeds. But her anger is misplaced. There is no gardener — and the garden is more beautiful than ever.

Spontaneous Order in the Book World

Amazon is a consequence, not the cause, of the digital revolution. More books are being published every year because it is now easier to become an author. Traditional publishers printed 316,480 new titles in 2010. That’s 100,000 more than they published in 2002, but this figure is dwarfed by the 2.7 million “nontraditional” titles that were published in 2010. The importance of publishing houses, bookstores, and critics has eroded because authors can now bypass these middlemen and sell ebooks directly to the public. All it takes is a website and some social-media savvy.

More writers can now pursue their dreams of becoming authors. The garden is growing larger and more diverse.

 

Some will argue that with this large increase in quantity, the weeds will start to outnumber the roses. The problem with this argument is that it misunderstands the market segmentation that is occurring. Simply put, what is a weed to one is a rose to another. Publishers need to sell a minimum number of books to recover the substantial fixed costs of printing. These financial pressures mean that even a well-written manuscript would be rejected if it were judged to appeal to too small an audience. As the cost of publishing has fallen, manuscripts that were previously rejected are now being published, and authors can now target smaller audiences. It is therefore unsurprising if readers find that most books conflict with their aesthetic preferences — they are not the intended audience.

Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter will never sit on my parents’ nightstand. That is neither a tragedy nor unexpected, but to the people who love historical horror fiction, the world is a better place with that book in it. More writers can now pursue their dreams of becoming authors. The garden is growing larger and more diverse.

What Hath Marketing Wrought?

Le Guin is concerned about the influence of marketing in creating best seller lists. But even with a much larger budget than what book publishers have, Hollywood seems incapable of ensuring against $100 million bombs like Tomorrowland. Producers may broadly know what “the people” want, but that knowledge offers little guidance in ensuring a commercial success.

If you had told me a few years ago that one of the most popular book series in America, the Twilight saga, would be about a love triangle between a mopey teenage girl, a werewolf, and a centuries-old pedophile, I would have laughed in your face. Another best seller, Fifty Shades of Grey, started as Twilight fan fiction. In what smoke-filled room was it decided to sell erotica at Walmart?

Best sellers are an interesting phenomenon, because book consumption — once an intimate connection between reader and writer — has transformed into a widely shared social experience. These shared experiences create bonds between strangers. Art is a bridge that connects otherwise lonely islands of experience. When Mark Zuckerberg announced his book club, he was inviting countless strangers to join him in thinking and talking about the world.

Producing a best seller is harder than it looks. What sells or doesn’t sell — and what becomes the next breakout hit — is never the outcome of design. Writers and publishers experiment. Readers respond. Social media allows the cycle to accelerate, and sometimes the results can seem bewildering.

In this new era, more people are dedicating their lives to creating art. It is hard to find fault with either those pursuing their dreams or those paying them to do so. There are more books than we can read in a lifetime. If there is anything to regret, it is our pitifully short lives, not the literary bounty before us.

Le Guin is a brilliant novelist, but she fundamentally misunderstands the nature of the 21st-century market. The challenge now facing all readers is not to criticize the abundance of choices but to develop better filters for finding the literature that appeals to their interests. Luckily, Amazon has some recommendations you may be interested in viewing.

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Clerks defy same-sex marriage ruling

gay_marriage_supreme_court

The Supreme Court OK’d gay marriage.

A county clerk in Arkansas announced she was resigning from her office Tuesday, citing religious and moral objections to the Supreme Court ruling that banned states from discriminating against “gay” couples who seek to marry.

Cleburne County Clerk Dana Guffey said she told her boss, Judge Jerry Holmes, of her plans, CBS reported.

“It is definitely a moral conviction for me,” she said. “I didn’t announce anything publicly or on social media or anything because I didn’t want my decision to be seen as hateful. I know some people will look at it like that, but this wasn’t easy. It wasn’t a decision I made lightly. And I do not hate anybody.”

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said clerks need to follow the law.

In a statement issued shortly after the ruling, he said, CBS reported: “The Supreme Court has issued a decision and that decision must be followed. … County clerks should issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples upon request, requiring exactly the same procedures, fees and other requirements as required for opposite-sex couples.”

In Kentucky, meanwhile, several county clerks announced outright they would not issue marriage licenses to “gay” couples. In Rowan County, Clerk Kim Davis said her office has decided to stop issuing marriage certificates altogether, to avoid any discrimination lawsuits.

“We’ve not had any applicants yet, but we’ve had several calls,” she said, to the Lexington Herald-Leader. “It’s hard, I will tell you that. What has happened is that five lawyers have imposed their personal view of what the definition of marriage should be on the rest of us. And I, as a Christian, have strong views, too. And I know I don’t stand alone.”

Chris Joe, the president of the Kentucky County Clerks Association, said several clerks have called him to cite religious objection to the court’s decision. And in response, they’ve decided to stop issuing marriage certificates entirely.

In Kentucky, clerks could face class A misdemeanors for refusing to perform “a duty imposed … by law,” the newspaper stated.

And that state’s attorney general, Jack Conway, issued a statement supporting that law: “Any clerk that refuses to issue marriage licenses is opening himself or herself to potential legal liability and sanctions.”

Still, other clerks are citing moral and religious objections and vowing to turn away “gay” couples. Among the counties fighting the ruling: Casey and Montgomery, the newspaper reported.

 

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How to Outsource Your Compassion to the Government

By Robert P. Murphy

I saw the mom and her two little kids camped out in the shopping center parking lot. She held a sign asking for help to feed them. I bought some oranges and bananas for them.

Imagine if someone from the government had swooped in to explain that my bag of fruit was hardly sufficient to feed the struggling family. What if the government then passed a law saying that if anybody decided to donate food (or cash) to people begging on the street or in a parking lot, the contribution had to be worth at least $15? Anybody caught giving, say, a $1 bill or a small bag of fruit would be fined heavily. Does that sound like “pro-homeless” legislation?

Try a different example: there are civic and church groups who will pick a weekend to go to a specific elderly widow’s house and help her put on a fresh coat of paint, clean up the yard, restock the panty, and so on. Such one-off bursts of assistance obviously can’t fill the void for someone without an extended family or a generous pension. Shouldn’t the government pass legislation insisting that if you are going to donate time and goods to an elderly widow, you must do so in a way that allows her to live comfortably? Isn’t that a great “pro-widow” method for raising the living standards of the target demographic?

Or consider families who adopt children from war-torn regions. These actions, though seemingly noble, are clearly a drop in the bucket, with hundreds of thousands of orphans left behind. What if the government passed a law saying that US families were only allowed to adopt foreign children if they did so at least 15 kids at a time? Would activists agree that such a “pro-adoption” measure would increase the number of adoptions and be an unmitigated boon for foreign orphans?

Currently there are people who volunteer to teach adults how to read. But adult illiteracy is still a vexing problem in certain communities, so clearly these volunteer efforts have been inadequate to overcome the challenge. The obvious, pro-literacy way to fix things is to pass a law saying volunteers must give at least 15 hours of tutoring per week. If they are caught only teaching adults how to read for, say, 14 hours, then the volunteers will be heavily fined.

One final example: there are millions of people in the United States who do not have very marketable skills. There are a few thousand people who are willing to give them jobs. Wouldn’t it be a great benefit to these unskilled workers to pass a law saying that if you want to hire any of them, then you must pay at least $15 per hour of their labor? (If you get caught only paying, say, $14 per hour, then you get heavily fined.) What could possibly be a downside to such “pro-labor” legislation?

At this point, you surely recognize that I am being facetious. I am highlighting the absurdity of minimum wage legislation as an alleged “pro-labor” device. First and most obvious, by raising the hurdle to giving a job to unskilled workers, minimum wage legislation might perversely reduce employment among the very groups the government is supposedly helping.

The minimum wage is a perverse tool with which to (allegedly) help unskilled workers. 

 

This pro-labor claim is so common that people have been lulled into complacency, especially in light of econometric studies that seem to show that minimum wage hikes do not have disastrous effects on employment. Yet, there is a strong prima facie case against the minimum wage in the analogous examples. Would advocates for the homeless, widows, adult illiterates, and other disadvantaged groups be so confident in the other hypothetical legislation I described above?

I designed my hypothetical examples to underscore another perversity in minimum wage legislation — and, more generally, all mandates placed on employers: there are millions of people who have trouble earning a living. Isn’t it perverse to burden those specific people who are doing the most to alleviate the problem? This is analogous to singling out volunteers doing at least something to battle adult illiteracy, making them bear the brunt of further efforts on this score, while allowing the rest of society to continue doing nothing to mitigate the problem.

To be sure, as both an Austrian economist and a libertarian, I consider it neither appropriate nor ethical for state officials to interfere with property rights in order to help unskilled workers. But if the government is going to “do something,” then it is particularly perverse to lay down the burden exclusively on the people who are already giving some money to unskilled workers. A more sensible approach would, say, give government subsidies to workers who were earning a bona fide paycheck in the market, or (better yet) would give targeted tax breaks to the unskilled workers that the government wanted to assist. Incidentally, this type of reasoning is why many economists — even progressives — are pushing the earned income tax credit as a much more efficient way to help poor workers than minimum wage mandates.

The minimum wage is a perverse tool with which to (allegedly) help unskilled workers. At best, it helps some unskilled workers while drastically hurting others — by making it impossible for them to find work at all. Beyond that, minimum wage legislation perversely places the entire (direct) burden of helping such workers on their employers, the one (tiny) group of people who are actually helping them solve the problem. The rest of society, which has done nothing whatsoever to help the unskilled workers have a higher standard of living, can pat themselves on the back for voting for certain politicians while continuing to do nothing whatsoever to help those who want to work. 

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Money Will Be Digital — But Will It Be Free?

By Andreas M. Antonopoulos

Bitcoin offers a glimpse into the future of money — a purely digital form of money that is individual, private, global, and free (free as in speech, not as in beer). Bitcoin is often compared with the existing banking system, juxtaposing its futuristic capabilities with the slow, antiquated, and cumbersome world of wire transfers, checks, “banking hours,” and restrictions.

But the future will not be a choice between “old money” and cryptocurrency. Instead, it will be a choice between two competing visions of digital money: one based on freedom and choice, the other based on control and surveillance, a dystopian totalitarian system of control from which no one can escape.

We are now at the crossroads, and we must choose the future of currency wisely.

Cash, checks, and other forms of tangible money have been gradually disappearing for decades. We are now rapidly moving toward a cashless society where all money is purely digital. In the past, cash payments were expected and preferred; credit transactions were suspect. But as we turned into a debt-based society, cash became the oddity. The inscription “for all debts public and private” no longer rings as true. Today, if you try to buy a car with cash, you’ll be treated with extreme suspicion. Large amounts of cash are now associated with criminal activity and the definition of “large” is getting smaller each day. This is how we arrive at a cashless society: by making cash itself suspect, then criminal.

The transition from cash to digital money is not just a change in form. It is a transition from transactions that are private, person-to-person, and decentralized to transactions that are monitored, intermediated, and under centralized control. In the last two decades, digital payments have become a powerful surveillance tool. Citizens who are concerned about their government monitoring their telephone calls are simultaneously oblivious to the fact that every transaction they make with a plastic card or an online payment network can be scrutinized without suspicion of a crime, without warrants or any form of judicial oversight. Most national governments, under the guise of counterterrorism laws, have empowered their law enforcement and intelligence agencies with unfettered access to financial data. It shouldn’t surprise you to learn that these powers are used far more broadly every day, increasingly removed from the originally stated intent.

What a strange world we now live in. Total surveillance of every citizen’s transactions, without any basis or suspicion, is not just normal but presented as a virtue, a form of patriotism. Using cash or wishing to retain your financial privacy is inherently suspect, a radical position, soon to be a crime.

Using cash or wishing to retain your financial privacy is inherently suspect, a radical position, soon to be a crime.

A future where all payments are trackable is terrifying, but a world with centralized control over transactions would be even worse. Digital currency with centralized control means the eradication of property as a right. Instead, your money exists only as a database entry where the balance is controlled entirely by a third party.

By managing the payment networks, a government has effective control over all participants, including banks, corporations, and individuals. Already, banks are extorted into adopting global financial blacklists for fear of being disconnected from networks like the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) and Automated Clearing House (ACH). This web of control is expanding and is used more and more frequently as a weapon of geopolitics.

The future of digital central currencies will make this control entirely individualized and easy to target. Attended the “wrong” protest? Your bank balance is now zero. Bought a suspicious book? Expect a visit from the police. Annoyed someone in power? They can trawl through your transactions until they find something juicy enough to leak.

Your movements can be tracked, your friends identified, your political affiliations analyzed and cross-correlated to your reading habits. No part of your life is private when every form of money is digital and every transaction can be tracked, blocked, seized, and deleted. Your life savings are yours only as long as you don’t offend someone in power. When money is centrally controlled, ownership of anything is a privilege the government can revoke. Property is not an inalienable right, but an advantage afforded to the those who acquiesce to the system. Combining surveillance of communications with complete control over money will result in tyranny the likes of which the world has never known.

Totalitarian surveillance of money is toxic to democratic institutions, and the power of surveillance erodes the social contract and corrupts those in power. There cannot be self-determination, freedom of expression, freedom of association, or freedom of conscience in a society where every penny you spend is monitored and controlled.

Even if you believe that your government is benevolent and will only use these extreme powers against “terrorists,” you will always live one election away from losing your freedoms. Even the supposedly benevolent governments in liberal democracies are already using their power over money to harass journalists and political opponents, while allowing their friendly bankers to finance tyrants, warlords, and militias across the world.

Bitcoin offers a fundamentally different future for currency. Bitcoin is digital cash; its transactions are person-to-person, private, and decentralized. It combines the best features of cash with the convenience, speed, and flexibility of a digital medium.

Bitcoin enables an alternative future of personal freedom and privacy that revokes the surveillance-state developments of the last few decades and reintroduces financial emancipation through the power of mathematics and cryptography. Through its decentralized global network, Bitcoin provides no central point to control, no position of power to enable censorship, no ability to seize or freeze funds through a third party without due process, no control over funds without access to keys.

Lacking a center of control, bitcoin resists centralization. Lacking concentration of power, it resists totalitarian domination. Lacking identifiers, bitcoin promotes privacy and makes total surveillance impossible. Disregarding political borders as network-irrelevant, it eschews nationalism and geopolitical games. Dispersing power, it empowers individuals.

Bitcoin is a protocol of free commerce, just as the Internet’s transmission control protocol/Internet protocol, or TCP/IP, is a protocol of free speech. Bitcoin’s design can be replicated to create myriad forms of decentralized money, all superior to the dystopian future we are otherwise headed for.

We can live in a world where money operates like any other medium on the Internet, free from control or interference. In a decentralized digital future, money will be controlled by individuals, banking will be an “app,” and governments will be as powerless to stop the flow of money as today they are powerless to stop the flow of truth.

In this future, money will be a tool of freedom from tyranny, an escape hatch from corrupt banks, a haven from hyperinflation. Four to six billion people without access to international financial services will be able to leapfrog the banking system and connect to the world economy directly. Individuals will not have to choose between directly controlling their own money and participating in a global financial network. They will enjoy global peer-to-peer finance, where trusted third parties and endless lines of bankers and intermediaries are things of the past.

While the future of currency is undoubtedly digital, it can take two radically different forms. We can live in a financial panopticon, a straitjacket of surveillance and tyranny. Or we can live in an open society where our privacy is protected by cryptography, not subject to the whim of every petty bureaucrat — where our digital money is global, borderless, anonymous, and controlled by the individual. The choice between financial freedom and financial tyranny is a choice between fundamental freedom and tyranny. Choose financial freedom: choose freedom.

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Frédéric Bastiat Deserves a Posthumous Nobel

By Lawrence W. Reed

If a posthumous Nobel Prize were to be awarded to just one person for crystal-clear writing and masterful storytelling in economics, no one would be more deserving of it than Frédéric Bastiat (June 30, 1801–December 24, 1850). He set the standard over a century and a half ago.

This remarkable Frenchman was an economist in more than the traditional sense. He understood the way the economic world works, and he knew better than anybody how to explain it with an economy of words. He employed everyday language and a conversational tone, an innate clarity that flowed from his logical and orderly presentation. Nothing he wrote was stilted, artificial, or pompous. He was concise and devastatingly to the point. To this day, nobody can read Bastiat and wonder, “Now what was that all about?”

Economic writing these days can be dull and lifeless, larded with verbosity and presumptuous mathematics. Bastiat proved that economics doesn’t have to be that way: the core truths of the science can be made lively and unforgettable. In literature, we think of good storytelling as an art and stories as powerful tools for understanding. Bastiat could tell a story that stabbed you with its brilliance. If your misconceptions were his target, his stories could leave you utterly, embarrassingly disarmed.

If you aspire to be an economist or a policy maker or a teacher or just an influential communicator, take time to study at the feet of this 19th-century master.

At the end of his short life, Bastiat served two years in France’s Constituent and Legislative Assemblies, where he worked tirelessly to convince fellow members of the merits of freedom and free markets. They proved to be his toughest audience. Most were far more interested in selfish and ephemeral satisfactions (such as power, money, reelection, and the dispensing of favors to friends) than in enduring truths. Biographer Dean Russell writes,

It is true that every one of Bastiat’s major proposals in the Assembly was defeated! But if that is to be the sole or primary test of influence, we might be led to the absurd conclusion that the influence of Socrates’ ideas was settled by the poisoned cup.

Bastiat’s most famous work is The Law, a book that FEE is proud to have revived and kept alive for decades. Now we aim to introduce a new generation of readers to three of his lesser-known works: Economic Sophisms, Economic Harmonies, and Selected Essays on Political Economy. Each is a masterpiece of clear writing and powerful storytelling.

Protectionism comes under relentless assault by Bastiat in these three volumes. Why should two countries that dig a tunnel through their mountainous border to facilitate travel and trade then seek to undo its advantages by imposing burdensome taxes at both ends? If the sun offers free sunlight, why shouldn’t we accept it heartily instead of decrying it as unfair competition for candle makers? And if an exporter sells his goods abroad for more than they were worth at home, then buys valuable goods with the proceeds to bring back to his homeland, why would anyone in his right mind condemn the transactions as yielding a balance of trade “deficit”? If you’re a protectionist before reading Bastiat, you’ll either repent or forever remain in darkness with no excuse.

The world in the 21st century is beset with economic fallacies that are, for the most part, modern versions of those that Bastiat demolished 16 decades ago. The answers to the vexing problems those fallacies produce are not to be found in proposals that empower bureaucracy while imposing tortuous regulations on private behavior. It’s far more likely that the answers lie in the profound and permanent principles that Frédéric Bastiat did so much to illuminate.

Sound economics and radiant exposition converge in these works. His brilliance is the gift that never gives up.

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Darth Bridal and other creative uses

June 29 - 1

Darth Bridal

When a guy’s marriage broke up his wife left behind her wedding dress. He asked her what he was supposed to do with it. Her response is not printable here.

After considering the situation, he decided to turn the dress into something useful, including a pasta strainer, dental floss and about 98 other things. He blogged about it, and included photos, videos and witty commentary at “My Ex-Wife’s Wedding Dress.”

June 29 - 2 flush right

He wrote, “After my brother, sister-in-law, and parents made some offbeat suggestions for what I should do with the dress at dinner one night I decided to see exactly what it was capable of. We made a list and started putting the dress to work. I eventually decided to share my pictures on a blog and with the help of suggestions from visitors here I have used my ex-wife’s wedding dress in over 120 different ways. … This dress is unbelievable and probably is capably of carrying out many more applications. My marriage didn’t last forever but this dress just might.”

That’s not the end of it. Kevin Cotter’s popular blog about making the best of a bad situation has now been published as a paperback titled “101 Uses for My Ex-Wife’s Wedding Dress.”

You can read a free chapter here.

Smart Men

Men: If you want to live a long and happy life, these are the things you don’t say to your wife!

Kiss the girl

This video was viewed 51,214,471 times (as of this writing). Why? The guy caught on a stadium “kiss cam” is revealed to be the epitome of a self-centered mega-loser who eventually gets his *** booed and laughed at by thousands of fans at the game and viewers watching the scene on national television.

His humiliation lives on. Posted again on YouTube last January, its been viewed thousands more times. Here’s the posted explanation:

“A couple of Celtics fans were caught in a hilarious argument at the United Center in Chicago Saturday night. The fight seems to start when he won’t get off his phone to kiss his lady, even as the camera closes in on him. Benny the Bull saves the day, picking up the lady in his arms and taking her away.”

The President’s Tree

Imagine a tree so huge that to stand beside it is to be dwarfed.

“The President” is giant sequoia that stands 247 feet tall and is estimated to be over 3,200 years old. “Imagine, this tree was already 1200 years old when Jesus walked the earth,” according to http://www.forestry.co.za/3200-year-old-tree/

Speaking of forests …

June 29 - 3

Are you a free spirit? Would you like to be? Free spirit spheres are for those who like to hang out in the woods and sway with the breeze. “Handcrafted spheres are suspended like pendants from a web of rope,” according to the Free Spirit Spheres website.

Buzzfeed picked up the story, reporting, “Somewhere in Vancouver, Canada, there are unusual dwelling in the trees that look like something out of a fantasy novel. They’re called Free Spirit Spheres, and they’re set up in the tallest trees of the west coast.” The Free Spirit Spheres are just what they look like: Tricked out round treehouses for adults. They’re suspended from the trees like rope, and they would make an awesome hideout for people who want to vacation a little differently from the norm.”

June 29 - 4

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar

Logos. What’s in a logo? Think you know what those golden arches suggest? Maybe. Maybe not.

Black and white

This dance troupe wore black and white costumes that gave their Rockettes-style routine a hilarious and optically unusual effect.

And while looking at at, I came across this series of optical illusions that will amuse and amaze!

No surprise

Seen on Twitter …

“… its like they knew beforehand the decision would go their way. weird” tweeted a responder to spy thriller author Brad Thor’s tweet.

Thor noticed something unusual about Obama’s reaction to the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage:

June 29 - 5

In response to the White House’s celebration of “gay marriage,” the “1 Million People to Defeat Barack Obama” posted this:

June 29 - 6

Facebooker Bettina Viviano reacted with her own photoshop. “Well this would make lib heads explode!”

June 29 - 7

Speed cleaning

Wouldn’t you love to have this crew cleaning your home?Lifebuzz reports, “The Shinkansen bullet train in Tokyo is known for a few things. One, it’s incredibly fast, getting up to speeds of about 200 mph. Two, it’s always packed, especially during rush hours and holidays, when hundreds of thousands of people step off and on to it. Three, it’s always so clean that you could probably eat off of the floor – but with that much traffic and activity, how does it get that way?” Turns out, the cleanliness of the Shinkansen trains is all thanks to the TESSEI cleaning crew, who do all the work of cleaning the train in seven minutes or less.”