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Updated: 2017-07-25T00:00:00-04:00


The Case for Gender Anarchy: New at Reason


Beyond Trans: Does Gender Matter?, by Heath Fogg Davis, New York University Press, 208 pages, $25

(image) Philadelphia used to require every public transit pass to say whether a rider was female or male. For Charlene Arcila, a transgender woman, it didn't matter which option she chose; either way, some bus drivers deemed her pass illegitimate. Left to decide on the spot whether Arcila qualified as a man or woman, individual city workers would come to different conclusions—but every one of them had the power to refuse to let her ride the bus.

Instituted in the 1980s as a protection against fraud, Philadelphia's sex-identifying transit cards didn't cause trouble just for transgender passengers. Plenty of cisgender folks—those whose gender identity conforms to the norm for their biological sex—fail to present as obviously male or female, and passengers of androgynous or ambiguous gender expression also found themselves at the mercy of the public transit sex police.

Following a lawsuit from Arcila and an outcry from local activists, Philadelphia removed sex identification from its transit passes in 2013. Harper Jean Tobin, policy chief for the National Center for Transgender Equality, followed this victory by pushing for mechanisms to make it easier for transgender Americans to change their sex identification on government documents. It's a popular idea in the modern feminist and LGBT movements. But for Heath Fogg Davis, a transgender man who teaches political science at Temple University, the strategy reflects a deficit in the way many activists think about gender liberation.

Instead of making it easier for individuals to move between two binary positions, Davis writes in his new book Beyond Trans, they should be "questioning our need for sex-classification policies" in the first place, writes Elizabeth Nolan Brown.

View this article.


Lawmakers Demand Sessions Investigate Backpage's 'Criminal Role in Sex Trafficking' in Wake of Misleading Washington Post Article


The Washington Post has been playing right into politicians' hands when it comes to the narrative about Backpage. A series of recent Post articles suggest a sinister plot by Backpage executives to promote human trafficking, when all the paper's "trove of newly discovered documents" seems to show is that the company hired a firm to promote on foreign competitors' sites. "A contractor for the controversial classifieds website has been aggressively soliciting and creating sex-related ads, despite Backpage's repeated insistence that it had no role in the content of ads posted on its site," the Post opens one article—thereby kicking things off in a misleading manner. While it will take the Post writers 21 more paragraphs to mention it, the contractors solicited all sorts of user-generated advertising for, not just sex-related or adult-oriented advertising. The ads the contractors created, meanwhile, were either 1) posted to competitors' sites—not Backpage—in a ploy to lure perusers of those sites to Backpage, or 2) draft ads made from existing copy on competitors' sites. The contracting company, Philippines-based Avion BPO, would offer users of these other sites a free first listing on, along with a link to the draft ad that they could easily activate. Based on this evidence, Post writers suggest that Backpage's years of denials that the site "facilitated prostitution and child sex trafficking" could be a lie. But for all their breathless insinuations, the writers don't actually tie a single Avion-brokered ad to illegal conduct, let alone harm against children. From what the Post reveals, it's also unclear whether Backpage even knew about the tactics Avion workers were using to generate new listings. It's possible the contracting company came up with the bait-and-switch strategy on its own. Regardless, Backpage's claims to Congress and U.S. courts about its ad policies have always referenced U.S. content. Avion's activity was relegated to overseas endeavors (and, since laws vary greatly from country to country when it comes to both internet content and prostitution, was not necessarily illegal at all). To use Avion as a bouncing-off point to open yet another U.S. federal inquiry into Backpage—as Reps. Ann Wagner (R-Missouri) and Carolyn Maloney (D-New York) are now doing—is purely opportunistic, as Avion's creation or not of foreign ads is irrelevant for U.S. legal purposes. Here in the United States, Senators recently spent more than a year pouring through internal Backpage documents related to adult-ad content. Yet nothing in their resulting report negates Backpage's claims that the company does not create the content that appears on its site, nor does it show a company carelessly indifferent to its site's content. Backpage repeatedly tweaked its automated filter and manual-review policies in an attempt to strike a balance between banning all "adult" content and giving free reign to ad posters. This is above and beyond what's required by law in order to benefit from Section 230 protection. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act says that third-party web publishers and platforms are immune from liability if a user-posted ad results in criminal activity (with a few exceptions). It seriously limits the ability of opportunists in government and the general populace to take down any website or app they don't like. Without Section 230 protection, most of the Internet would be vulnerable to frivolous civil lawsuits and severe prosecutorial overreach (such as charging Facebook as an accessory any time someone livestreams himself doing something illegal). And people like this letter writer could get their wish for lowly content screeners at social sites to be tried as collaborators should any illegal activity unwittingly get by. Unsurprisingly, there are a lot of prosecutors, politicians, and other authorities who welcome the weakening of Section 230. This includes Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri), who told the Post that sh[...]

Instapundit: Fire Sessions Over Civil Forfeiture Stance, Not Russia Recusal


(image) University of Tennessee law professor Glenn Reynolds, better known as the Internet's Instapundit, has harsh words for Attorney General Jeff Sessions. While President Trump has tweeted anger at Sessions for recusing himself from the ongoing investigation of ties between Russia and the 2016 election, Reynolds is ready to move on to something more important:

Under "civil forfeiture," law enforcement can take property from people under the legal fiction that the property itself is guilty of a crime. ("Legal fiction" sounds better than "lie," but in this case the two terms are near synonyms.) It was originally sold as a tool for going after the assets of drug kingpins, but nowadays it seems to be used against a lot of ordinary Americans who just have things that law enforcement wants. It's also a way for law enforcement agencies to maintain off-budget slush funds, thus escaping scrutiny.

Sessions supports robust civil forfeiture and for having federal laws supersede state laws against seizing assets without charges. Reynolds again:

Some states have required that people be convicted of a crime before the government can seize their assets, but the feds have no such requirement. Congress should enact one. As the editors of National Review write:

"This is almost certainly unconstitutional, something that conservatives ought to understand instinctively. Like the Democrats' crackpot plan to revoke the Second Amendment rights of U.S. citizens who have been neither charged with nor convicted of a crime simply for having been fingered as suspicious persons by some anonymous operative in Washington, seizing an American's property because a police officer merely suspects that he might be a drug dealer or another species of miscreant does gross violence to the basic principle of due process."

When even the conservatives at National Review, known for their love of "law and order," are calling bullshit, it's time to pull the plug. "The message it sends," writes Reynolds, "is that the feds see the rest of us as prey, not as citizens. The attorney general should be ashamed to take that position. And, really, he should just be gone."

Read the whole thing here.


Stossel: Departments Grow and Cherries Rot [New at Reason]


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The Agriculture Department actually forces farmers to dump cherries on the ground so you pay higher prices at the supermarket. John Stossel investigates and finds a ton of waste. The departments blow your money on welfare for the rich, global warming hype, and destructive regulations. Ed Stringham, President of the American Institute for Economic Research, tells Stossel about how the Agriculture Department even forced one farmer to dump cherries on the ground and let them rot. The government wanted to keep the price of cherries higher, which helps some cherry farmers.

Stossel on Reason

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A.M. Links: Obamacare Vote in Senate, Trump Trashes Jeff Sessions, Russia Reportedly Arming Taliban


  • (image) The Senate is expected to hold a procedural vote today on the Republican plan to repeal and replace Obamacare.
  • Former House Speaker John Boehner: Republicans are "not going to repeal and replace Obamacare.... It's been around too long. And the American people have gotten accustomed to it."
  • President Donald Trump is attacking Attorney General Jeff Sessions again on Twitter. "Attorney General Jeff Sessions has taken a VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes (where are E-mails & DNC server) & Intel leakers!" Trump tweeted today.
  • "The Taliban have received improved weaponry in Afghanistan that appears to have been supplied by the Russian government, according to exclusive videos obtained by CNN, adding weight to accusations by Afghan and American officials that Moscow is arming their one-time foe in the war-torn country."
  • China is strengthening its 880-mile border with North Korea.
  • Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is reportedly considering resigning from the Trump administration.

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Food Safety Fearmongering: New at Reason


(image) Fearmongering over food safety is one way free trade opponents advance their cause.

Marian Tupy writes:

About a decade ago, I flew to Oslo at the invitation of Norway's center-right party called Høyre. Back then, Høyre was in opposition, although today it forms a part of Norway's governing coalition. Its head, Erna Solberg, whom I met on the trip, is the country's prime minister. During my stay in the country I gave a couple of talks on trade protectionism, advising the Norwegians to keep the millions of krone they send to Africa as foreign aid (where it gets promptly stolen by local cleptocrats) and open their borders to African agricultural exports instead.

"Norway," some people objected, "has stringent food safety standards and Norwegians are used to high quality products." This, I pointed out, does not necessarily amount to much. At the time of my trip, the country was suffering from a domestic E. coli outbreak, and infections "have left several children with kidney failure." Moreover, like people elsewhere, many Norwegians shop with an eye on the price, not the national origin of the food they eat (i.e., irrespective of food safety standards). Thus, Norwegians shop in cheaper Sweden; Swedes shop in Denmark and Danes shop in Germany. In pursuit of a bargain, Germans do some of their shopping in Poland.


Brickbat: But Momma, That's Where the Fun Is


(image) The Edwardsville District 7 school board in Illinois has voted to cancel school on Aug 21. A solar eclipse will happen that day, with the peak taking place as school is letting out, and officials say they are afraid students will look into the sun. An extra day will be added at the end of the school year to make up for the closure.


Congress Wants to Make It Harder for Trump to Pursue Peace, Easy as Ever for Trump to Pursue War


Congress is finally asserting its role in U.S. foreign policy. Unfortunately, it's not acting to curb a decade and a half of often aimless interventions around the world, let alone to curb the president's power to unilaterally commit the U.S. military to action, as President Donald Trump did when he bombed a Syrian government airfield, as he threatens to do with North Korea, and as President Barack Obama did in Libya in 2011. Instead, Congress passed legislation to tighten sanctions against Russia, Iran, and North Korea, and to prevent the president from easing those sanctions on his own. It passed with a veto-proof majority, and the White House has signaled the president is likely to sign it. That would make it harder for the president to defuse international tensions. But it remains easy for him to escalate tensions. Congress, after all, has showed no interest in reining in the White House's war-making powers. The House leadership just killed an effort by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) to repeal the post-9/11 authorization for the use of military force, which has been used to provide legal justification for virtually every U.S. military endeavor since the Iraq War, the last conflict that got its own authorization. The U.S. imposed sanctions on Moscow in 2014 in response to Russian aggression in Ukraine and Russia's annexation of Crimea. The sanctions did not end the fighting in Ukraine or return Crimea to Ukraine. They did not encourage dialogue between the U.S. and Russia or between Ukraine and Russia. They did help further deteriorate U.S.-Russia relations. This new set of sanctions is aimed at "punishing" Russia for attempting to "influence" the American presidential election. That's not helpful for anything but domestic political rhetoric. Combining sanctions against Russia, which still has normal diplomatic relations with the U.S., and sanctions against North Korea and Iran, so-called "rogue states" which do not have anything resembling normal diplomatic relations with the U.S., don't make them any more palatable. Instead, it's a troubling reminder that one of the easiest way to build a coalition in Washington is around warmongering. Last year's presidential campaign was the third consecutive election where the nominee who advocated better relations with Russia won. Donald Trump ran for president in part on the idea that the U.S. was doing too much around the globe, and specifically rejecting Hillary Clinton's brand of anti-Russia saber-rattling. Perhaps surprisingly, he was able to win the Republican primary while explicitly rejecting the foreign policy doctrines of George W. Bush and Mitt Romney. Trump's early actions in Syria and toward North Korea suggest he's since embraced the role of the U.S. as "world policeman" after all. Leading Democrats, meanwhile, have blamed Russia for Clinton's loss, leading them to embrace far more anti-Russian attitudes than in the Obama era. While Romney was wrong to call Russia America's number one geopolitical foe, Obama too was wrong. Russia is not America's greatest geopolitical foe, and it does not even have to be a geopolitical foe at all. But it is a geopolitical power whose interests will not always align with the U.S.'s, and that's OK. In many of these instances, such as the row over Ukraine that led to the first round of sanctions, there are few compelling American interests for Russia to be at odds with to begin with. Ukraine is not a member of NATO and offers no strategic benefit to the United States. If anything, U.S. involvement in the region reduces the pressure on Ukraine—and on other regional powers, namely the European Union—from taking responsibility for resolving the crisis. Some European countries, incidentally, are worried that new American sanctions could hurt them. Specifically, Germany and Austria worry that the sanctions could threaten Europe's energy s[...]

Kushner Denies Russian Collusion, Democrats Rebrand, CNN Covers FreedomFest: P.M. Links


  • (image) Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump's son-in-law, released a statement today and spoke publicly to declare he has not colluded with Russian officials in their alleged attempt to manipulate the presidential election. He met behind closed doors with congressional investigators.
  • All the White House drama is drowning out the Democratic Party attempting to establish some new populist branding for the 2018 midterms.
  • Charlie Gard's parents have decided to end their fight in England to try to get permission from the government to bring their dying son overseas to America for experimental treatment. Gard's hospital and U.K. courts had blocked the parents from doing so and wanted to allow for the child to die.
  • The president of Poland has vetoed an attempt by lawmakers to give themselves more control over who would be named judges in the country's top courts.
  • The driver has been charged in the human smuggling operation in Texas that went awry and led with 10 suspected migrants dying after being stuck in the trailer of his truck in a parking lot. He claims he had no idea there were people in the truck until he heard them banging on the sides after stopping in Texas.
  • CNN covers FreedomFest and examines what libertarians are saying about government in the "Trump era."

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Nancy MacLean's Libertarian Conspiracy Theory [Podcast]


Duke University historian Nancy MacLean's new book, Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America, combines conspiracy theories, accusations of racism, and dire warnings about a libertarian plot to create an American oligarchy. It's a historical story that's a "product of [MacLean's] imagination," with a reading of sources that's "hostile and tendentious to the point of pure error," as Reason's Brian Doherty put in a review we published last week.

In today's podcast, Doherty joins Nick Gillespie, Katherine Mangu-Ward, and Andrew Heaton to discuss how MacLean fundamentally misunderstands her subject matter; this year's Freedom Fest (an annual convention for libertarians in Las Vegas that just wrapped up); conservative-leaning libertarians vs. left-leaning libertarians; the constitutional ramifications of Donald Trump potentially pardoning himself; and whether or not we're living in the panopticon.

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Michigan Juror Rights Pamphleteer Free From Jail Pending His Appeal


(image) Keith Wood, the Michigan activist who was sentenced to jail last week for handing out pamphlets on the sidewalk in front of the Mecosta County courthouse, was freed on Friday pending his appeal of his jury tampering conviction. Judge Eric Janes granted an emergency stay of Wood's sentence, which includes eight weekends in jail as well as six months of probation, 120 hours of community service, and $545 in fines, after considering the arguments that his attorney, David Kallman, is raising on appeal, which include the trial judge's refusal to allow a First Amendment defense.

Kallman argues that Wood's distribution of Your Jury Rights: True or False?, a flyer published by the Fully Informed Jury Association (FIJA), was constitutionally protected speech. The FIJA pamphlet argues that jurors have the right to judge the law as well as the facts of a case and to acquit a defendant in the interest of justice even when he is guilty according to the judge's instructions regarding the law.

"By prosecuting Mr. Wood," Kallman said in his 2015 motion to dismiss, "the State is engaged in nothing less than tyranny and oppression. Few legal principles are more clear than the one stating that 'handing out leaflets in the advocacy of a politically controversial the essence of First Amendment expression.'" After refusing to dismiss the jury tampering charge against Wood on First Amendment grounds, Judge Kimberly Booher told Kallman he could not mention the issue to the jury, which convicted Wood last month.

Kallman also maintains that Booher erred by prohibiting him from arguing that Wood could not be guilty of trying to "influence the decision of a juror in any case by argument or persuasion" because there was no case to influence. The only case pending at the courthouse on the day Wood distributed the flyers, which involved a man accused of illegally filling a wetland on his own property, was settled by a guilty plea that day.

Kallman likewise says Booher should have let him argue that none of the passers-by to whom Wood gave pamphlets could have qualified as a juror. "We argued, and the Michigan Supreme Court has agreed in earlier case precedent, that a person is not a juror until sworn in to serve on a jury in a case," he says. Since no jury was ever chosen in the wetland case, Kallman argues, there were no jurors to persuade.

Kallman says an assistant prosecutor asked Judge Janes for a gag order that would have prohibited Kallman and Wood from publicly discussing the case. "She was very upset with the media attention given this case and did not want me talking with the media," Kallman says. "The judge dismissed the request out of hand."


Why Trump's 'Buy American, Hire American' Is Un-American: New at Reason


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In his quest to "Make America Great Again," President Donald Trump has spent a week encouraging us all to buy products "Made in America."

That makes for a good slogan—who doesn't want to support home-grown businesses?—but bad and incoherent policy. Most of all, it will do little or nothing to help Americans who have been put out of work by changes in technology and the economy.

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How Much More Vicious Will the War on Painkillers Get?


More searches. More prosecutions. More punishment. More jail. The way governments—federal, state, and local—are responding to the opioid crisis continue to demonstrate the dangers of a "somebody, do something" mentality. Weekend news coverage of how police and prosecutors are choosing to address opioid deaths revolves around the nasty inertia of increasing control. Officials want more power and the ability to inflict more punishment, regardless of prohibition's lengthy history of failure. In New York, prosecutors are looking to try to charge dealers with manslaughter when the people they sell heroin or opioids to end up dying from overdoses. The New York Times reported on this push over the weekend, and officials' attitudes can be summed up by this perfectly awful quote from narcotics prosecutor Bridget Brennan: "We're not winning. We've got to do more." Brennan's only tool is a very nasty hammer, and as the Times notes, she previously used it to send a doctor to prison for at least 10 years for recklessly handing out opioid prescriptions. Two of his patients died of overdoses, and he was convicted of manslaughter (among other crimes). Prosecutors may have the power to put people behind bars, but they're not the ones who can "win" this battle. We know from decades of the drug war that what prosecutors often end up doing is ripping apart low-income, marginalized families and tossing addicts in prison for long mandatory minimum sentences. Culturally, there's still an image that "drug dealers" are sinister men (often black) on street corners looking to prey on vulnerable citizens. The reality is that is often not the case. And in fact, the way the law defines dealers is designed to sweep up all sorts of people with just tangential connections to the idea of distributing drugs. Stephen Cummings, the alleged drug dealer charged with manslaughter at the center of the Times weekend report, bragged about how powerful the fentanyl-laced heroin was to a wired undercover police officer, according to authorities. He reportedly acknowledged that the heroin was powerful enough to kill a friend's father, thus the manslaughter charges. But according to his brother, Cummings is also an addict and needs rehab. Cummings' only prior conviction is for possession. Others arrested in this sting also said that they're addicts, and they think prosecutors are trying to use them as a "test case." They should count their blessings that they don't live in Florida, where they could potentially be charged with first-degree murder. Meanwhile in New Jersey, lawmakers are considering a bill to allow police to access a prescription drug–monitoring database without having to get a court order. Republican state Sen. Robert Singer, the legislation's sponsor, acknowledges in a Washington Post story that he's doing the bidding of a county prosecutor who wants to try to go after doctors. Civil libertarians are understandably upset at the idea that police should be able to just demand access to our personal medical information. But Singer insists that such privacy concerns are overblown: The opioid crisis is severe, and therefore, he argues, Americans should be willing to make an exception. He also, remarkably, used the fact that Americans' phones are being tracked as an example of how we should be willing to give up our privacy, even though civil liberties groups heavily oppose phone tracking as well. Gov. Chris Christie opposes the legislation, so it may not get far. It's nevertheless worth noting as part of a trend. Other states—most recently Rhode Island—have passed laws providing similar access. Also getting weekend coverage, we also have attorneys attempting to convince states to sue opioid manufacturers the way [...]

Once a Killer Drug, Qat Is Now a Dropout Drug, If You Believe The New York Times


People have been chewing qat, a stimulating shrub that grows in the Horn of Africa and on the Arabian peninsula, for thousands of years. Its effects are commonly compared to those of strong coffee, and it serves similar functions in social and vocational contexts. But unlike coffee, qat seems exotic to Westerners, which is why we periodically see articles like the one The New York Times ran on Saturday, reporting the "alarming" fact that "underemployed youth" in Ethiopia are chewing qat, a development that "authorities" consider "an epidemic in all but name." Times correspondent Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura quotes Shidigaf Haile, a public prosecutor in Gonder, who says qat chewing by young men is "a huge problem" that is "bad for Ethiopia's economic development because they become lazy, unproductive, and their health will be affected." Yet by Haile's own account (and de Freytas-Tamura's), it's not so much that qat renders young men indolent and unemployable but that "a lack of work" encourages them to while away their time chewing the leaves. De Freytas-Tamura also casts doubt on the notion that qat makes you lazy by describing a young woman who "has made chewing the drug a ritual, repeated several times a day," and who "even chews on the job, on the khat farm where she picks the delicate, shiny leaves off the shrubs." The habit does not seem to impair her productivity, and a similar story could be told about American office workers who drink coffee several times a day. Keen to substantiate Haile's claim that qat use is unhealthy, de Freytas-Tamura consults the Drug Enforcement Administration, always a reliable source for information about psychoactive substances banned by the U.S. government, and reports that "chronic abuse...can lead to exhaustion, 'manic behavior with grandiose delusions, violence, suicidal depression or schizophreniform psychosis.'" She gives no indication of how common such outcomes are, leaving the impression that any given qat chewer could be just one leaf away from a mental hospital. "Khat is legal and remains so mainly because it is a big source of revenue for the government," de Freytas-Tamura avers, as if it is puzzling and requires explanation whenever a government decides to tolerate a psychoactive substance. "But there are mounting concerns about its widespread use." De Freytas-Tamura does consult an Ethiopian psychiatrist who notes that qat chewing "is quite a complex cultural phenomenon" and explains that "simply banning it would be difficult, given its role in cultural rites among certain religious groups." But the reporter's prohibitionist preferences are clear. This tut-tutting over young men who like to hang out and chew qat is mild compared to what the Times was saying about the plant in the early 1990s, during the U.S. intervention in Somalia. "It is considered generally unwise to move around Mogadishu at night," the Times reported in December 1992, "because by then the narcotic effect of the [teenage nomads'] two-bunch-a-day habit has taken hold. Since the mixture of khat and guns has proved such a lethal combination (the addiction often generates the looting), some desperate Somali elders have facetiously suggested a 'khat for guns' swap to empty the town of weapons." Qat seems to be a very versatile plant. When a country is in the midst of a civil war, qat drives young men to murder and mayhem. When a country is at peace but unemployment is high, by contrast, qat makes young men do nothing. Marijuana underwent a similar transformation in the United States. Known for decades as a "killer drug" that inspired appalling crimes, it was later condemned as a "dropout drug" that made its users lethargic and apathetic. But that was [...]

Millennial Socialist Moment Mostly Media Hype


Are millennials increasingly anti-capitalist? That's the question Chicago public radio station WBEZ posed recently to me and The Nation's Sarah Leonard. (You can listen to the whole thing here.) "The explosive popularity of Bernie Sanders in the U.S. and Jeremy Corbyn in the U.K. among younger voters revealed millennials' desire for a new economic system," states the promo for the segment on WBEZ program Worldview. "It's no wonder, as millennials are likely to be economically worse off than their parents or grandparents, especially those who became job-seeking adults after the Great Recession of 2008." That all makes for a tidy narrative, but it's one built on the flimsiest of evidence. The main data offered during the Worldview segment was a 2016 Harvard poll, in which 51 percent of 18- to 29-year-old respondents had an unfavorable view of capitalism. But as I pointed out at the time (and on the show), the same poll showed that an even greater number of young people—59 percent—had an unfavorable view of socialism. And while 42 percent of the millennials that Harvard surveyed had a positive view of capitalism, just 33 percent had a positive view of socialism. In an array of other surveys from the past few years, millennial support for socialist and capitalist policies varies widely based on how poll questions are asked. For instance, socialism is much more popular than a government-managed economy, and a free-market economy is more popular than capitalism. And in policy-based polls, millennial economic preferences run the gamut. Yes, many support student-loan forgiveness programs and government-managed health care, but they also express strong support for entrepreneurship, dream of owning their own small businesses, and reject hypothetical government expansions when they come with personal tax hikes. In other words...they look a lot like Americans across the age spectrum. Polls only tell part of the story, of course, but the part they do tell is not one of an increasingly socialist youth populace. That's probably important to keep in mind as the media coalesces on the Socialist Moment plot-line. Sure, the leftist podcast Chapo Trap House has a lot of fans, and more Twitter avatars now sport red roses (long a socialist symbol). But the subset of American young people poised to notice either of those things is infinitesimally smaller than those who aren't. These are the kinds of affectations and antiheroes that the media latch onto and elevate because—like the Pepe the Frog–tweeting alt-right accounts during the election—they're very salient in online media and activism worlds. But it's a mistake to take that salience as indicative of actual numbers or influence. So what about Bernie? Yes, young Americans vastly preferred the socialist-lite Vermont senator to Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, or any of the GOP-primary candidates. But their alternatives were Clinton, Trump, and the likes of Chris Christie and Jeb Bush. They are the most establishment of The Establishment, with the exception of Trump—who, like Sanders, benefited from people's desperation to ditch this dynastic, cronyist electoral loop we seemed caught in. That Sanders secured so much millennial support doesn't necessarily equate to a full socialist embrace by these young folks, just that he was the best of exceedingly bad options. To their credit, more committed and long-term leftists have managed to swing some of Bernie's millennial momentum into post-election momentum for leftist policies more broadly. And young people are certainly—now and at least throughout recent history—more receptive to redistributive economic policies and strict labor regulation. Pe[...]

Trump's Labor Secretary Tells State Lawmakers: 'Fix Occupational Licensing'


Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta says state lawmakers should work to eliminate unnecessary state licenses. Speaking Friday to state lawmakers gathered in Denver for the annual American Legislative Exchange Council's conference, Acosta called for repealing licensing laws that exist solely to block competition or create a privileged class within the workforce. While only one job out of 20 required a government-issued permission slip in the 1950s, today about a quarter of all jobs in America are subject to licensing. Acosta said that's "part of a nationwide trend where we regulate, and regulate, and regulate" at the expense of individual workers and the economy as a whole. Here's how Acosta broke it down: Excess licensing hinders the American workforce. First, the cost and complexity of licensing creates an economic barrier for Americans seeking a job, especially for those with fewer financial resources. Second, excessive licensing creates a barrier for Americans that move from state to state. Third, excessive licensing creates a barrier for Americans looking to leverage technology and to expand their job opportunities. He's right on all three counts. Licensing is a barrier to entry for all Americans looking for work in certain professions, but it's particularly pernicious for those on the lower end of the economic ladder. For example, getting a license to cut hair can require more than a year of expensive schooling in some states, while becoming an interior designer places like Florida requires more than 2,000 days (yes, days!) of training. There's little evidence that licensing those professions does much of anything to protect public health and safety. Once you have a license, you might be stuck in the state where you earned it. A 2015 study by the Brookings Institution found that licensed workers were less likely to migrate between states, but not necessarily because people are happy in those places. Instead, researchers say workers feel locked in place because most state-issued professional licenses are not transferable, so moving out-of-state means you'd be out of business unless you can obtain a new license in your new home. Licensing laws are also stifling innovative technologies developed by forward-looking entrepreneurs. People like Armand Lauzon of Nashville, Tennessee, who last year launched Project Belle, a software app that connects cosmetologists, makeup artists, and other beauty professionals with clients seeking in-home services. It's basically Uber, but for looking your best without having to visit a salon. He was nearly forced out of business by the Tennessee State Board of Cosmetology and Barber Examiners—despite the fact that he was running a software company, not a cosmetology business—simply because he'd found a new, innovative way to give consumers something they wanted by disrupting a regulated and licensed market. Technological innovations make our lives better, and licensing laws that block those developments are doing nothing more than protecting outdated business models. Though he was speaking to a crowd of mostly conservative and libertarian state lawmakers at ALEC, Acosta's message is a bipartisan one. During the Obama administration, the Department of Labor and the White House Council of Economic Advisers published a lengthy report on licensing laws, and called for states to take action to remove unnecessary barriers to work. "Licensing restrictions cost millions of jobs nationwide and raise consumer expenses by over one hundred billion dollars," the report concluded. Libertarians have been objecting to occupational licensing laws for decades, but conservatives and liberal[...]

Why Does the Left Keep Losing Its Fight Against Global Warming?


For three decades, environmentalists have been claiming that if we don't do something—and fast—to fight global warming, we'll all turn into pumpkins by(image) the end of the century or so. Yet they've made very little headway in getting humanity to act on their suggested remedies. Their latest recommendation is that people should have fewer children.

But I note in my morning column at The Week, the problem with all their "solutions" is that they suffer from the collective action problem, namely getting people to make painful sacrifices without knowing if others will follow suit. For example, if some people forgo children but others don't, the former will suffer a deep personal loss and the planet will be no better off. Hence everyone waits for someone else to go first and the "solution" doesn't even get off the ground.

I note:

If the environmental movement is serious about addressing climate change, it will have to forget about the fact that humans caused (and are causing) the warming and think of our problem like a meteor strike — a catastrophic event that humanity did not cause but from which it has to be saved. In other words, enviros will have to look for technological fixes that don't depend on the environmental equivalent of Mao's cultural revolution to get people to embrace carbon-free lifestyles.

Go here to read the whole thing.


Does the GOP Hate Immigrants More Than Big Government?: New at Reason


The chairman of the misnamed House Freedom Caucus Mark Meadows recently threatened to shut down the government in fall if the upcoming spending bill(image) failed to include adequate funding for the Great Wall of Trump. Meanwhile, Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, a rising star in the GOP, has launched an attack on legal immigration. He just authored the RAISE Act which would slash by half foreigners, even high skilled ones, who want to legally work and live in the country. Why? To protect Americans from competition.

Between the two of them, notes Reason Foundation Senior Analyst Shikha Dalmia, they show that the GOP now hates immigrants more than Big Government—or love the free market.

Go here to read the whole thing.

View this article.


Crooked Cops Need Tighter Restrictions, Not Financial Incentives to Invent Crimes: New at Reason


(image) Cops plant evidence to meet quotas, compete with colleagues, and settle scores. Eased asset forfeiture with little oversight would just bribe them to do more damage.

J.D. Tuccille writes:

In January, a Baltimore police officer planted drug evidence before activating his body camera and "finding" the probable cause he and his buddies needed to make a bust, according to the city's Office of the Public Defender. Images of the cop placing a soup can full of white capsules on the ground were captured in the 30-second buffer of the camera and then preserved after the device was officially turned on. Now prosecutors are reviewing 100 other cases in which the same trio of officers may have been up to similar shenanigans.

Most news reports are treating the incident as a peek at problems in troubled Baltimore's police department. They need to look a little further afield.

These Baltimore officers, and their colleagues around the country, are the same cops that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions thinks are burdened with excessive oversight. In April he vowed, "this Department of Justice will not sign consent decrees that will cost more lives by handcuffing the police instead of criminals." And just days ago, Sessions rededicated his department to working with local law enforcement on civil asset forfeiture efforts that bypass the need for criminal convictions to seize property—and also bypass state and local safeguards. Forfeited funds are split between federal and local agencies in a lucrative arrangement for everybody but the victims. "Equitable sharing" collaboration between federal and local agencies was suspended under former Attorney General Eric Holder, but the new regime is jump-starting the program

View this article.


Trump Open to Signing Russia Sanctions Legislation, Schumer Calls Dems 'Namby-Pamby,' Jordan Spieth Wins British Open: A.M. Links


  • (image) President Trump complained on Twitter that Republicans weren't doing enough to "protect" him.
  • Trump is reportedly open to signing legislation that would limit his power to ease sanctions against Russia.
  • Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer characterized Democrats as too "namby-pamby" in 2016 and said he'd unveil a new Democratic agenda today.
  • An anti-capitalist Museum of Capitalism is opening, temporarily, in Oakland, complete with a gift shop.
  • A wildfire in California can be seen from space.
  • The feline mayor of Talkeetna, Alaska, has died.
  • Michael Phelps "raced" a number of sharks to kick off Shark Week.
  • Jordan Spieth won the British Open.

Matt Welch Interviews C.J. Ciaramella, Kyle Smith, Joshua Green, and Dan Nowicki from 9-12 AM ET


This morning I am sitting in the guest-host chair for Stand UP! with Pete Dominick on Sirius XM Insight (channel 121) from 9-12 am ET. The guests are scheduled to include:

* Reason's own C.J. Ciaramella, who'll talk about Attorney General Jeff Sessions' awful new expansion of civil asset forfeiture.

* Joshua Green, author of the brand spanking new Devil's Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency.

* Dan Nowicki, the great Arizona Republic national political writer, who will talk about Sen. John McCain (and hopefully Jeff Flake).

* Kyle Smith, critic at large for National Review, who will talk about Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk, and the lousiness of New York subway politics.

Please call the show at any time, but especially in the first and last half-hours: 1-877-974-7487.


Brickbat: We Know All About You


(image) The leaders of the Asian Pacific Islander, Black, Jewish, Latino, LGBT and Women's caucuses in the California state legislature have asked lobbying firms to give them demographic data—including race, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation—on their employees.


The Surprisingly Long History of Private Space Exploration: New at Reason


(image) Sixty years ago, the Soviets launched Sputnik and, with it, the space race. For Americans who grew up since then, the exploration of space has always been linked closely with the government. Private space companies such as SpaceX and Blue Origin may have had successes, but they still arouse skepticism from people who cannot imagine anyone other than NASA or its foreign rivals sending people to the cosmos. But in The Long Space Age, the NASA historian and economist Alexander MacDonald uncovers a rich, multi-century history of privately funded space exploration. In the long view, the age of government-funded space travel may be a just a temporary detour from an older tradition, Rand Simberg writes in his review.

View this article.


"People use information however they like. It's confirmation bias": Humans of FreedomFest 6


Editor's note: FreedomFest, held every July in Las Vegas, is the largest annual gathering of libertarians and free-market supporters in the country. Taking inspiration from the site Humans of New York, Reason is happy to offer Humans of FreedomFest, a series of portraits and brief interviews with various attendees. To read previous installments, go here. Avens O'Brien "I was on a panel and a question came up about abortion and it was interesting because there were four panelists. One person didn't let their opinion be known. Two were extremely pro-life. And then there was me, who was not only pro-choice but had had an abortion. We didn't have a knockdown, drag-out fight about it, but it was clear that we were all in our spaces about what we believe and none of us were moving." Did your informing of the audience about your abortion add to your credibility or take it away? "The pro-choicers were like, Yes, this lends legitimacy to the issue. She can speak from experience. And then the pro lifers, who are not gonna be moved, are like, Oh she's extremely biased. People use information however they like. It's confirmation bias." Larry Sharpe "Do you wanna hear the weird story?" I want to hear the weird story. "I'm adopted. When I was born in 1968, New York state, being the progressive state it is, wouldn't allow you to be adopted unless you had the right racial match. Since I was biracial, they had to find a biracial family. That was the law back then. New York, again the progressive state that it is, would not allow me to find my parents because, well, because. We fought many times, lost every time. The judges kept saying, 'We made a promise to those people and we can't break it.' It was 50 years ago and we now know genetics matter in health. So this is now life and death. And you think some promise to someone 50 years ago matters? What is wrong with you?... When I'm governor I'm going to change that." Editor's Note: Sharpe has announced his intention to run for governor of New York on the Libertarian ticket. John Stagliano "There were talks about [Attorney General Jeff] Sessions initiating prosecutions against the porn industry. And I could be a target as one of the few remaining big producers of porn in Los Angeles.... I'm a target." Are you nervous about that? "No, not really... I don't have that much respect for the federal government. I'm nervous that people will move on, that I'll never become a celebrity again." "Humans of FreedomFest" is a series. Read previous installments here. [...]

"We'd even gone to see if I could legally adopt him so he didn't have to stress being an illegal alien": Humans of FreedomFest 5


Editor's note: FreedomFest, held every July in Las Vegas, is the largest annual gathering of libertarians in the country. Today is the first day of the four-day long conference, which is being headlined in its 10th year by William Shatner, John Stossel, Greg Gutfeld, and others. Taking inspiration from the site Humans of New York, Reason is happy to offer Humans of FreedomFest, a series of portraits and brief interviews with various attendees. To read previous installments, go here. Robert J. Schimenz Are any political issues personal for you? "I could get emotional over a lot of issues. Nick [Gillespie], about a month ago, was in Queens. And he was walking down the street. A guy pulls up and says 'Aren't you Nick Gillespie from Reason?' And he holds up his Reason magazine. And it's one of my former students. Who, when I first met him, was a 10th grader and an illegal alien. Great kid. Baseball player on my team. Editor of my school newspaper. We'd even gone to see if I could legally adopt him so he didn't have to stress being an illegal alien… he's probably one of the best Americans I know, this kid." Nicole Sanders "I went to college in Texas and I started a YAL [Young Americans for Liberty] chapter. And it got shut down. And so I worked with FIRE [Foundation for Individual Rights in Education], we sued, and won. It was kinda my entry into the liberty movement. It was the first time I was on campus as a YAL chapter, I was just recruiting, letting people know there's this libertarian group on campus. A student was offended because I was talking about guns on campus. So they went to the administration. And then they came to me with three armed police officers saying I was not allowed to talk to students without permission. If I wanted to talk about guns, I would need special permission." Adam Trexler Have you ever changed your mind on an issue? "Oh sure. Well now I'm gonna upset you. Probably. When I lived in Britain, I was really scared of socialized medicine. But I found that the NHS [National Health System] was more efficient than our hybrid state-private system. So I think we either need a true private system or a true public system." "Humans of FreedomFest" is a series. Read previous installments here. [...]

Humans of FreedomFest, Part 4: "My father used...'libertarian' as a swear word."


Editor's note: FreedomFest, held every July in Las Vegas, is the largest annual gathering of libertarians in the country. Today is the first day of the four-day long conference, which is being headlined in its 10th year by William Shatner, John Stossel, Greg Gutfeld, and others. Taking inspiration from the site Humans of New York, Reason is happy to offer Humans of FreedomFest, a series of portraits and brief interviews with various attendees. To read previous installments, go here.

Deirdre McCloskey


"My father used the word 'libertarian' as a swear word. 'Oh that's libertarian'... But I was a marxist at the time so I thought, well that's not something I should be. It took me a long time to get over that. I was an anarchist to begin with when I was 15. Then I was a socialist, kind of a Joan Baez socialist. I played the guitar... I know more socialist songs than my socialist colleagues. I wasn't a scholarly Marxist. I read half the Communist Manifesto and I figured that was enough. But the songs were terrific."

Stephen L Mandaro


"Because I'm pro-choice, among the Republicans sometimes I get into trouble. But I'm a physician. So I leave it to the patient to decide what they want. My feeling, being pro-choice, is that it's a woman's individual decision. Not mine."



"Back in England, at the London School of Economics, he was a socialist when I met him. When we first met."

So did you turn him into a libertarian?

"No. Buying private property, having rent control slammed on us, is what radicalized us."

...Who are you people?

"We can't decide."

Are those your real names?

"We're coming to a conference on privacy. It would be crazy to register in your own name!"

...Can I take your picture?

Both: "No."

This is part of a series. Read previous installments here.


Reefer Madness at The New York Times: New at Reason


(image) "The federal government should repeal the ban on marijuana," The New York Times declared in an editorial published on July 27, 2014. That week, the paper ran a series of essays fleshing out the case for legalization, including a piece in which editorial writer Brent Staples exposed the ugly roots of pot prohibition.

"The federal law that makes possession of marijuana a crime has its origins in legislation that was passed in an atmosphere of hysteria during the 1930s and that was firmly rooted in prejudices against Mexican immigrants and African-Americans, who were associated with marijuana use at the time," Staples wrote. He mentioned "sensationalistic newspaper articles" that tied marijuana to "murder and mayhem" and "depicted pushers hovering by the schoolhouse door turning children into 'addicts.'" He did not mention that many such stories appeared in The New York Times.

In the context of the era, when papers across the country were running news reports with headlines like "Evil Mexican Plants That Drive You Insane" (Richmond Times-Dispatch) and "Smoking Weed Turns Mexicans to Wild Beasts" (Cheyenne State Leader), the Gray Lady's marijuana coverage during the first few decades of the 20th century was not especially egregious. But to modern eyes, it is remarkably naive, alarmist, and racist, writes Jacob Sullum.

View this article.


Italy’s Ruining Its Own Food Culture with Heavy Hand of Regulation: New at Reason


(image) Food policy writer Baylen Linniken laments the local governments handing down terrible rules on the lovely restaurants and cafes (and food trucks) of Italy:

Italy is home to some of the best and most memorable meals I've ever eaten. I first visited in 1994, after graduating from college, and have returned on several occasions.

Some of my fondest memories are of sampling wonderful street food in Milan, drinking and dining al fresco amid the lights at night in Rome, and enjoying the amazing aromas of wonderful cooking foods that practically permeate the country.

That's why I'm disheartened to learn that Italy is increasingly cracking down on its food culture—including, specifically, the aforementioned Milanese street food, drinking and dining outdoors in Rome, and the grand aromas of the country's food.

View this article.


Sean Spicer Resigns, Sean Hannity Has an Award Taken Away, and Minneapolis Officials Offer Regrets on Shooting of Unarmed Australian Woman: P.M. Links


  • (image) Sean Spicer has resigned as White House press secretary. The New York Times was the first to report on the news, and Spicer himself confirmed it over Twitter. He will remain in his post for another month, after which he will be replaced by Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
  • Sean Hannity has had his William F. Buckley Award for Media Excellence snatched away from him. The award was supposed to be presented to the Fox News host by the Media Research Center at their September Gala. Politico reports that Christopher Buckley, the late National Review founder's son, objected to Hannity receiving the award. Hannity and the MRC have said that the change is the result of a "scheduling conflict."
  • Several Canadian members of the travelling equestrian show Cavalia have been arrested in China for smoking weed. Two Canadians remain in prison in China, however both the Canadian government and Cavalia are working to get them released.
  • Justine Damond, the unarmed Australian woman shot by Minneapolis police Saturday, "did not have to die" according to Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau said. Mayor Betsy Hodges has made similar statements, although both have stopped short of calling the shooting illegal. Read Reason's coverage of the story here.
  • The BBC reports on Rob Spence, a filmmaker with one human eye and one robot eye!

Michigan Activist Sentenced to Jail for Distributing Pamphlet About Juror Rights


(image) Today a Michigan judge sentenced a local activist to eight weekends in jail, plus $545 in fines, 120 hours of community service, and six months of probation, for passing out jury nullification pamphlets in front of the Mecosta County courthouse. Keith Wood, a former pastor and father of eight, was arrested in November 2015 and convicted last month of jury tampering, a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail.

Wood, who distributed a pamphlet published by the Fully Informed Jury Association (FIJA), was initially charged with obstruction of justice, a felony punishable by up to five years in prison, and held on $150,000 bail. The felony charge was dismissed in March 2016.

The remaining charge applies when someone "willfully attempts to influence the decision of a juror in any case by argument or persuasion, other than as part of the proceedings in open court in the trial of the case." The only case pending on the day Wood was arrested involved an Amish man named Andy Yoder who was accused of illegally filling a wetland on his own property. Yoder ended up pleading guilty, so no jury was ever chosen for his trial. But Wood testified that he had taken an interest in the case and ordered the FIJA pamphlets after hearing about it.

Wood's lawyer, David Kallman, who plans to appeal the conviction, argued that distributing the pamphlets, which contained general information about jurors' rights, was protected by the First Amendment. He emphasized that Wood never discussed Yoder's case with passers-by at the courthouse.

At Wood's sentencing, Kallman argued that jail time was inappropriate, while the prosecution recommended a sentence of 45 days. After Wood's arrest, Mecosta County Prosecutor Brian Thiede said the FIJA pamphlet is dangerous because "we would have a lawless nation if people were to vote their conscience."

FIJA has more on the Wood case here.