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Alaska Moves Closer to End Raw Milk Ban Statewide

in Economic Liberty, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty, Victimless Crime by Alice Salles Comments are off

Alaska Moves Closer to End Raw Milk Ban Statewide

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Like drugs, raw milk has become the stuff of mad regulators. “It’s bad for you,” therefore, it needs to go — whether you like it or not.

CowBut raw milk is what it is: raw. It isn’t for for everyone — just like fried food, vegetables, or drugs. Why try to set a standard that isn’t universal and can’t be met by all?

Over the years, brave lawmakers like former congressman Dr. Ron Paul as well as current Kentucky Representative Thomas Massie attempted to put an end to the raw milk ban madness. But despite their best efforts, little was accomplished on the federal level.

That’s where state lawmakers enter the picture.

In Alaska, for instance, state lawmaker Geran Tarr is fighting the federal raw milk ban by pushing a bill through the House that would legalize the sale of raw milk across the Last Frontier state. The bill, known as House Bill 46 was introduced in the House on January 13. It stipulates that individuals across the state are free to sell raw milk to consumers.

This bill would render the federal ban on the sale of the “dangerous” product useless, while allowing Alaskans to make their own decision for themselves.

According to the bill, raw milk sellers would only be required to add a warning to the product’s label stating that the contents are not pasteurized and that they may cause health concerns.

Currently, the sale of raw milk is prohibited in Alaska. But individuals are allowed to purchase cow shares if they want to consume unpasteurized milk. This legal option makes it difficult for the common consumer to have access to the product.

With this bill, this requirement would be lifted, allowing raw milk producers to sell directly to the final consumer.

HB46 should soon be referred to a committee and once it receives a committee assignment, it needs to pass by a majority vote before it moves to the House and Senate for a vote.

If signed into law, the ban upheld by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would be nullified in practice.

To this day, the FDA maintains the ban by claiming that raw milk poses a health risk due to the susceptibility to contamination tied to cow manure. They claim that the possibility milk may be contaminated with E. coli is enough reason to keep consumers from making their own choices.

In 1987, with the implementation of 21 CFR 1240.61(a), the sale and consumption of unpasteurized milk was effectively banned federally by putting an end to the transportation of raw milk across borders or even within borders. If Alaska wins this battle, it would be a victory for liberty.

Marijuana Sales Break Records in 2016, Here’s Why This is Important

in Business and Economy, Drugs, Economic Liberty, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Alice Salles Comments are off

Marijuana Sales Break Records in 2016, Here’s Why This is Important

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

In 2016, marijuana sales grew 30 percent in the United States and Canada, reaching $5.86 billion in U.S. sales alone. As new rules regarding marijuana use and commerce begin to take effect in states like Florida, the year of 2017 promises to be the best in record for cannabis. And yet, the federal government continues to uphold its ban on the plant. Going as far as reassuring the public that CBD, one of the main ingredients in the cannabis plant used to manage pain, is also a Schedule I drug.

MarijuanaRegardless of the federal government’s lack of grasp, the market has chosen to ignore restrictions. Which is what the last big numbers tied to marijuana sales helps to prove.

By 2021, legal sales in the North American continent could reach the $20.2 billion mark, making the marijuana industry’s growth incomparable to the growth of other remarkable industries such as the the Internet. At this rate, the industry could be posting a 25 percent compound annual growth, experts say. But before marijuana, few industries showed this type of success.

In the 1990’s, one of the few consumer industry categories that reached the $5 billion mark in annual spending — only to produce the same rate of growth following the boom — was cable television. In the 2000’s, the Internet did the same, with a 29 percent compound annual growth. As the marijuana market continues to grow, however, the most important aspect of this story is often ignored.

As options become more widely available, and substances such as cannabis achieve legitimate statuses, consumers who rely on the product or who are simply curious now have options. When consumers have options and they are able to “shop around,” they are also less likely to be exposed to the evils of defective or corrupted products. Bad quality is often associated with items available in the black market precisely because the dealer selling products in obscurity has no incentive to compete.

When drugs and other products considered dangerous are decriminalized or legalized, consumers are the first to benefit.

Instead of standing in the way of personal choice, we must boost choice by simply letting the market decide where it goes first. Not because companies and entrepreneurs have a right to tell consumers what to do, but because consumers will lead the way, demanding better services and acting accordingly, by boycotting a certain product or service provider.

Bay Area Restaurants Suffering due to Local Minimum Wage Laws

in Economic Liberty, Economics, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Alice Salles Comments are off

Bay Area Restaurants Suffering due to Local Minimum Wage Laws

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Californians are proud of their politics. More often than not, they will claim they have set the standards, yielding “real change” across the country. But when policies embraced by Californian progressives backfire, don’t expect to see them apologizing to the rest of us.

In the Bay area, folks working in the restaurant business had one of their worst years yet in 2016. And it had nothing to do with the presidential election. Instead, it was a local wage policy that changed their realities, making it difficult for restaurant business to stay afloat or expand.

Oakland-CaliforniaRecently, a local favorite closed its doors while a new restaurant opened in the same area. Unfortunately, the second place was also forced to shut down. What both places have in common? The cost of doing business is too high.

According to a local radio station, rents are helping to drive restaurant business out of the region and into the East Bay. But employees are also feeling the rent blues, moving away from the Bay area and finding it harder to keep a job due to the distance. On top of all that, food prices have also risen, while California’s new minimum wage law begins to claim its first victims.

In the case of the Bay area, the minimum wage jumped from $9 per hour to $12.25 in 2015, due to a recent Oakland wage law. In 2016, the minimum wage rose even higher, to $12.55, leaving restaurants scrambling to keep the same number of employees while struggling to stay in business.

As a result, restaurant owners are either closing or reinventing their businesses, turning full service restaurants into casual eateries. Local reporters who discussed the matter with these business owners all agree: when everything is expensive, whether it’s keeping employees to buying ingredients, the cost of doing business becomes too high. Now that we’re in 2017, local restaurants will be forced to pay $12.86 per hour to their minimum wage employees. In San Francisco, the minimum wage will increase to $14 this year. As restaurants struggle to keep up with payroll demands while paying the bills, they look at local politics and find themselves choosing between sticking with their communities or leaving. To stay, they must slash the number of employees or close their doors. With fewer employees — either because commute is unreasonable or because the minimum wage is bringing these businesses down — the industry’s future seems bleak.

While there’s still a vibrant and competitive environment for restaurants in the region, the cost of living and doing business locally is forcing people to think twice about their choices. Instead of staying put, they often prefer to walk away. And over time, this problem will yield even worse outcomes, producing fewer jobs in the region, which will eventually translate into poor economic growth.

Not being able to take risks, these entrepreneurs who decide to stay must downsize their businesses, and those who were employed are now, once again, struggling to find a job.

As locals begin to live the unintended consequences of minimum wage laws, they also learn about economics.

IRS Might Soon Go After US Bitcoiners

in Economic Liberty, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Alice Salles Comments are off

IRS Might Soon Go After US Bitcoiners

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Recently, a digital asset exchange company based on San Francisco, California known as Coinbase was targeted by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Looking for data on Coinbase’s customers, reports showed the IRS had been looking into police digital currency users. The investigation focused on individuals who used Bitcoin between 2013 and 2015. At the time, “John Doe” warrants were deployed, indicating the IRS may have been looking for individuals using digital currency to evade tax payment.

taxationOnce customers were made aware of the federal government’s response, a lawsuit was filed. But despite Coinbase’s resistance, future court orders could jeopardize their principled stance in favor of their customers’ privacy. Hoping to block the IRS from having access to the company’s database without forcing Coinbase to get deeper into this fight, one customer sued the agency. Nevertheless, the suit is expected to fail. So what could happen next?

In an article, libertarian feminist Wendy McElroy explained the brake on the IRS won’t last. Why? Because the agency may be looking into extending the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) in order to have the enforcement basis to go after Bitcoin and its users. Since FATCA is the enforcement mechanism behind Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR), McElroy believes that the IRS may be using FATCA to target institutions, framing individuals by “strong-arming institutions to provide open access to their accounts.”

If the IRS has its way, McElroy explained further, FATCA will be targeting Americans who own bitcoins and who used the digital currency in transactions over the years. But she also warns that “accidental Americans” such as foreigners with dual citizenship will be next.

Despite the risk, this is not the first time the IRS showed signs of trying to get a hold of Bitcoin enthusiasts.

In March of 2014, the agency issued a notice reporting that digital currency was property and should be taxed as such. Laying the groundwork for what the IRS is doing now, the agency established a basis to go after users who haven’t reported their bitcoins to the taxman. Due to the notice of policy change, individuals getting wages, paying, or receiving in digital currency in exchange for goods and services were now subject to being taxed for those transactions. So far, Bitcoin enthusiasts and users have not reported harassment, but that’s because the IRS lacks an enforcement mechanism. With FATCA, agents may now enforce the new rules.

For bitcoiners, the warning is clear: Be aware that the last few years worth of transactions might be under scrutiny. And if your records are under investigation, you may only learn about it when the IRS sends you a letter demanding payment on bitcoin-related income.

Health Withers As Bureaucracy Devours Physicians’ Working Hours

in Economic Liberty, Healthcare, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Alice Salles Comments are off

Health Withers As Bureaucracy Devours Physicians’ Working Hours

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

The passage of the Affordable Care Act did not represent the death of free market healthcare in America. I was just the last nail in the coffin.

healthcare-1Health care services and their consumers have been hurting ever since the United States government initiated its policy of industry regulation. With the inclusion of so many requirements and mandates, the common physician saw his options vanish. And as a result, the cost of having access to skilled physicians shoot up. Seeing the crisis this vicious cycle created, lawmakers saw yet another opportunity to act, passing a cluster of laws designed to fight “abuse” called The Affordable Care Act (ACA) or Obamacare.

The goal behind ACA may have been to protect the consumer from unfair costs, but the result is nothing short of disappointing. Instead of keeping the cost of health care low, Obamacare artificially increased the cost of doing business to the insurance and healthcare industries.

What’s worse, ACA lowered standards of care as a result.

As physicians find themselves buried in paperwork, they lack the time to dedicate to their craft. Who suffers? The patient.

According to a study published recently in the Annals of Internal Medicine (http://annals.org/article.aspx?articleid=2546704), doctors spend two additional hours on paperwork for every patient they see.

While this is certainly one of the few studies into the subject, it isn’t the first time physicians noticed a problem with the increasing bureaucracy associated with practicing medicine.

In 2005, Hames Sanders, MD wrote that, “As physicians, we are inundated with paperwork in every area of medical practice.”

Due to the time spent on bureaucracy, Sanders continued, the “time and money we desperately need for patient care” is gone. And while physicians “moan and groan about federal and state regulations that are responsible for much of our paperwork burden,” Sanders accused he and his colleagues of having “succumbed to a system that produces more.”

Despite some of their best efforts, things have only gone worse, with physicians now spending 49.2 percent of their time outside of the examination room, and 37 percent of their time in the room with the patient doing paperwork.

With President-elect Donald Trump and his administration showing signs they may not put an end to the Affordable Care Act, we might have to continue experiencing the same problems for 4 more years.

Who will fund national monuments in a libertarian country?

in Ask Dr. Ruwart, Economic Liberty, Economics, Liberator Online, Personal Liberty, Property Rights by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

Who will fund national monuments in a libertarian country?

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

QUESTION: National landmarks such as the Jefferson Memorial, the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial are symbols of national unity, strength, and sources of inspiration. They are monuments of a national republic. How would these monuments be constructed for the entire nation in a libertarian society?

Monuments

MY SHORT ANSWER: They would be constructed and maintained through private donations rather than taxes. Donations are given freely; taxes are forced.

We honor Jefferson, Washington, and other American icons because they believed in the importance of individual freedom, even though they may not have practiced it perfectly (e.g., Jefferson had slaves). We dishonor their memory and the values they cherished by forcing our fellow Americans to pay for their memorials.

Without tax funding, the edifices of these great men might be less grandiose than they are today. (Of course, they might just as well be even grander, better preserved and staffed, and better funded.) However, they would be a truer symbol of the freedom that made our nation great.

Even today, many renowned historical sites and monuments are privately funded. George Washington’s home Mount Vernon — the most popular historic estate in America, open 365 days a year — has been maintained and made available to the public since 1853 by the Mount Vernon’s Ladies’ Association, which proudly declares it “does not accept grants from federal, state or local governments, and no tax dollars are expended to support its purposes.”

Thomas Jefferson’s home Monticello is maintained by a private, non-profit corporation, in cooperation with the University of Virginia.

Colonial Williamsburg was restored with private funds and is run as a private national museum not dependent on government funding.

A libertarian society, based on free enterprise and free from today’s crippling tax burden, would be far wealthier than our society today and thus better able to fund such monuments and landmarks. And the drive to collect the funding for them could unite and inspire the country every bit as much as the actual monuments themselves.

 

Officials Responsible for Stadium Subsidies Get Privileged Seats for Free

in Business and Economy, Economic Liberty, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Alice Salles Comments are off

Officials Responsible for Stadium Subsidies Get Privileged Seats for Free

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Freedom is easy to like. All it takes is for us to let it reign. But with crony capitalism being as ingrained in American political culture as it is today, most of the public isn’t aware of the disastrous consequences of the practice.

MinnesotaAccording to Reason magazine, at least six government appointees responsible for securing a great amount of public money for the construction of the Minnesota Vikings’ new football stadium are now getting access to luxury boxes at no cost.

The appointees are members of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA), an agency created by the state government in 2012 to administer public subsidies granted to the building of the U.S. Bank Stadium. The stadium opened earlier this year with the help of $1.1 billion grant from the taxpayer and now, the six appointees who must have worked quite hard to ensure public money was readily available are able to enjoy all and any events in the stadium for free.

During an investigation by the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, reporters found that, while the Vikings claim that the very existence of these luxury boxes is a marketing move, family and friends of the same MSFA board members responsible for government’s generous grants are often in attendance.

While attempting to explain why they have access to the suites, at least two MSFA members told reporters that since they work “long hours on game days and spent long nights negotiating on behalf of taxpayers during construction of the building,” privileged access to events is “reasonable.” How about that?

Despite their comments, one of these privileged government workers happens to be the son of Walter Mondale, the 42nd Vice President of the United States under President Jimmy Carter, while a second MSFA board member is the daughter of Tom Kelm, the chief of staff for former Minnesota Gov. Wendell Anderson.

As you can see, power players in local and federal politics are often quick to identify. As many of them live their lives being involved in lobbying efforts to ensure special interests are being protected and propped by official entities, they also fatten their own bank account or enrich their lives as a result.

The lesson here is: Incentives always matter.

For this issue to be addressed in a direct and effective matter, those concerned with how their money is spent should always press for reform that removes these incentives from the game altogether. Change will come only when we are able to ensure that neither party is gaining something from government intervention.

Californians Continue to Flee as Public Pensions Eat Up 20 Percent of City Budgets

in Economic Liberty, Economics, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Taxes by Alice Salles Comments are off

Californians Continue to Flee as Public Pensions Eat Up 20 Percent of City Budgets

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

California has, for a long period in American history, been the go-to place for entrepreneurs and seekers of fortune and fame. But as the regulatory burden grows, making it difficult for business owners to stay, they simply pack and move somewhere where the cost of doing business won’t be as overwhelming.

LuggageThat is a reality and it has been bad for quite some time.

According to CoreLogic’s recent analysis, for every home buyer coming into the Golden State, there are three Californians selling their property and flocking elsewhere.

What the study concluded, deputy chief economist at CoreLogic Sam Khater told reporters, is that the the current state of the California housing market shows that there’s a clear connection “between migration patterns and home prices.”

Since property costs in California have risen 71 percent since 2011, members of the middle and lower classes simply cannot afford to stay so they flee, taking their taxes with them. With local government’s worker pensions growing at a staggering rate — even after reforms were implemented — it isn’t farfetched to believe that, as young, hard-working people leave the state, local governments begin to face tough times, much like what happened in places like Detroit, Michigan.

In a state where the median home price is at $480,000 statewide due to the local and state government’s heavy-handed intervention in the real estate market, incomes aren’t keeping up with the home price increases, making it hard for young families to keep up with their expenses. Instead of opting for paying bills and taxes instead of spending on themselves, people are choosing to leave.

In cities like Los Angeles, taxpayers foot billionaire pension bills, which eventually added up to $1.04 billion in 2015, a sum that represents 20 percent of the city’s general fund. And despite the changes to the laws, city officials will continue to use up to 20 percent of the Los Angeles city budget just to cover pensions and retiree healthcare in the future.

But what about the tech industry? You might ask. Isn’t it making Californians rich?

While the tech industry in is, indeed, thriving, the wealth it creates helps to play into the hands of crony capitalism.

As wealthier tech giants become even more prosperous, they also become more influential among California and Washington politicians. But that’s not all. They also raise the overall cost of living for those around them.

With local governments eating into locals’ paychecks, only those who are powerful enough to influence policy will remain in California. And as history teaches us, this is bound to have a very bad ending.

Hamilton Fans, BEWARE: Anti-Scalpers Bill Will Hurt Concert Goers

in Business and Economy, Economic Liberty, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Alice Salles Comments are off

Hamilton Fans, BEWARE: Anti-Scalpers Bill Will Hurt Concert Goers

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Scalpers are often “greedy,” and widely known for their “malicious” ways, at least that what we constantly hear. But when concert goers forget to buy tickets to their favorite band’s concert, the reliable scalper is their best friend. So what’s up with monopolies such as Live Nation Entertainment attempting to put an end to scalping “bots?”

HamiltonAs any major corporation would do, Live Nation spent no time attempting to develop a system that would keep said “bots,” or rather the scout bot software, from purchasing tickets en masse and reselling them online. Instead, the company decided to lobby the government for “help.” As a result, Senators Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) introduced the BOTS Act in order to offer “equitable consumer access to tickets.”

In order to pressure the Senate to pass the bill, legislators are even using personal testimonies from fans who lost the opportunity to purchase cheap tickets to “Hamilton.”

But according to technology policy fellow at the R Street Institute, Anne Hobson and senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University Christopher Koopman, the legislation does not pass the smell test. Simply because the bill would not benefit fans as it promises.

What senators may call a solution, experts call a “solution in search of a problem.”

According to Koopman and Hobson, the problem is not a problem at all. Take Live Nation, for instance. The company’s Ticketmaster service sold over 147 million tickets in 2012. Even if bots acquired about 100,000 tickets a year, which hasn’t been proven since there isn’t enough data to support this claim, “that would still be significantly less than 1 percent of all tickets sold,” experts contend.

The company vows that 60 percent of its most desirable tickets are purchased by bots, but choose to ignore the fact that the company loses tickets by not selling them to the public directly.

By using a system such as Ticketmaster, Live Nation opens itself up to this type of issue.

On top of this problem, proponents of the BOTS Act ignore that by barring scalpers from operating the way they do today would help to push the price of tickets up, not down. Thus hurting the consumer.

By limiting the public’s access to tickets with the use of Ticketmaster, companies like Live Nation also help the cost of concert tickets to be artificially high by preselling or putting the majority of tickets on hold for artists and managers.

With artists and managers reselling these tickets to the highest bidders, they are also competing with scalpers. With that in mind, it’s easy to see why the industry is so concerned with this matter, willing to lobby Congress to act on it in such a dramatic fashion.

But if the goal is to create an “equitable consumer access to tickets,” government must step away from this fight.

But since my hint is that the goal is to just ensure the entertainment industry is protected from those “greedy” scalpers, I’m sure few in Congress will act with the consumer in mind.

Small CA City Employees Living Large, Making More Than Governors

in Economic Liberty, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Alice Salles Comments are off

Small CA City Employees Living Large, Making More Than Governors

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Governments lack knowledge. And it’s what that axiom in mind that we can safely say that acting without knowledge is, even in the short run, a waste.

SantaMonicaIn the city of Santa Monica, California, local bureaucrats are making more than $300,000 a year. That’s $187,000 more than current Vice President elect Mike Pence made as Governor of Indiana the past year.

According to a local investigation, at least 105 Santa Monica employees make more than $300,000 a year, including Santa Monica Police Chief Jacqueline Brooks, who makes $480,000 a year while public records show her base salary is at $306,000.

Overseeing 200 officers, Chief Brooks’ salary seems a bit unusual, especially when you compare it with next door’s Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck, who makes $344,000 while overseeing more than 9,000 officers.

Still in Santa Monica, an unnamed police sergeant raked in nearly $500,000 last year while his base pay was only $137,000. With overtime alone, he was paid about $179,000 extra but unused sick and vacation time were also added to the total, bringing the sergeant’s pay to the total of $475,000.

Others in the local force such as lieutenants, other sergeants, fire captains, and even a marshal made up to six figures by working overtime. According to the Santa Monica city manager, the high number of city employees working overtime is due to the fact that several positions are still unfilled. Currently, however, 18 new firefighters are training in the local academy. Other 18 positions are still waiting to be filled within the local Police Department.

As local transparency groups ask officials why they are having such a hard time filling positions while offering such good pay rates, they want more answers. And if public pressure grows, they may even be able to push for an audit.

As the taxpayer is forced to foot the bill, these watchdogs want city officials to be able to explain in detail why so many of its employees are making more than governors and, sometimes, even as much as the president.

Currently, Santa Monica has some of the highest taxes in the region. With the imminent increase in sales taxes projected to pass by popular vote, they will become even higher.

In other local cities such as Long Beach, watchdogs found 13 city employees making more than $300,000. The same number of overpaid employees was found in Newport Beach, but both cities have populations that are about five times that of Santa Monica.

While the figures are exorbitant, the real problem in this case is not only that government officials are clueless about what the labor market looks from outside of their offices. The bottom line is: When the money doesn’t come out of your own pocket, you do not have to be careful about how you spend it.

Seeing taxpayers as a bottomless pit of money, governments have enough incentives to keep on spending without being held accountable for how they are spending this money. In a free market where the price system is in place, the cost of labor is varied and competitive. Without the pricing mechanism, service providers are not aware of the demand, making them incapable of determining real value.

The only solution to this problem is to shrink the government. Even local ones.

Yes, Corruption Cripples the Economy

in Business and Economy, Economic Liberty, Economics, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Alice Salles Comments are off

Yes, Corruption Cripples the Economy

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

When analyzing the potential ramifications of picking one presidential candidate over the other, many prefer to overlook claims of corruption. On one hand, voters might not be exactly aware of what corruption may entail, but on the other, they might not be entirely sure of how corruption taking place in high levels of government will ever impact their personal finances. Unfortunately for those who do not seem to understand how corruption affects them, the consequences of rent-seeking and influence-peddling schemes go deeper than we expect.

corruptionIn Protectionism vs. Corruption: Which Is Worse for the Economy?, economist D.W. MacKenzie writes that while “an overwhelming majority of economists have agreed on the benefits of free trade since 1817,” many contemporary politicians believe that some trading restrictions help boost the U.S. economy.

But when it comes to analyzing the impact of corruption, few seem to take into consideration that political corruption “impairs economic efficiency and lowers living standards.”

Traditionally, corruption has always been treated as a legal affair, which might explain why the population’s attention is steered away from the real-world consequences of the practice.

According to MacKenzie, the problem with widespread corruption is that special interest groups take advantage of it, lobbying government elements directly to provide them with special treatment, therefore transferring wealth “from the general population into their pockets.” When analyzed closely, these special relationships between private industries and the government “make us all worse off” because the resources used to ensure these groups’ needs are being met could have been spared. In other words, taxpayer money spent on what many call corporate welfare could have stayed in the consumer’s pockets and then used for other purposes, getting that amount back into the economy and helping to make it grow.

Another aspect of political corruption that is often ignored is that free trade is the necessary condition for economic growth to occur, but in countries where markets thrive, their governments are often less impacted by corruption. Considering political corruption is inefficient and bad for growth, MacKenzie concludes, giving more power to politicians known for being corrupt will further damage the economy.

As voters cast their ballots for president, they must have in mind that the only policy that will bring economic growth and peace to America is the complete elimination of barriers to commerce, getting the government completely out of the business of picking winners. Unless the link between the government and the rent seeker is severed, there will be no room left for prosperity.

ACA’s Medicaid Expansion: Not Good for Your Health

in Economic Liberty, Healthcare, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Alice Salles Comments are off

ACA’s Medicaid Expansion: Not Good for Your Health

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

In 2010, just a few weeks before Congress passed the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama said that taxpayers “end up subsidizing the uninsured when they’re forced to go to the emergency room for care…. You can’t get … savings if those people are still going to the emergency room.”

healthcarePart of what the current administration’s signature health law was supposed to do was to increase cost savings so visits to the ER weren’t as common. After helping to pass the law, then-Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi claimed that “the uninsured will get coverage [so they are] no longer [being] left to the emergency room for medical care.”

Six years have passed since those who supported ACA and its main provisions promised to bring the number of ER visits down and yet, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that assuming ACA would lower the number of ER visits was a mistake.

With the expansion of Medicaid in states like Oregon, ER visits increased. But the increase is not the only consequence of Medicaid expansion. When compared to 2015, this year’s Medicaid expansion spending is 49 percent higher per enrollee than what government had expected.

In order to expand Medicaid in Oregon, officials used lottery to expand Medicaid benefits to a limited number of lower income, non-disabled adults.

According to the study’s authors, “Medicaid’s value to recipients is lower than the government’s costs of the program, and usually substantially below,” perhaps because, researchers found, expanded Medicaid coverage “resulted in significantly more outpatient visits, hospitalizations, prescription medications, and emergency department visits.”

When it comes to how Medicaid expansion pushed individuals to the ER, researchers explain that, during the past 15 months, Medicaid increased ER visits by 40 percent.

Researchers found that even if patients have Medicaid, there’s “no evidence that Medicaid coverage makes use of the physician’s office and use of ERs substitutes for one another.”

What many choose to forget is that Medicaid expansion was made possible because of ACA. And according to the government’s own projections, each Medicaid enrollee cost the taxpayer roughly $6.366 in 2015, 49 percent higher than past predictions. This cost spike is mostly due to the fact the federal government reimburses 100 percent of state spending on enrollees who were added after the expansion was launched.

When ACA became law, states were given enough incentives to pay insurance companies high payment rates so new enrollees were cared for, but the high payment rates could only be covered by the federal taxpayer. Since many physicians are leaving the system altogether, preferring to not accept new Medicaid enrollees due to lower rates, patients continued to use ER at a high rate, even higher than years past. So coverage, in this case specifically, did nothing to help patients in need. The result is higher cost to the taxpayer. Instead of making people healthier and helping individuals who are unable to afford medical care, researchers found that the result has been the exact opposite, invalidating ACA apologists.

Will they continue to ignore these results?

Goldman Sachs’ CEO: Regulations Help Us Grow, Keeping Competitors at Bay

in Business and Economy, Economic Liberty, Economics by Alice Salles Comments are off

Goldman Sachs’ CEO: Regulations Help Us Grow, Keeping Competitors at Bay

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Crony capitalism continues to expand big government’s grip, extending the realm under government’s control in ways we once thought impossible. As businesses and employees hurt due to government’s increasing control over all business fields, so does the economy.

GoldmanWhile this issue is inherently a government problem, big business has a lot to do with the growing regulatory burden. Instead of downplaying their role, libertarians should be pointing out how both parties are to blame, and how even big businesses understand this reality and often use it to their advantage.

In a 2015 interview, Goldman Sachs’ CEO Lloyd Blankfein explained how regulations help to protect large, established firms, keeping smaller competitors from having access to the market.

In his own words, he gave the reporter an outline of what happens when a large firm like his is afraid of its competitors, and what’s funny is that few news outlets caught on to the CEO’s unabashed honesty, choosing to never reproduce his comments or downplay their importance.

When talking about how upstart tech companies and the threat they pose to Goldman, Blankfein said that while “all industries are being disrupted to some extent by new entrants coming in from technology,” regulations have been a friend of Goldman mostly because “there are some parts of [Goldman] business, where it’s very hard for outside entrants to come in, disrupt our business, simply because we’re so regulated.”

The burden of regulation, Blankfein added, is a serious issue for “people in our industry,” but, “in some cases,” Blankfein continued, “the burdensome regulation acts as a bit of a moat around our business.”

As you can see, Goldman Sachs’ own CEO refers to regulations as moats. In other words, the regulatory burden can be heavy and Goldman executives agree, but as long as the rules keep competitors from getting anywhere near the Goldman castle, the company doesn’t see a problem with complying.

According to Bill Anderson, a professor of economics at Frostburg State University in Frostburg, Maryland, America truly embraced regulations during the Progressive era, following the lead of progressive leaders such as Theodore Roosevelt, William Jennings Bryan, and Woodrow Wilson who believed that “the federal system of delegated powers was archaic and out of date for a ‘modern, progressive’ society.”

To these politicians, stripping “powers from state and local governments and transferring them to Washington, DC” and “convincing members of Congress to give up their own constitutionally-designated powers” were essential steps in making America a truly progressive nation. How did they manage to go about putting their plan in practice? By “crafting of regulatory agencies,” all of which are part of the executive branch.

So next time you see a Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton supporter go on and on about how government and big business should not be involved in any way, remind them of what has enabled this cozy relationship.

Arizona Business Pushing for More Prohibition Gets a Taste of Free Market Consequences

in Business and Economy, Economic Liberty, Economics, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Alice Salles Comments are off

Arizona Business Pushing for More Prohibition Gets a Taste of Free Market Consequences

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

In The Economics of Prohibition, Austrian economist Mark Thorton explains that the “search for privilege and personal gain through the political process” embraced by major corporations and their lobbying minions are responsible for “any net losses to society produced by government policies.” Adding that, throughout history, we are able to see countless examples of prohibitionist policies being enacted due to this marriage of convenience.

boycottAs information is more readily available due to the widespread growth of the Internet, we now live in an era in which people are often made aware of how companies use their political influence to push for certain policies.

In Phoenix, a company whose political activities have been associated with marijuana prohibition is getting a taste of how the free market deals with unwanted subjects.

According to The Phoenix New Times, a Discount Tire Company is facing a growing boycott movement after its billionaire owner made a $1 million donation to help defeat the ballot initiative crafted with the goal of legalizing marijuana in the Grand Canyon state.

The boycott was first launched by local immigrant-rights groups following the company’s decision to hang a “Re-Elect Sheriff Joe Arpaio” sign in their windows. More recently, however, the company donated money to defeat marijuana legalization in the state, and the boycott movement grew.

The reaction did not come as a surprise, considering that the pro-legalization sentiment in Arizona is growing strong.

Prop 205, the initiative Discount Tires has invested money against, would legalize the use of cannabis for adults who are 21 or older. Individuals would be allowed to possess up to an ounce of the product. If Prop 205 wins, weed sales would also be legalized, and individuals would be allowed to grow the plant for personal use.

Possession of more than an ounce up to 2.5 ounces would be considered a non-arrestable civil offense. Nevertheless, the individual caught with more than one ounce of weed would have to pay a fine.

Despite the restrictions proposed by Prop 205, the law would help locals, offering a solution to an aspect of the drug war that continues to put countless of non-violent young men and women in jail.

In addition to Discount Tires’ donation, other groups have invested heavily in the campaign against the pro-marijuana legalization initiative.

Some of the groups behind the effort include the Arizona Chamber of Commerce, Insys Therapeutics, a synthetic THC-maker, Larry Van Tuyl, whose family’s string of car dealerships was sold to Warren Buffett in 2014, Bennett Dorrance, a local resident who’s the heir to the Campbell Soup fortune, Tucson real estate mogul Donald R. Diamond, Foster Friess of Wyoming, who’s known as a “Republican mega-donor,” Empire Southwest LLC, which sells, rents, and services machinery and power generation equipment to contractors, and the Arizona Republican Party.

As long as the boycotts are peaceful, the effort is a perfect example of how free individuals are able to show their preferences in a freer market setting, letting service providers know where they stand and thus, forcing company owners to cater to their clientele in a way they deem acceptable if they are willing to survive their competition.

SHOCKER: Prison Food Makers Don’t Want Arizona to Legalize Pot

in Drugs, Economic Liberty, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Alice Salles Comments are off

SHOCKER: Prison Food Makers Don’t Want Arizona to Legalize Pot

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Rent-seeking, better known as the practice many companies embrace while trying to obtain benefits through the political machine, is, more often than not, the reason why our liberties are clipped, one by one, in the name of the greater good.

The war on drugs is the perfect example of this.

WeedEver since the idea of the drug war was first considered a valuable policy, politicians have used it as a way to bring their own enemies to heel. Much like major companies — whose profits suffer greatly whenever new competitors enter the market — these politicians often exploit their titles while claiming to hold an entirely different position in public.

With the war against marijuana, we have seen countless industries such as the tobacco and pharmaceutical industries step up their efforts to ensure the plant remains criminalized. As some begin to embrace the trend — even adding marijuana to their portfolio — others remain stubborn, fighting against the change and pushing Washington insiders to keep weed as a Schedule I substance.

Still, there’s one particular industry fighting marijuana legalization that, up until recently, had not made it to the news.

While the law enforcement and prison sectors have always been anti-drug legalization — with the exceptions of groups such as Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) — yet another prison-related company has been investing in keeping weed illegal in at least one state: The prison food industry.

According to official Arizona state reports, Services Group of America has donated $80,000 last month to a campaign committee that hopes to defeat the legal cannabis measure on this year’s November ballot.

SGA’s subsidiary, Food Services of America, is tasked with preparing meals for correction facilities. And, in the past, it has been accused of offering meals that fail to meet basic nutritional standards set by the government. They do not seem too keen on allowing prison demands for their food reach a new low.

Local news reports also add that other groups such as the state Chamber of Commerce in Arizona have also donated heavily to the anti-marijuana effort, addressing a $498,000 check to the campaign.

Before both groups offered their financial support, opioid maker Insys Therapeutics had gone further, donating $500,000 to the anti-pot campaign.

Other groups listed as major anti-weed donors include the Arizona Wine and Spirits Wholesale Association, and SAM Action, which is often described as the campaign arm of Smart Approaches to Marijuana.

Despite the heavy-handed efforts coming from these companies to defeat the marijuana legalization efforts, polls show voters are supporting the effort to legalize pot in the Grand Canyon state.

Will rent seekers win this time?

Pharmaceutical Industry Terrified Weed Legalization Will Put Them Out of Business

in Drugs, Economic Liberty, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Alice Salles Comments are off

Pharmaceutical Industry Terrified Weed Legalization Will Put Them Out of Business

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

The opioid epidemic is a real issue in America. So much so that the U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch started telling young folks that marijuana isn’t really the problem. Instead, Lynch explained, legally prescribed medications are to blame for the increase in opioid abuse.

But while learning that the head of the United States Department of Justice has just argued that weed does not represent a real threat may sound promising, it’s important to remember that marijuana is still a Schedule I drug. Meaning that the federal government still sees marijuana as a substance “with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”

ManufacturingRecently, a group of marijuana legalization activists got an initiative known as Proposition 205 in the ballot in Arizona.

The initiative would allow Arizona residents who are older than 21 to possess up to an ounce of marijuana in public. Prop 205 would also allow consumers to grow up to six plants at home, giving them the option to give other adults up to an ounce at a time of its produce “without remuneration.”

But with the good news came another discovery.

The group that, alone, donated $500,000 to the effort to oppose the Arizona marijuana legalization campaign, is a local pharmaceutical company known as Insys, and it produces oral sprays used in the delivery of an opioid painkiller known as fentanyl.

According to Reason, the same company is planning on marketing yet another device that would deliver dronabinol, a synthetic version of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC: The main mind-altering ingredient in cannabis.

When donating to kill the initiative, the company contended that its opposition to marijuana legalization is due to Prop 205’s “[failure] to to protect the safety of Arizona’s citizens, and particularly its children.” According to Reason’s Jacob Sullum, what Insys is truly worried about is “the impact that legalization might have on its bottom line, since marijuana could compete with its products.”

And why is Insys so concerned? Perhaps because a recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health contends that, in states where marijuana use is legal to a certain extent, fatally injured drivers are “less likely to test positive for opioids.” Sullum adds that this finding, along with the results of other studies show that “making marijuana legally available to patients saves lives by reducing their consumption of more dangerous medications.”

The data analyzed by researchers comes from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS). By looking at the data gathered from 18 states where 80 percent of drivers who died in auto crashes were drug-tested, researchers found that, between 1999 and 2013, drivers between the ages of 21 and 40 were half as likely to test positive for opioids where medical marijuana laws had been implemented.

In these same states, researchers found that painkiller prescriptions fell by 3,645 daily doses per physician. Researchers concluded that “the passage of the medical marijuana laws” are directly associated with “the observed shifts in prescribing patterns.”

As the industry begins to fear the consequences of ending the drug war, we begin to understand that their dominance over the market is mainly due to their rent-seeking practices, which keep their leaders close to lawmakers, helping the industry to exert enough influence to sway public policy in a way that benefits them.

Without the presence of a government body giving companies special protections while outlawing particular drug transactions, drug providers are able to compete freely and in the open, giving consumers better and safer options.

It’s time to finally put an end to the drug war and admit that, rent-seeking will never help the nation heal from all of the negative consequences of our country’s ongoing romance with crony capitalism.

How Egg Regulations Hurt the Environment — And Your Pocket!

in Business and Economy, Economic Liberty, Economics, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Alice Salles Comments are off

How Egg Regulations Hurt the Environment — And Your Pocket!

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Government has a way of making us all question our sanity. Especially when it comes to food regulations and its environmentally unsound consequences.

In many countries across the globe, the practice of washing eggs is seen as anti-hygienic. Because when egg producers wash fresh eggs, they also remove a layer of protein known as cuticle.

EggsThe cuticle is important because it prevents the egg shell from being porous. With a porous exterior, eggs are vulnerable to bacteria.

In the 1970s, regulators with the U.S. Department of Agriculture concluded that egg producers should invest in “fancy machines,” as NPR puts it, to shampoo eggs with soap and hot water. But once the eggs were washed, regulators added, producers should place them immediately in a refrigerator.

To justify the addition of yet another requirement for the egg industry, regulators claimed this step helped to avoid salmonella contamination. But washing the egg’s exterior does little to prevent contamination.

As NPR explains, the cuticle “is like a little safety vest for the egg, keeping water and oxygen in and bad bacteria out. Washing can damage that layer and ‘increase the chances for bacterial invasion’ into pores or hairline cracks in the shell, according to Yi Chen, a food scientist at Purdue University.”

Salmonella enteritidis often infects a chicken’s ovaries, which tends to impact the yolk before the shell hardens. The bacteria can be killed when consumers cook it. Washing the exterior of the egg does little to prevent contamination. As expected, salmonella continues to expose about 142,000 individuals to infections each year.

While many contend that washing the egg and refrigerating it or leaving the cuticle both work, only the method adopted by the United States government requires a great deal of electricity use to ensure the product’s safety. Considering only 10 percent of the total U.S. energy consumption comes from renewable sources, it’s hard to see why environmentalists are not urging government to nix this particular regulation.

But too much energy consumption is not the only negative consequence of egg-washing. The cost of purchasing an egg washing machine, the device’s maintenance, required labor, and the cost of electricity employed in maintaining the product shielded from contamination all add up, increasing the price of eggs and harming the consumer.

With reports showing just how salmonella is still a problem despite the regulatory requirements imposed on the egg industry, it’s hard to contend forcing all producers to wash their eggs is somehow productive. Especially when so much electricity is required to maintain the eggs refrigerated.

Why not try freedom for a change?

Drug Prices Are High Because Government Protects Monopolies

in Healthcare, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Alice Salles Comments are off

Drug Prices Are High Because Government Protects Monopolies

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Ever since the EpiPen scandal hit the public like a ton of bricks, many outlets contended that greed, not cronyism, was to blame.

pillsBut when looked closely, EpiPen is just another example of corporate influence and lobbying shaping public policy. The ones who benefit are always the same individuals who pressed for changes in the first place.

In an article for the Fiscal Times, Mercatus Center’s Marc Joffe contended that the drug price problem could be fixed by targeting the Food and Drug Administration. But not by giving the agency more regulatory power. Instead, Joffe argues that, stripping the agency of its power would do America a world of good.

In the article, Joffe tells the story of how the FDA obtained its power, noting that it was a morning sickness pill that prompted the nationwide support for the Kefauver Harris Amendment, which “gave the [FDA] most of the power it now exerts in regulating drugs.”

As the FDA expanded its power, regulating every single piece of medication in America, drug prices increased considerably, while access to many life-saving drugs remains restricted. To Joffe, the “drug crisis” we now face as a nation has everything to do with the empowerment of the FDA, prompting the scholar to urge lawmakers to look at the free market for a solution if what they are truly after is to lower drug prices.

In a competitive market, Joffe writes, “price equals the marginal cost of production.” But even in an imperfect world, he contends that, when “prices [are] well above production costs,” firms see an incentive to compete. But if markets are restricted and companies are granted exclusive rights to produce and sell certain drugs, firms are unable to compete. Without competition, monopolies set the rules, making way to high costs and low effectiveness.

In his article, Joffe argues that, if Congress is serious about helping patients from all walks of life, they must stop considering the idea of passing laws to expedite the FDA’s approvals for new drugs. Instead, Joffe writes, “[allowing] multiple organizations to approve drugs, providing competition to the FDA … [or allowing] pharmaceutical companies sell whichever medications they believe to be safe and effective — with the understanding that patients can win large judgments if the companies fail to produce and market their treatments responsibly,” would both be better options that would deliver better, and more effective results.

Freedom, after all, is the answer to most of our problems. And that’s why governments often contend the opposite.

How Regulations Helped to Kill the Blackcurrant Berry Market in America

in Business and Economy, Economic Liberty, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Alice Salles Comments are off

How Regulations Helped to Kill the Blackcurrant Berry Market in America

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

It’s no secret that regulations are used as tools by rent-seeking firms in order to keep competitors off the market. But when US regulations restrict the production of items for long periods of time and for no apparent reason, it’s often hard to bring the same items back into particular communities.

FruitThis happened with the blackcurrant berry, which has impacted Skittles, the fruit-flavored sweets that are both produced and marketed by the Wrigley Company.

In the United States, the purple Skittle tastes like grape. But anywhere else, including the United Kingdom and Australia, the company uses blackcurrant to produce these pesky purple pieces of candy. Outside of the country, everyone knows what blackcurrant is. But in America, many haven’t even heard of the powerful fruit.

What many also don’t know is that blackcurrant berry is not widely known in America because of a regulatory black hole.

For many years, growing the sweet and tart berry in the United States was outlawed. Since the early 1990s, farmers were forced to drop the production, but it wasn’t because there wasn’t a demand. Instead, the policy was embraced after legislators learned that the berry bushes could act as a vector for white pine blister rust, which could destroy the wood. That was a problem for lumber producers, and the berry was outlawed.

While in the 1960s the federal government loosened restrictions, allowing states to set their own rules, a few have kept the ban in place. Nevertheless, most states now allow farmers to grow the berry. Regardless of the policy change, the decades of obscurity made Americans remain unaware of the very existence of blackcurrant berry. The fruit, which is widely popular in Europe, is seldom found anywhere in the United States.

One man’s journey to formally decriminalize the fruit in New York started in Germany, where he ran a restaurant in the Bavaria region. Coming back to New York, Greg Quinn lobbied local lawmakers, helping overturn the ban on growing the fruit. Ever since 2003, Quinn has been growing blackcurrants in Hudson Valley, and now counts with at least 10,000 bushes in his backyard.

Ever since the very first moment he learned about the berry, he knew he alone had to help reintroduce the flavor back to the American palate.

As his brand of juices and concentrates start to slowly hit the market, many cocktail bars and restaurants appear to like the products, but the flavor is so foreign to Americans that the product is often seen as a tough sell.

Until blackcurrant berries are popular in America again, one can only hope that this story will help others to think twice before supporting more restrictions in the future.

Former Felons Could Benefit from Free Markets Too

in Business and Economy, Criminal Justice, Economic Liberty, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Alice Salles Comments are off

Former Inmates Could Benefit from Free Markets Too

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

For too many former convicts, life after prison is hard. Oftentimes, quite impossible. That’s why most of those who are given a second chance end up going back to jail.

But to this 35-year-old, his second chance came in the form of a local restaurant manager who was not scared of government’s formal tagging of felons.

Applebee'sAfter his release in 2011, Marcellus Benbow was struggling to find a job. He told reporters that, at the time, he was doing odd jobs, hoping to avoid going back to a life of crime while looking for a full-time opportunity. As he struggled to find a steady occupation in order to gain custody of his two oldest daughters, he also found no sympathy from potential employers.

That all changed when he answered an ad on Craigslist.

As soon as he met with the general manager at Apple-Metro, the New York franchisee of Applebee’s, both men hit off. That was it. Benbow had finally scored full-time employment with the company as a broiler cook.

“Applebee’s saved my life,” he said.

Now, Benbow is an assistant kitchen manager at Applebee’s Fordham Road location in the Bronx. He could soon be getting a promotion, taking the role of kitchen manager. He was lucky that his current employer was not afraid of his past, but many in his position aren’t as lucky.

In America, felons are required to disclose whether they have spent time in jail. But even if they don’t disclose this information, background checks help potential employers learn more. In many cases, non-violent felons are seen as a threat by employers who prefer to hire someone else, spurring a wave of discrimination suits against business owners.

The result is quite concerning.

The estimated unemployment rates among ex-prisoners are between 25 and 40 percent, despite the federal incentives some get by hiring felons. But laws that have helped to create so many non-violent criminals are still in effect. Instead of urging Congress to review some of these laws, namely the drug war and other pieces of legislation such as the Violence Against Women Act, many advocates for equal employment opportunities blame companies alone for their refusal to hire felons.

Recently, the often feared tycoons known as the Koch brothers announced they would stop asking potential employees about their criminal record. According to Koch Industries’ general counsel, Mark Holden, and Charles Koch, the decision came about after leadership noticed that overcriminalization had been affecting “us all but most profoundly harms our disadvantaged citizens.”

At the time of the announcement, both men penned an op-ed that asked the question: “If ex-offenders can’t get a job, education or housing, how can we possibly expect them to have a productive life?”

Instead of forcing employers to change, advocates could see a real change in the country’s employment environment by just pushing Washington to focus on real criminal justice reform.

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