An Austro-libertarian reads a history book

One of the driving forces behind my attempting to learn as
much as possible is that I simply didn’t give my own education the seriousness
it deserved before attending college. In so many ways, I read and learn so as
to catch up.

However, as an Austro-libertarian, one of the challenges of
reading, say, a history book is that the author’s worldview and analytical
framework when discussing a particular subject may not jibe with my own. While I’m
always open to the possibility that I can profit from reading an author with a
different perspective, it can sometimes become difficult to glean from such works
what I should actually take away from them.

To provide a small example of what I mean, I’m currently in the process of reading Tudor England by John Guy, a British historian and biographer who currently teaches at Cambridge University. A particular passage, relating to Cardinal Wolsey’s service as Henry VIII’s Lord Chancellor from 1515 to 1529, highlighted this very challenge.

The passage in question is the following:

“… [Wolsey] attacked from star chamber[i] the abuse of private traders in civic markets, doing so in the interest of social responsibility. The ‘just price’ was still the main consideration in agricultural marketing, but traders were businessmen who, necessarily, made money at the consumer’s expense. At a stroke Wolsey hauled seventy-four provincial graziers before the Council along with dozens of London butchers, but this crackdown was not followed up – nothing happened. He also issued proclamations prohibiting profiteering in grain and enforcing traditional statutes regulating vagabonds and labourers. Yet when in 1520 six grain speculators from Buckinghamshire were reported to him for action, he referred the compliance back to the locality, being too busy to deal with it. Another swoop on traders led to one documented conviction, while only two cases were brought to Wolsey on the strength of his proclamations.”[ii]

For the most part, this passage appears to provide a relatively accurate description of Wolsey’s actions relating to curbing what he saw as market abuses. However, from an Austro-libertarian perspective, there are two aspects of the passage that are fascinating.

The first aspect is Guy’s comment that businessmen necessarily make their money at the
expense of consumers. On the one hand, it is not surprising for a scholar
specializing on Tudor England to hold the same opinion as those he studied. As
Murray Rothbard observed, Guy’s (and Wolsey’s) view was typical of
mercantilists in the sixteenth-century, who held that “in any trade, one party
can benefit only at the expense of the other—that in every transaction there is
a winner and a loser, an ‘exploiter’ and an ‘exploited.’”[iii]
In fact, such a view remains popular to this day.

However, that doesn’t mean that it is right. As Rothbard

“Both parties undertake [an] exchange because each expects to gain from it. Also, each will repeat the exchange next time (or refuse to) because his expectation has proved correct (or incorrect) in the recent past. Trade, or exchange, is engaged in precisely because both parties benefit; if they did not expect to gain, they would not agree to the exchange.”[iv]

The second fascinating aspect of the passage is Guy’s criticism of the effectiveness of Wolsey’s policy, not because it was erroneous to challenge prices derived through free trade. Rather, Guy was critical of Wolsey not following through and achieving the goal he established for himself.

What Guy appears to not recognize is that, regardless of how
aggressively a regime may enforce price limits, they never work. As Ludwig von
Mises observed:

“History is a long record of price ceilings and anti-usury laws. Again and again emperors, kings, and revolutionary dictators have tried to meddle with the market phenomena. Severe punishment was inflicted on refractory dealers and farmers. Many people fell victim to persecutions which met with the enthusiastic approval of the masses. Nonetheless, all these endeavors failed. The explanation which the writings of lawyers, theologians and philosophers provided for the failure was in full agreement with the ideas held by the rulers and the masses. Man, they said, is intrinsically selfish and sinful, and the authorities were unfortunately too lax in enforcing the law. What was needed was more firmness and peremptoriness on the part of those in power.[v]

“Economics does not say that isolated government interference with the prices of only one commodity or a few commodities is unfair, bad, or unfeasible. It says that such interference produces results contrary to its purpose, that it makes conditions worse, not better, from the point of view of the government and those backing its interference. Before the government interfered, the goods concerned were, in the eyes of the government, too dear. As a result of the maximum price their supply dwindles or disappears altogether. The government interfered because it considered these commodities especially vital, necessary, indispensable. But its action curtailed the supply available. It is therefore, from the point of view of the government, absurd and nonsensical.”[vi]

Therefore, it is no surprise whatsoever that Wolsey failed to
curtail high prices in certain goods.

Once these two aspects are addressed, an Austro-libertarian
can take this passage closer to what it is: yet another example of a state
attempting to control the prices of certain goods, only to not succeed.

The Star Chamber was an English court of law, comprised of Privy Councillors
and common-law judges, which supplemented the judicial activities of the
common-law and equity courts in civil and criminal matters. Wikipedia
contributors, “Star Chamber,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed
February 20, 2019).

John Guy, Tudor England (Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 1980), 94.

[iii] Murray
N. Rothbard. The Library of Economics and
“Free Market.”
(accessed February 19, 2019).


[v] Ludwig
von Mises, Human Action (Auburn, Alabama:
Ludwig von Mises Institute, 1998), 753.

Ibid, 758.

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Memebuster: Old man tries to run with the cool kids

Rarely does one image perfectly capture the times in which we find ourselves. However, before explaining how the above meme is such an example, I’d like to explore another image: specifically, a Rembrandt.

Rembrandt most likely painted The Return of the Prodigal Son within two years of his death in 1699. The painting is so rich that viewers can contemplate it for hours and discern profound artistic and religious insights. A relatively contemporary example of such an exploration is Henri Nouwen’s book on the painting. In a mere 151 pages, Nouwen masterfully addresses the painting from perspectives than I had previously never conceived. Patient readers benefit greatly from the grand conversation that takes place between a religious and a work of art.

In comparison, the above meme is not so much a mirror image of Rembrandt’s masterpiece as its photographic negative. Rather than encouraging one to seek insight and engage in conversation, it mocks and shuts dialogue down. Instead of contemplation, it spews scorn. It does not search for deep truths; it drips with condescension to those deemed inferior.

Now why would a 65-year old former Nobel Prize winner provide cover for a 29-year old former cocktail waitress who won her first Congressional election? After all, she has said some stupid things. Really stupid things, such as incorrectly stating the three branches of governments, not being able to explain how ridiculously-expensive social programs can be paid for, and demonizing industries and individuals for no other reason than they’re successful. Also, notice that Krugman doesn’t say that Ocasi0-Cortez didn’t say stupid things, but that certain people who castigated Ocasio-Cortez are also stupid.

That may be true, but it’s also irrelevant. What Krugman pulls here is a really neat rhetorical trick. By emphasizing “the average GOP house member”, Krugman is trying to stipulate that because the average GOP house member isn’t very bright, anyone criticizing Ocasio-Cortez isn’t very bright, so there’s no point in listening to such criticisms. While avoiding the bloodly actual truth of the matter – that Ocasio-Cortez has said some really stupid things – he uses a slight of hand maintain rhetorical superiority over those who seek to make truth claims. 

In other words, Krugman, once again, is being intellectually dishonest.

But again, why would Krugman do this? Clearly, Krugman is smart enough to understand that Ocasio-Cortez doesn’t know what she’s talking about, and that her socialist policies would be horribly destructive. After all, as Robert Murphy and Tom Woods have consistently demonstrated on their podcast Contra Krugman, Krugman understood how free markets work before becoming a Democratic Party hack at the New York Times.

The only plausible explanation for now is that Krugman sees Ocasio-Cortez as the new wave that is providing new political energy to the Democratic party. She is exciting the base, who have been indoctrinated by American institutions – government, education, and the media (old and new) – to not think for themselves and believe that maintaining the rhetorical high ground is far more important than understanding the truth.

In short, Krugman is setting aside what he understands to be true in order to stay with those who seek to maintain their power. And in this particular case, it’s rather pathetic than an old man, who ought to have accumulated sufficient wisdom to know better, is trying to play with the cool kids.

By showing an old hack providing cover for an ignorant newbie, this meme perfectly captures the state of American institutions in general and the Democratic party in particular.

The American left is bankrupt: financially, intellectually, and morally. It has run out of ideas for maintaining a relatively stable hold over the American populace. If it has any hope of maintaining the power it has held since the dawn of the progressive era, it must castigate and block those who no longer believe in their dogma. Why else are critics, both caustic (such as Alex Jones) and bland (such as Sargon of Akkad), being removed from social media platforms in an organized manner?

The problem with an bankrupt entity, particularly one whose actions have created numerous and increasing adversaries, is that it is much less effective each time it reacts to a new threat. There is no well from which to dwell water. The jig is up. The fix is in. There’s no there there.

So if Krugman and Ocasio-Cortez and their ilk want to continue to living on a rhetorical ground based on the quicksand of lies, that’s their prerogative. As for me, I’d rather stand on the rock of truth than the sands of time. For now, they may have the high ground, but my feet feel sure.

So that leads to my final question.

Is this really the game you want to play, bitches?

If so, then let’s play.

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An open letter to His Eminence Blase Cardinal Cupich, Archbishop of Chicago

Your Eminence,

I’m writing to you in response to a television interview you provided to NBC5 News in Chicago, in which you responded to allegations made by former apostolic nuncio Carlo Maria Viganó that, among other things, Pope Francis knew about sanctions imposed on then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick by Pope Benedict XVI, but chose to repeal them. Specifically, you made two specific comments on which I wish to provide feedback. Those comments are:

“The Pope has a bigger agenda. He’s got to get on with other things, of talking about the environment and protecting migrants and carrying on the work of the church. We’re not going to go down a rabbit hole on this.”


“Quite frankly they don’t like him because he’s a Latino.”

In light of the crisis in which the Church finds itself (again), and in light of the specific allegations Archbishop Viganó made against Pope Francis, I can’t think of more tone-deaf and counterproductive remarks than these. To not only ignore the allegations because the Pope is somehow too busy, but also insult those who are gravely concerned about the state of the Church as racists, is uncharitable of the highest order.

If it is the case that Pope Francis did not repeal the sanctions imposed on McCarrick, I don’t think it would take too much time out of his busy day r him to clearly and categorically deny it. Rather, he has decided to ignore the allegations. And you have decided to deride those who have the temerity to be concerned about how bishops treat their flocks, including and especially those who wish to enter into the priesthood. In what universe could those remarks be, in any way, acceptable?

If I may be so bold as to humbly offer a suggestion to you, it would be to quickly realize the error of those remarks, apologize for them, and join your brother bishops, including those on the Executive Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, who are calling for an investigation into, among other things, the specific allegations made by Viganó. After all, if the Church is to remain on the foundation of Jesus Christ, who is the way, the truth, and the life, there is no reason to be afraid to learn the truth of the matter.

Sincerely yours,

A Simple Fool

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Can Ocasio-Cortez still lose the general election?

I reported in an earlier post that waitress-turned-stateswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez shocked the Democratic establishment by beating longtime pol Joe Crowley in a New York congressional primary.

However, it appears that Crowley won a minor party’s primary in the same congressional district. This raises an intriguing question: can Ocasio-Cortez lose the general election to the very person she beat in the primary?

Tim Pool discusses this fascinating possibility.


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Philippine president vows to resign if anyone can prove God exists


Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who has been in office since July 2016,  has worked hard to create a tough guy image. Duterte publicly admitted to running death squads while mayor of Davao City, the largest city on Mindanao island. As President, he has implemented a vicious anti-drug campaign that has led to the deaths of at least 4,000 people.

Not surprisingly, the Roman Catholic Church, which has an enormous presence in the Philippines, has been extremely critical of the government’s campaign.

Duterte, being a tough guy and all,  decided to deride the institution, primarily by insulting it.

The Philippine president, who recently sparked outrage for calling God stupid, has courted new controversy in his largely Roman Catholic country by saying he will resign if anybody can prove that God exists.

President Rodrigo Duterte, who has had a thorny relationship with the church, questioned anew in a speech late Friday some of the basic tenets of the Catholic faith, including the concept of original sin, which he said taints even innocent infants and can only be removed through baptism in a church for a fee.

“Where is the logic of God there?” Duterte asked in a speech at the opening of a science and technology event in southern Davao city.

The 73-year-old leader said that if there’s “one single witness” who can prove, perhaps with a picture or a selfie that a human was “able to talk and to see God,” he will immediately resign.

Duterte, however, suggested that there must be a God or a supreme being that prevents billions of stars and celestial bodies from colliding in a frequency that could have long threatened the human race.

Last week, he was slammed, including by some of his political allies, for calling God “stupid” in another speech, with one Catholic bishop calling him a “psychopath.”

Duterte lamented in that speech that Adam and Eve’s sin in Christian theology resulted in all the faithful falling from divine grace.

“Who is this stupid God? This son of a bitch is then really stupid,” he said last week. “You were not involved but now you’re stained with an original sin … What kind of a religion is that? That’s what I can’t accept, very stupid proposition.”

My goodness, do these diatribes include a great deal of stupid. I suppose this shouldn’t be surprising by someone who encourages extrajudicial killings. Nevertheless, there are three aspect of Duterte’s criticisms, however crudely put, that are typical in today’s secular society.

Playing to scientism

First of all, notice that Duterte decided to deride God at a “science and technology” event. The man may be a-ok with death squads, but he also knows how to read an audience. Duterte’s rantings coincide well with the common misconception among scientismists* that religion and science cannot mix.

However, this attitude ignores the Catholic Church’s central role in not only allowing, but encouraging the sciences to flourish in Europe since the Middle Ages. That is because according to Catholic teaching, God, who is outside of time and space, created reality, which includes the natural and supernatural. The natural world adheres to the laws of nature, which are reasonable and can be discerned through observation (e.g., the scientific method). While science focuses on the natural, religion focuses on the supernatural, which can be discerned through reason, revelation, and God’s grace. There is no reason to think that religion and science need to be at odds with one another.

However, that doesn’t stop Duterte from playing to the tastes of the pseudo-sophisticated to get them on his side.

Sinners criticizing original sin

Further, the “content” of his criticism, which relates to the Church’s doctrine of original sin, is … interesting. First of all, the question “where is the logic of God there?” doesn’t flow from questioning whether original sin exists.

What Duterte’s trying to do is make the Church look like the concept of original sin is not so much a theological idea than a business model. By insinuating that the original sin can be removed (which it can’t) through “buying” baptism, Duterte is trying to make the church look like it’s attempting to shake down its customers rather than save souls.

Beyond the shakedown angle, Duterte criticizes the idea that people are “stained” with original sin without their intent or involvement. However crassly he may call this idea “stupid”, unfortunately, the idea of original sin explains a great deal as to why evil exists in the world (such as the existence of death squads). He may not like the idea, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

Then again, he clearly knows the audience to whom he’s speaking. I’m sure Duterte received the chuckles he was looking for.

Waiting for a selfie with Jesus

Finally, there’s perhaps Duterte’s most dangerous (to him, at least) point of his remarks, where he says he’ll resign if someone shows him proof of God’s existence.

I’m sure he thinks he’s being cute by waiting for a selfie with God before resigning. And once again, I’m sure the scientismists ate this up.

Unfortunately, these jokes (I’m trying to be charitable here) show rather plainly how stupid Duterte himself is. I say this for three reasons.

First, as I mentioned above, the Christian god is outside of time and space. He is not just another object that modern science can locate, identify, and study. When Moses asked God what His name was, God responded: “I Am Who I Am.” In other words, God is pure being. As such, he is pure spirit and without matter.

Second, while God wants all of humanity to come to Him and be with Him, now and for eternity, He wants us to be to him on His terms. In other words, everything He made was good. It was humanity, through our free will, who decided to not follow His path. There is no reason, none, for God to change anything about how He shows Himself to us. We have the Bible, through which man’s encounter with God is documented; we have Jesus, the Son of God, who came down to reconcile man to God; and we have the Church, through which man stays reconciled with God.

In short, God ain’t gonna take a selfie with anyone anytime soon.

Third, and perhaps most importantly, one can demonstrate God exists without needing to see Him. We can use our own reason to figure that out. For example, Thomas Aquinas developed five ways to prove God’s existence. (Here’s a short, useful book that walks through those ways.) Rather than going through those ways, suffice it to say that proofs of the existence of God have existed for several hundred years.

I eagerly await Duterte’s announcement to resign as Philippine president.

* The word “scientismist”, while silly, is not a mistype. I use the word to describe those who believe that the scientific method is the sole way to gain knowledge on any given subject. (By the way, does the scientific method demonstrate the truth of this proposition?) The idea that the scientific method is the only such method is “scientism”; therefore, those who believe in this idea is a “scientismist”. QED

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Restoring the art of argument

He focused on making a good argument.
Paul Sweezy

The intellectual and political climate today is toxic. As rare as it is to see dialogue between those who disagree with each other, rarer to see are attempts to understand the views of an intellectual or political opponent. Far too many professors are more interested in using their positions to pursue their political agendas than developing and sharing knowledge in their respective fields. While one can observe around the edges of public discourse calls for constructive dialogue (by, among others, Dave Rubin, Stefan Molyneaux, and Bishop Robert Barron), social media is drowning in political correctness, demonization, and guilt by association.

Therefore, when I came across a genuine dialogue among intellectuals who disagree with each other, I found myself refreshed by the manner in which their ideas were discussed.

A civilized response to a civilized argument

While beginning work on my largest project for this blog to date, I read Karl Marx and the Close of His System by Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk in a book published in 1949. The book also included two essays written in response to it. Specifically, the volume included “Böhm-Bawerk’s Criticism of Marx” by Rudolf Hilderling and “On the Correction of Marx’s Fundamental Theoretical Construction in the Third Volume of Capital” by Ladislaus von Bortkiewicz. The volume was edited by Paul M. Sweezy, who was a Marxian economist and founding editor of the socialist Monthly Review magazine.

Eugen von Bohm-Bawerk

Sweezy created the volume to address the criticisms Böhm-Bawerk raised against Marx’s economic theory developed in his three-volume work Capital.[i] He did so because Böhm-Bawerk was considered by supporters and opponents of Marx alike as an authority among opponents of Marxist economics:

So far as the United States is concerned, all the serious criticisms of Marxian economics with which I am acquainted recognize the authority, if not the primacy, of Böhm-Bawerk in this field; while the similarity of the anti-Marxian arguments in the average textbook to those of Böhm-Bawerk is too striking to be easily accounted a coincidence.

From the Marxian camp the testimony to Böhm-Bawerk’s pre-eminence as an opponent is at least as striking. Louis B. Boudin, in the economic chapters of his important survey of the Marxian system and its critics, pays most attention to Böhm-Bawerk’s arguments: “First because Böhm-Bawerk is so far superior to his comrades in arms and his authority is acknowledged by them to such an extent, that it can hardly be claimed to be unfair to these critics, to pick Böhm-Bawerk as an example of them all. Second, because there seems to be quite a good deal of unanimity among these critics on this particular point [value theory], and the arguments advanced by the others are either directly borrowed from Böhm-Bawerk, very often with an acknowledgment of receipt, or are variations on the same tune deserving no particular attention.” The situation did not change greatly in this respect in the following decades. William Blake, writing in 1939, could say: “Böhm-Bawerk anticipated nearly all the attacks on Marxism from the viewpoint of those who hold political economy to center on a subjective theory of value. On the whole, little has been added to his case by other critics; their important contributions are outside the theories he chose to contest.” (Introduction, ix-x)

Sweezy clearly did not agree with Böhm-Bawerk’s analysis of Marx. However, he accurately articulated those criticisms and the approach from which Böhm-Bawerk wrote. Sweezy was familiar with the history of economic thought in general, and the Austrian school in particular. While Sweezy was critical of the approach used by the Austrian school, he focused on the substance of Austrian arguments, and did not use pejoratives. He was also sufficiently honest to identify mistakes Marx himself made in his work.

Sweezy also appreciated the manner in which Böhm-Bawerk dealt with his intellectual opponents, including Marx. In a footnote, he observed:

Franz Weiss says, with justice, that “Böhm-Bawerk’s criticism of Marx contrasts favorably with much that has since been written, both for and against Marx, by its dispassionate tone. Standing in complete opposition to Marx’s teachings, Böhm-Bawerk was extremely careful to be fair to him as a person. (Introduction, xiv, footnote 1)

Models for this toxic age

It is a credit to both Böhm-Bawerk and Sweezy that both writers sought to tackle challenging issues with the civility both demonstrated. They focused on developing and answering arguments. They did not let their, or any one else’s, personalities get in the way of addressing ideas that require serious attention.

Their conduct serves as examples for improved public discourse so that ideas are addressed in the manner they deserve.

[i] Marx died before the second-volume of Capital was published. Frederick Engels completed and published the second and third volumes based on Marx’s notes.

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Socialist defeats incumbent Democrat in New York Congressional primary


In a result is describing as “the most shocking upset of a rollicking political season”, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez defeated 10-term incumbent Joe Crowley in New York’s 14th congressional district on Tuesday.

There are two significant aspects of this election result. First, not only did a newcomer defeat an incumbent, but Crowley is currently a senior member of the House Democratic leadership. Before his defeat, he had been considered a possible candidate for speaker if Democrats won a majority in the fall. Second, Ocasio-Cortez openly presented herself as a socialist. Like Bernie Sanders, when he ran for the Democratic nomination for president in the 2016 election, Ocasio-Cortez won the primary for a party for which she is not a member; she is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America.

While Crowley outraised Ocasio-Cortez by a 10-to-1 margin and spent heavily on television advertising, she prevailed through a grass-roots campaign and support from national progressive groups such as Black Lives Caucus and

Ocasio-Cortez has been running a hard left campaign. Her platform calls for, among other things, universal health care, a federal jobs guarantee, and the abolition of ICE.

While the particular result of this election may be surprising, it certainly fits within the prevailing trend of socialism becoming increasing popular among the rank-and-file of the Democratic party. The trend began when self-described Marxist Kshama Sawant convinced the Seattle city council (of which she is a member) to establish a $15-an-hour minimum wage in 2014, and continued with the Sander presidential campaign.

This trend has taken place notwithstanding not only the overwhelmingly clear arguments that socialism can never work, but the implementation of socialism during the twentieth century has led to nothing but economic and environmental destruction and the deaths of over 100 million people. In other words, there is no rational basis to believe, under any circumstances, that socialism will work. The fact that socialist policies continue to be attractive to a far-too-significant portion of the American electorate raises serious questions about the quality of education provided through government schools.

Regardless of whether Ocasio-Cortez wins the general election, her primary victory is yet another indication that socialism continues to be far-too-attractive to far-too-many voters.


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Pretzel prince realizes his minimum wage logic was twisted

All twisted over the minimum wage

Robert Wenzel writes about a CEO’s change of heart about the minimum wage that can be best filed under “Better Late Than Never, But Not Really”:

Bill Phelps, co-founder and chief executive officer of the California-based Wetzel’s Pretzels franchise, was a prominent advocate for the Golden State’s $15 a hour minimum wage for several years, but has recently changed his opinion, reports the Washington Examiner. He now says that the rate — which has only just reached $11 — is already squeezing his businesses and hurting workers, and he worries things will likely get worse as minimum wage rises to the $15 level.

So how did Mr. Phelps convince himself that increasing a forced wage increase would work?

The CEO in 2016 wrote a pretzel twisted advocacy of a higher minimum wage in an op-ed for Forbes where he said, get this, “I’ve paid very close attention to our business as California has raised the minimum wage over the past couple of years. And what I found was stunning. When California increased the state minimum wage from $8 to $9 an hour in July 2014, our same-store sales doubled in the next two weeks and stayed that way for six months. When the minimum increased again in January of this year to $10, the same thing happened; our same-store growth rate more than doubled.”

Now that reality has set in, he has changed his tune.

But now with the minimum wage at $11.00  he says, ” I see a change happening now. I think fast food in general is flat to declining and you’ve got wage increases and the operators are getting squeezed.”

“I was very bullish on the minimum wage increase. It was working really well for us. It was working okay for the fast food industry but there is no question you are going to have to see a reduction in the number of restaurants that are out there. You are going to see a reduction in service. And you are going to see more people going to technology to reduce labor costs,” Phelps said.

“I see it — and everyone else I talk to in the restaurant business sees it — as a huge challenge. It is a total squeeze on the franchisees and I think it is going to result in less jobs, less restaurants and less service. That’s how I see it today,” Phelps said in a phone interview with the  Examiner.

“I see the next wave of increases as these cities and states go from $11 to $15 as being hugely problematic. And that’s where the issue is,” Phelps said. He said that states such as California would likely see a growing chorus from business to halt the increases. He said he was willing to do some lobbying himself, if necessary. “My concern is that by the time we react it’ll be too late.”

Of course it will be too late. Far too many advocates of the minimum wage aren’t impacted directly by the very costs Phelps is seeing in his business, so they have no reason to change their tune. On the contrary. Given that the state has continued to move left politically over the past decade or so, Democrats are incentivized to forget Phelps’, and other useful idiotic business people’s, support for the increase and demonize them for getting in the way of allowing workers receive the wage they deserve. This is a fairly low-cost way (to them, at least) to win or keep their seat.

I mean, it’s not as if the problem with minimum wage laws is a relatively straightforward issue for people to understand, right?

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While Vox Day and I probably agree, albeit generally, on the declining state of American morality, his pointing to the Supreme Court’s recent ruling striking down the federal ban on gambling isn’t a very good example.

What’s next? Prostitution and sex slavery, presumably. The good news is that since gambling is essentially a tax on stupidity, the ongoing decline in average US intelligence should help maximize the revenues.

When designing a government system for the future, remember that it is the judicial branch and the concept of “interpreting the law” that proved to be the weak point.

There is a great deal wrong with this, particularly in the first paragraph. First of all, there’s the simple fact that nothing in the Constitution prevents states from determining whether to allow gambling within its borders or not. As Brion McClanahan wrote:

[T]the new central authority [created through the Constitution is] … a general government for general purposes only with clearly defined and limited powers over commerce and defense (contained in Article I, Section 8) and that State powers would be virtually unlimited.

Unfortunately, that understanding of the relationship between the general and state governments has been lost, especially since the beginning of the Progressive Era. That lack of understanding can clearly be seen in the court’s opinion. As ESPN reports:

The court ruled in favor of New Jersey and against the NCAA, NFL, NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball, capping a nearly six-year legal battle and overturning a federal statute that the sports leagues had adamantly stood by for more than 20 years.

Congress can regulate sports gambling directly, but if it elects not to do so, each State is free to act on its own,” the court wrote its opinion. “Our job is to interpret the law Congress has enacted and decide whether it is consistent with the Constitution. [The federal law banning gambling] is not.”

Clearly, this part of the ruling is a hot mess. There’s nothing in the Constitution giving the federal government the authority to regulate particular acts of commerce such as gambling. The interstate commerce clause was originally intended to prevent states from imposing tariffs on goods imported from other states, not to allow the federal government to govern and regulate commerce across the entire country. However, this type of reasoning isn’t surprising, as it’s consistent with Hamiltonian and New Deal thinking. Nevertheless, while the Court may have given a ruling for the wrong reasons, at least it led to the right result.

Furthermore, even if the Supreme Court struck down federal penalties relating to prostitution, that would be the correct ruling because the states haven’t ceded that authority to Congress either.

Besides, however questionable gambling and prostitution may be, people who engage in these activities do so voluntarily. They are victimless crimes. In other words, it is doubtful they should be considered crimes at all. Even if states have the authority to throw people in cages for doing these things, an argument can be made that those states are doing more harm than good.

(Having said the above, how prostitutes become involved in their … profession may be another matter altogether.)

There are plenty of problems in America today; Vox and I could probably agree on many of them.

However, letting people gamble a few shekels on a sporting event isn’t one of them.


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Catholic bishop praises Karl Marx

Karl Marx

In February, I reported on a Catholic bishop who claimed that China is the country that currently best implements Catholic social doctrine.

If one were to be as charitable as possible, such idiocy could be written off as a Church prince attempting to make be the right cooing sounds to allow the Vatican to establish diplomatic relations with the nominally communist (and atheist) country. Nevertheless, it is no surprise to see such a prince to be not only a leftist, but also poorly-informed about economics, politics, and history.

The two usually go together.

Alas, Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo is not the only pastor to have displayed such ignorance. As CNS News reports:

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, head of the German Bishop’s Conference and among the nine closest advisers to Pope Francis, applauded the teachings of Communist Karl Marx, whose 200th birthday occurs on May 5, claiming that the Communist Manifesto “impressed” him, helped to shape Catholic social doctrine, and was in no way responsible for the Communist atrocities and class-genocide committed by Marx’s followers over the last 100-plus years.

Marxist regimes, starting with the Soviet Union in 1917 and Red China in 1949, have killed more than 100 million people worldwide for political and class reasons, all justified on the teachings of Karl Marx (1818-1883) and his co-author and financial backer Friederich Engels (1820-1895). The Catholic Church has repeatedly condemned Communism, with one of the earliest denunciations pronounced by Pope Pius IX in 1849.

Despite the Catholic Church’s teaching against Communism, a utopian scheme that was Karl Marx’s sole objective in life,  Cardinal Reinhard Marx told the magazine Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszitung, as translated and reported in, that the Communist Manifesto “impressed” him and that without Karl Marx there would be no Catholic social teaching.”

As for the Communist atrocities and class-genocide committed by Karl Marx’s disciples, such as Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot and Castro, Cardinal Marx told the magazine that there was no “direct connection” between Karl Marx and those crimes. There is “totalitarian” thought in Marx’s work, but you can’t draw a clear line from Marx to the Gulag, said the cardinal, as reported in

First of all, to argue that Marx help shape Catholic social doctrine is absurd, for no other reason than, Marx was driven by a hatred of God. As Murray Rothbard observed from Marx’s writings while studying at university:

[Marx’s writings revealed] a spirit that often seems to animate militant atheism. In contrast to the nonmilitant variety, which expresses a simple disbelief in God’s existence, militant atheism seems to believe implicitly in God’s existence, but to hate Him and to wage war for His destruction.

Such a spirit was all too clearly revealed in the retort of militant atheist and anarchocommunist Bakunin to the famous protheist remark of Voltaire: “If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent Him.” The demented Bakunin retorted, “If God did exist, it would be necessary to destroy Him.” It was this hatred of God as a creator greater than himself that apparently animated Karl Marx.

Marx himself recognized that communism, far from elevating man’s nature, would negate it. As Rothbard wrote:

In short, in the stage of communalization of private property, what Marx himself considers the worst features of private property will be maximized. Not only that, but Marx concedes the truth of the charge of anticommunists then and now that communism and communization is but the expression, in Marx’s words, of “envy and a desire to reduce all to a common level.” Far from leading to a flowering of human personality, as Marx is supposed to claim, he admits that communism will negate that personality totally. Thus Marx wrote,

In completely negating the personality of man, this type of communism is really nothing but the logical expression of private property. General envy, constituting itself as a power, is the disguise in which greed reestablishes itself and satisfies itself, only in another way.… In the approach to woman as the spoil and handmaid of communal lust is expressed the infinite degradation in which man exists for himself.

It would be through the “dialectic” that would allow a communist society to overcome the depravity of the human condition. As I observed in a post regarding cultural Marxism:

In other words, Marx believes that by pitting people against one another through the elimination of religion, private property, marriage, and other institutions that have supported Western civilization since Jesus Christ rose from the dead, everything will work out just fine. Because wishful thinking.

And a Catholic bishop believes that the thinking of this man is the foundation of Catholic social teaching.


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