Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Hayek and Satoshi Meet in Vegas

Hayek and Satoshi Meet in Vegas

Hayek and Satoshi Meet in Vegas

F.A. Hayek is smiling, or perhaps blushing, if news has trickled up to where all great Austrian economists go. The Legends Room Gentlemen’s Club in Las Vegas has created its own virtual currency, known as LGD.

Todd Prince broke the story in the Las Vegas Review Journal that the soon-to-be-open club is “hoping a new marketing weapon – a virtual currency – will help them wrestle tech- and investment-savvy clients away from the strip club giants.”

Club owners are selling memberships to Legends for $5,000, which can be paid for with bitcoin as well as the US government’s legal tender or credit cards. “Members in return will receive 5,000 LGD, a virtual currency created by Legends Room, that can be used to pay for lap dances and drinks.”

Alert readers will notice that the club’s owners have set the LGD/$ exchange rate at par. One wonders whether it will remain there. After all, the aforementioned bitcoin has taken off yet again and it takes 1,994.42 of Uncle Sam’s bucks to buy a single Satoshi bitcoin.

A New Crypto

Non-members will be required to buy at least one LGD to enter the club’s VIP room, so the owners hope this will create a market for their cryptocurrency. If nothing else, they are dreaming big, with plans to display the daily price of their currency along with bitcoin on video monitors throughout the club.

Prince explains, “Members and other token-holders will be able to sell their LGD for bitcoin on the Bittrex cryptocurrency exchange or for cash through the club’s concierge to those seeking access to the VIP room.” LGD will be just one of the more than 190 cryptocurrencies Bittrex supports.

In a vast departure from typical strip club protocol, Legends will offer a Bloomberg terminal for patrons to monitor stock and bond prices during trading hours. No doubt some dancers will take advantage of the terminal to keep an eye on their investments. (The most remembered story I’ve told to all economics classes I’ve taught is about the worst stock tip I ever received – from a dancer in a strip club.)

A Fad No More

By coincidence, the May 19th issue of Grant’s Interest Rate Observer devotes its front page to bitcoin with the catchy title “I own tulips at 40 cents a bulb.” The folks at Grant’s queried a few investors in the bitcoin space. None poo-pooed the cryptocurrency as a bubbly fad: “It’s a stored value, a monetary asset that’s winning its place in the hearts and minds of the world’s financially repressed,” says Murray Stahl, speaking of Satoshi's handiwork.


Stahl went from not knowing what a bitcoin was two years ago to buying 20 computer servers and beginning a bitcoin mining operation. Besides Satoshi's technology, Stahl was impressed with the bitcoin founder’s theory. “He wanted to create a non-inflationary currency,” Stahl told Grant’s. “That is really what he wanted to do. The first one that ever existed that no government could ever tamper with, and he did it.”

By the way, Stahl says the cost to mine a bitcoin is about $1,200, but he’s not about to sell his. “I think that something has to replace the current monetary insanity.”

Another friend of Grant’s is buying other cryptocurrencies. The business plan of these currency creators is speculation, “and they all say the same thing,” Grant’s friend concludes. “It’s no problem, we’re just going to convert it into bitcoin.”

For Professor Hayek, competition in currencies was not about creating speculative vehicles, but instead, “under the proposed scheme, the managers of the bank would learn that its business depended on the unshaken confidence that it would continue to regulate its issue of ducats (etc.) so that their purchasing power remained approximately constant.”

In his book Denationalization of Money, Hayek anticipated the current monetary insanity Murray Stahl speaks of, explaining,
And it should be in the power of each issuer of a distinct currency to regulate its quantity so as to make it most acceptable to the public – and competition would force him to do so. Indeed, he would know that the penalty for failing to fulfill the expectations raised would be the prompt loss of the business. Successful entry into it would evidently be a very profitable venture, and success would depend on establishing the credibility and trust that the bank was able and determined to carry out its declared intentions. It would seem that in this situation sheer desire for gain would produce a better money than government has ever produced.
QR Codes

Besides its store of value potential, bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have great advantages in ease of payment. Great wealth can be transmitted with the push of a button. Or, for the girls who will work at Legends, Mr. Prince writes, “Members would be able to scan QR bars either on the dancer’s phone or placed on her body rather than stuffing dollars into her stockings.”

While the number of bitcoin to be produced will stop just short of 21 million, the ambitious owners of Legends are giving themselves more running room, limiting the number of LGD to 30 million. Janet Yellen and Mario Draghi have no such constrictions.

Legends will open in June, and will be a great place for a field trip to see cryptocurrency in action during Freedomfest July 19th through July 22nd.

Douglas French

Douglas French is an Associated Scholar at the Johnson Center at Troy University and adjunct professor at Georgia Military College. He is the author of three books: Early Speculative Bubbles and Increases in the Supply of Money, Walk Away, and The Failure of Common Knowledge.

This article was originally published on Read the original article.

Government Has Done Nothing Good for Bitcoin

Government Has Done Nothing Good for Bitcoin

Government Has Done Nothing Good for Bitcoin

The dollar exchange ratio of Bitcoin has finally topped $2,000. This is thanks in part to new international demand for the currency, due to the great ransomware panic of 2017. It appears that this was a catalyzing event to get BTC to the new level.

The hackers demanded Bitcoin as payment for unlocking user files, and reportedly offered excellent customer service. Many people who had thus far eschewed Bitcoin were enticed into the ownership and exchange of this payment tool for the first time.

The story reminds me of Bernard Mandeville’s theory that vice can nurse ingenuity.
Do we not owe the Growth of Wine
To the dry shabby crooked Vine?
This newest turn is no different from many factors that have led to Bitcoin’s rise and rise over the last eight years. It was released as a safe haven from the financial crisis of 2008. If a decline in real estate values can really threaten the foundations of world finance, how good can our current money and payment systems really be? Our times were crying out for something new.

The Internet had shown us how to do almost everything better than before. Surely it could the same for money and payment systems. Money itself hadn’t been modernized in one hundred years. As for credit cards, they work today as they did just after World War II: third parties assess your trustworthiness and grant you trust based on your identity. We haven’t really advanced much beyond this basic model.

Disruptive Money

Then came Bitcoin. With its payment system, you exchange ownership rights to scarce digital goods (yes, goods, in this case, is a metaphor for a mathematical fiction) directly peer-to-peer with no third-party source of intermediation. In other words, it works exactly the way cash works when you buy milk at the convenience store. Your identity doesn’t matter. The paper is a proxy for the ownership of real goods.

But it’s even better because you don’t actually have to be there to make it happen. Any two people on the planet with access to the internet can transfer ownership rights to a digital thing. That makes Bitcoin – the numeraire that makes the ledger system work – a global currency.

Bitcoin never demanded that it be valued by virtue of its existence. It merely presented itself to market actors and asked them to judge. Ten months following its release, the first posted price of Bitcoin appeared: someone, somewhere found this thing valuable. The market itself – not a decree, not an imposition by intellectuals, and not some social consensus – is the source of Bitcoin's value.

Of course, it was the edgiest users in the early days that gave Bitcoin its most robust test runs. Initially, it was valuable for online trades of pot, and this was long before many uses of marijuana became legal for many Americans. Then it has been used for other nefarious purposes involving escort services and more.

I don’t see that this is a point of embarrassment for Bitcoin. It’s the path of many innovations. Mandeville again comes to mind.

Hackers Love It Too

You can see, then, why the hackers would choose it as a preferred currency. No exchange rates between countries. No third parties to block access. No limits on the people who can use and transfer the stuff. The hackers were pretty smart here: they preferred this currency to every other existing currency that is tracked, controlled, and limited in its development by governments.

Bitcoin was blessed in its early days by government officials who figured it was going nowhere. Years went by while it thrived in an atmosphere of benign neglect. That was the source of its rising sophistication and marketability. Bitcoin didn’t need government to become its champion; Bitcoin needed government to stay out of the way.

For the most part government didn't interfere until the dread day of March 18, 2013, on which the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network imposed strict rules for converting between Bitcoin and dollars. If you made a business out of this practice, FinCEN demanded (no Congressional mandate required) that you register as a money-exchange business, a very expensive and arduous process.

That regulatory imposition, only four-pages long, had a devastating effect on market development. Hundreds of entrepreneurs had seen an opportunity here. Suddenly they were all being told that if they go ahead with their plans, they would be treated as criminals. Many players just walked away. The only institutions that were left after this shake out were the largest ones that had the capital to weather the new costs of doing business. The free market of Bitcoin/dollar exchange was at an end.

A Pain in the Neck

It’s been this way for Bitcoin all along. So long as you stay within the cryptocurrency’s ecosphere, you are good and safe and there is innovation all around. Moving from dollars to Bitcoin and back again, however, presents some serious problems.

I don’t mean technological problems, of course. Bitcoin can handle that. The problem stems from government’s desire to make Bitcoin behave like an old-fashioned money and payment system, with know-your-customer rules and, inevitably, the desire of our rulers to wet their beaks in a new revenue pond. They want a cut of every new source of wealth, which means that they want to follow every monetary tool, especially that which is new and innovative.

Bitcoin is becoming a money? You have to give government its cut.

Fortune reports:
A closely-watched fight between the Internal Revenue Service and a popular bitcoin exchange took a new twist last week, as senior Republicans in Congress sent a sharply-worded letter that suggests the tax agency is overstepping its powers.

The letter concerns an IRS investigation into possible tax evasion by customers who use Coinbase, a San Francisco-based company that many people use to buy digital currencies. As part of the investigation, which began last year, officials demanded that Coinbase turn over information for every one of its accounts.
The letter opposing this move is actually pretty good:
We strongly question whether the IRS has actually established a reasonable basis to support the mass production of records for half of a million people, the vast majority of whom appear to not be conducting the volume of transactions needed to report them to the IRS. Based on the information before us, this summons seems overly broad, extremely burdensome, and highly intrusive to a large population of individuals. The IRS's actions in this case also set a dangerous precedent for companies facilitating virtual currency transactions that could be subject to a similar summons.
Few innovations have been met with such incredulity from the outset through the rise and development periods. Now Bitcoin is firmly rooted in modern finance, and is poised to be a leader in the future of currency and payment systems. No matter what government does now, Bitcoin has a brilliant future.

The Need Is There

We need a nongovernment, global currency that is reliable, secure, universally available, unmediated by financial authority, and tied to real ownership. We didn’t entirely know that we needed this – and we didn't know it was technically possible to do this entirely in a digital realm – until Bitcoin came along. Now we do and there is no going back.

It operates on its own just fine. All government can do – now just as in the past – is slow the growth and keep the future from happening as quickly as it should.

To be sure, many stakeholders in the Bitcoin space favor some government involvement, if only to end the legal uncertainty that continues to hold back the innovation and the infrastructure behind it. This is tragic but understandable in times when all human activity is either mandated or prohibited. Here’s to hoping that cryptocurrency itself makes strides in changing that presumption.

N.B.: FEE has been on the cutting edge of commentary on this important topic since the early days, and FEE's work surely could use donations in this currency.

Jeffrey A. Tucker

Jeffrey Tucker is Director of Content for the Foundation for Economic Education. He is also Chief Liberty Officer and founder of, Distinguished Honorary Member of Mises Brazil, research fellow at the Acton Institute, policy adviser of the Heartland Institute, founder of the CryptoCurrency Conference, member of the editorial board of the Molinari Review, an advisor to the blockchain application builder Factom, and author of five books. He has written 150 introductions to books and many thousands of articles appearing in the scholarly and popular press.

This article was originally published on Read the original article.

Monday, May 22, 2017

GamePro – April 1996

GamePro – April 1996

Brevard Renaissance Fair 2017 – Pub Sing – The Limeybirds

Brevard Renaissance Fair 2017 – Pub Sing – The Limeybirds

Friday, May 19, 2017

A Century Later, Mises Is Still Being Validated

A Century Later, Mises Is Still Being Validated

A Century Later, Mises Is Still Being Validated

It has been said that “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” No one quite knows who first uttered this remark; it has been attributed to Albert Einstein, Mark Twain, Benjamin Franklin, and has even been said to be an Ancient Chinese Proverb. What is known is that this cliché has been repeated over and over again so often that its mere mention substantiates its own definition.

Several of the ladies and gentlemen above wanted to let us know that they’re merely eccentric, and if they want to do things all over again and again and again, we should let them…

Nonetheless, we repeat it again because it’s particularly fitting to today’s deliberations. Here we begin with a look back to the past in search of edification. For the miscalculations of the past continue to dictate the insanity of the present.

Many years ago, a bright minded and well intentioned Italian pursued a devious undertaking. His efforts aimed to conceive a pure theory of a socialist economy. His objective was to take the sordid teachings of Marx and pencil out the mechanics of how a centrally planned economy could bring a life of security and abundance for all. What follows is an approximation of how the dirty deed went down.

Seeing the Light

In 1908, Italian economist Enrico Barone suffered an abstraction. One late night he skipped a bite of his meatballs and marinara, and gazed into the outer frontiers of deep space. Looking around, he couldn’t believe his eyes. For in this far corner of absolute darkness, he saw something truly amazing. Out in the distant reaches of nothingness, peering into a black hole, he saw not the dark. Rather, he thought he saw the light.

Barone’s light was a socialist utopia achieved through “scientific management” of the economy, lorded over by the Ministry of Production. Through this endeavor, he imagined, an economy could attain something called “maximum collective welfare.”

Enrico Barone in the only photo of him we could find. Both Vilfredo Pareto (in 1897) and Barone (in 1908, in the monograph “The Ministry of Production” discussed above) used a system of simultaneous equations based on Walrasian general equilibrium theory in order to investigate whether there was some sort of theoretical/ mathematical solution available to central planners facing the problem of what to produce, how much of it to produce, how, when, and where to produce it, etc., what resources in what quantities to allocate to capital goods production, how much consumption to permit, etc., etc. – all the stuff socialist planners ultimately turned out to be really bad at. Anyway, we have to defend Barone and Pareto a bit, as neither of them seemed to really believe that the approach was actually viable in the real world.

After presenting all his nifty equations, Barone pointed out that the planners would ultimately still need all the things they thought they could abolish (prices, rent, profits, interest, savings, etc., which he averred would “probably return under different names”). He also noted that because no a priori determination of the “economically most viable technical coefficients” for the production system was conceivable (always assuming the goal of the planners was to maximize welfare), they would have to “experiment on a grand scale” – which would be far more wasteful than the so-called “anarchy of production” they wanted to replace.

In the final pages of his monograph Barone proceeded to lambast “collectivist writers…[who] simply show that they have no clear idea of what production really is”, and inter alia remarked that “to promise increased welfare and to propose to “organize” production and to preach about free love in the new regime is simply ridiculous nonsense.”

Pareto meanwhile noted along similar lines that it would simply be impossible to perform all the calculations needed for running a complex economy in time and recommended to “rather observe the practical solution given by the market”. The problem was that the Marxists were simply too dense to understand what they were trying to tell them – instead it ended up giving them ideas (further elaboration regarding the issue is in the caption under the Mises picture, below). [PT]

Swiss Cheese Rationale

The proposal was simple enough. If a bounty of academics were put to the task of determining the best prices for all goods and services, supply and demand could be optimized to produce an economy without poverty, without unemployment… and without possibility.


Of course, with all these number crunchers hammering out technical memorandums and white papers, projecting data into the future with the intention of fixing the optimal price of toothpaste and pizza, how could they account for a change beyond their control or imagination? What if a springtime heat wave resulted in a meager wheat harvest?

How would this affect their pre-determined price for a 16 inch pizza? Would government mandated thin crust be the solution? More than likely, before the data fabricators could re-optimize the price to the change in conditions, the pizzerias would be out of pizza dough because the price wasn’t allowed to naturally adjust upward by free market interactions. Government-induced shortages and artificial scarcity would result.

With just a little common sense, Barone’s ideas are quickly exposed as absurd.

From an academic standpoint, in his 1920 monograph, Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth, Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises, poked so many holes through the rationale it was transformed to Swiss cheese.

Swiss cheese does indeed have holes – this reminds us of the other day, when we bought a piece of Swiss cheese at a local supermarket, only to find out at home that the wrapping paper was empty. Upon confronting the author of this transgression (the dweller behind the cheese counter) with his misdeed, he explained that it had been a Swiss cheese with particularly large holes, and the piece he had sold us simply was one of said holes.

We realized that if we were to time our future Swiss cheese purchases judiciously, we would be spared a lot of unnecessary calorie intake. In socialist Utopias one can afford sloppier timing… there they sell only the holes most of the time (a popular snack in Caracas these days is reportedly “Hole of Swiss Cheese with Rat”). [PT]

With exacting repudiation, Mises argued that in a socialist economy rational economic calculation is impossible; in the absence of private ownership of the means of production, attempts to allocate resources efficiently must fail.

Without market-determined prices for goods and services via free exchange it is impossible to establish prices that reflect actual conditions. Without prices that are grounded in reality, the production and consumption relationship becomes distorted. In the absence of the natural corrective mechanism of market-determined prices, oversupply and scarcity conditions extend out to absurdity.

Ludwig von Mises naturally refrained from wasting time by wrestling with general equilibrium equations. He realized right away what the core problem was, but was misunderstood and/ or misinterpreted by contemporary and later socialist economists, of whom frighteningly large numbers were uselessly occupying otherwise perfectly fine standing room in his heyday – there must have been a nest somewhere, considering how they suddenly proliferated (their large number did nothing to improve the quality of their ideas and arguments.

There were also a few interesting chameleons like the historicist Werner Sombart, a trust fund baby who started out as a radical Marxist, then joined the “socialists of the chair” who supported the Prussian dynasty of the Hohenzollern, and later on discovered his inner nationalist and became chummy with the Nazis without so much as batting an eyelid – just as long as he was in bed with vile statists he seemed to be happy!).

Anyway, after the publication of Mises’ monograph on the literal impossibility of a rational economy under socialism, Mises, Hayek and occasionally Lionel Robbins (a fellow fighter of the good fight on Hayek’s side before he defected for unfathomable reasons), proceeded to debate the leading socialist economists on the socialist calculation problem for decades (Menger and Boehm-Bawerk had debated the previous generation, except for those who invoked polylogism so as not to have to defend their ideas against “economists employing bourgeois logic”.Today’s identity-politics SJWs who have whole lists of topics white males are supposedly not allowed to speak or think about are a bit reminiscent of that).

Socialist economist Fred Taylor was apparently inspired by Barone’s remark that there would be no equations for the planners to sensibly solve if they didn’t do “experiments on a grand scale”. While Barone seemed to indicate that this rendered the entire exercise useless and they might as well stick with the market economy, Taylor shrugged and said “Why not? Let’s do that!” Consequently, he proposed the “trial and error” method of central planning, once again missing the essence of the problem.

Taylor then joined Oscar Lange with whom he wrote “On the Economic Theory of Socialism”. Two or three years later Henry Dickinson’s “Economics of Socialism” was published. This trio was in the process of conceding step by step that without prices for capital goods, rational resource allocation was indeed not possible, just as Mises had always pointed out.

Over the decades the debate had moved from “calculation in natura” propagated by Otto Bauer in the late 19th/early 20th century (a bizarre idea, we would have liked seeing him draw up a balance sheet), to the planners simply using the Pareto/ Barone equilibrium equations to “calculate” production, to the addition of the “trial and error” method as a refinement, until finally, they renamed their method “market socialism”, adding some additional ideas to Taylor’s trial and error shtick by which they hoped to successfully replicate the price system.

There would still be socialism, but the central planners and their subordinated factory managers would actually “play at market” – they would run a kind of make-believe market, a bit like little kids playing Monopoly. Given that they went as far as wanting to try that, one wonders why they didn’t just decide to simply stick with a market economy!

To this final pathetic attempt to save their tattered socialist economic theory Mises inter alia remarked later:

[…] the cardinal fallacy implied in [market socialist] proposals is that they look at the economic problem from the perspective of the subaltern clerk whose intellectual horizon does not extend beyond subordinate tasks. They consider the structure of industrial production and the allocation of capital to the various branches and production aggregates as rigid, and do not take into account the necessity of altering this structure in order to adjust it to changes in conditions. What they have in mind is a world in which no further changes occur and economic history has reached its final stage. They fail to realize that the operations of corporate officers consist merely in the loyal execution of the tasks entrusted to them by their bosses, the shareholders. The operations of managers, their buying and selling, are only a small segment of the totality of market operations. The market of the capitalist society also performs those operations which allocate capital goods to the various branches of industry. The entrepreneurs and capitalists establish corporations and other firms, enlarge or reduce their size, dissolve them or merge them with other enterprises; they buy and sell the shares and bonds of already existing and of new corporations; they grant, withdraw, and recover credits; in short they perform all those acts the totality of which is called the capital and money market. It is these financial transactions of promoters and speculators that direct production into those channels in which it satisfies the most urgent wants of the consumers in the best possible way. These transactions constitute the market as such. If one eliminates them, one does not preserve any part of the market. What remains is a fragment that cannot exist.”

Oh well... making favorable mention of speculators, promoters and entrepreneurs when explaining to the Reds what they are wrong about is probably a good way of getting them riled up…:) Mises’ remark above indirectly encompasses questions about the nature of knowledge and its distribution Hayek had begun to discuss in the early 40’s. The point being that what all these individual entrepreneurs, speculators, promoters etc. discover and know, their individual talents and the part of their knowledge that is tacit, which they cannot even verbalize themselves – all of these things a central planning agency can never learn and will therefore never know. Even if its bureaucrats were mind readers and did know about them, why would they ever care? In the socialist commonwealth going the extra mile has no rewards.

As a final remark to this highly condensed caption version of the socialist calculation debate: although Oscar Lange became a high-ranking communist official in Poland after WW2, the system of “market socialism” was never even tried there. They opted for old-fashioned Stalinist oppression instead (and the guy had sounded so reasonable while he was still in the US!). We know Lange had still not conceded a basic error in his in old age, as he made a gleeful remark in 1967 about computers soon being able to calculate all those equilibrium equations proposed by Barone rapidly enough that a perfect 5 year plan could finally be produced for the comrades. Good grief! [PT]

Polish-American socialist economist Oscar Lange

Ludwig von Mises’ Century of Validation

The planners are never able to get things quite right. In time, these absurdities become ubiquitous. For example, in a socialist economy you’ll find supermarkets with long lines of people and empty shelves. Another definitive gift of socialist economies is toilets without toilet seats. How is this even possible?

Still, the socialist visionaries loved Barone’s gibberish because it endorsed their conceit. Here was a marvelous way for the enlightened illuminati to play god, muck with people’s lives at large, and remake the world in their image. Conversely, the mainstream economists of the day greeted Mises’s truths like a five-year-old first greets word that Santa Clause isn’t real. They derided his efforts and attempted to marginalize his work. This still continues today.

The ideas of Barone, which were an attempt at defining a practical application of Marx, swept across Eastern Europe during the early 20th century like a medieval plague. Later, a somewhat altered derivative of these ideas resurfaced in France, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Japan, among other places, within the intersection of Keynesian fiscal policies and Chicago school monetary policies.

Rather than having to directly fix the price of individual goods and services via a Central Planning Board, it was established that a Central Bank can crunch fabricated aggregate demand data and control the prices of an entire economy just by monkeying around with the price of credit. What’s more, governments could run perpetual deficits to remold things nearer to their heart’s desire.

Mises’ efforts to refute socialist economic proposals nearly a century ago were explicitly validated with the decline and fall of Soviet socialism. Presently, they are being openly validated again, with the utter chaos being heaped upon the people of Venezuela.

The somewhat diminished modern-day shopping experience in Venezuela – meet the latest attempt to make socialist economics “work” by finally “doing it right”.

Et Infinitum

Indeed, the results of government intervention are always the same. Stagnation, inflation, declining living standards, and widespread social disorder. No doubt, they’ll be repeated to insanity.

In closing, and although many refuse to recognize it, Mises’ truths are currently borne out in the United States, and other social and corporate welfare economies, where money, which is a form of private property, is covertly confiscated by the insidious effects of a centrally planned system that’s based on ever increasing issuance of debt.

Lengthy article-in-article captions by PT.

Reprinted from Acting-Man.

MN Gordon
MN Gordon is President and Founder of Direct Expressions LLC, an independent publishing company. He is the Editorial Director and Publisher of the Economic Prism – an E-Newsletter that tries to bring clarity to the muddy waters of economic policy and discusses interesting investment opportunities.

This article was originally published on Read the original article.

X-Files Season 11 Set For Midseason

X-Files Season 11 Set For Midseason

The truth is out there for at least 10 more episodes. The X-Files Season 11 will arrive in 2018, Fox confirmed. The fact that they’re offering fans a larger episode count than we got with Season 10, which only had six episodes, is a good sign. Here’s what we know so far:

X-Files Season 11 Release Date:

Ahead of Fox’s upfront presentation in New York, the network announced The X-Files season 11 will air midseason. The revival aired in the coveted post-NFC championship game slot in 2016 to big ratings. We’ll see if Fox chooses to go that route again.

X-Files Season 11 Writers

Aside from Chris Carter, it’s still too early to know who will be returning to The X-Files to write for the new season. We do know the season will shoot in the late summer, which frees up Glen Morgan, who is currently working on an adaptation of the popular Lore podcast for Amazon. Morgan wrote and directed “Home Again” in season 10.

As faith would have it, Den of Geek had the opportunity to speak with former X-Files executive producer and Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan the day after Fox confirmed an eleventh season of The X-Files. Despite his busy schedule, Gilligan said he would “love” to write for the X-Files again if he had the time. He confirmed that no one from the X-Files had contacted him about returning, though.

Read more:

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Lisa & Christie from Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball

Lisa & Christie from Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball

Brevard Renaissance Fair 2017 – Pub Sing – Wolgemut & Hips of Destruction

Brevard Renaissance Fair 2017 – Pub Sing – Wolgemut & Hips of Destruction

The Log Tax Is Harming Both Americans and Canadians

The Log Tax Is Harming Both Americans and Canadians

The Log Tax Is Harming Both Americans and Canadians

In early May, Vancouver in Canada’s far western province of British Columbia is a beautiful place. Full-bloom dogwoods, rhododendron, and azaleas blanket the city against the backdrop of a sky-blue harbor and beckoning snow-capped peaks.

“What a contrast!” I thought as I walked the streets of Vancouver two weeks ago, “between the calming artistry of nature and the nastiness of politics."

I was there barely a week after President Trump’s imposition of 20% tariffs on logs imported from Canada. It was also just days before elections that would determine which party controlled the British Columbia Legislature and, thereby, who would serve as the province’s next Premier.

The timing was superb for enjoying the sites of Vancouver but not so good for Trump’s tariffs.

A Tax on Americans

As Mark Perry explained, the new duties were ushered in amid plenty of bluster about “unfair” and cheap, subsidized lumber from our northern neighbors but they are actually taxes levied on Americans who buy Canadian lumber, especially American home builders, bed-frame and pallet manufacturers, and picket-fence makers. All the time-honored logic of trade economics applies here, suggesting that not much good, and perhaps a lot of harm, would likely ensue for parties on both sides of the border.

I picked up a copy of the British Columbia edition of The Globe and Mail to see what the Canadians were saying about it all.

As you might imagine, nobody was cheering for Trump and the U.S. In fact, the incumbent Liberal Party of Premier Christy Clark, locked in a battle for votes with the decidedly more socialist NDP (New Democratic Party) and the equally socialist Green Party, felt compelled to prove that its generally trade-friendly posture only went so far. Clark suggested retaliation in the form of restrictions or an outright ban on thermal coal from the U.S. The other parties promised an even “tougher” stance.


Protectionism is like a Three Stooges episode: You slap me, I poke you in the eye. The one difference is that when a government slaps and pokes another government, each one ends up assaulting its own citizens as consumers and producers.

Trump’s ill-timed tariffs were pushing all the major British Columbia political parties in the wrong direction. Voters ended up giving the Liberal Party a razor-thin plurality which may yet dissolve into a loss if the NDP and the Greens team up in a coalition. If that happens, both socialism and protectionism will get a boost in British Columbia while American lumber buyers get slammed.

But lest we dump all the blame on Trump, let’s understand that this is really a “pox on both your houses” conundrum. In the same newspaper in which I read about Premier Clark’s threatened tit-for-tat, Canadian columnist Barrie McKenna pointed his finger at Canada’s existing policies for prompting the Trump tariffs.

Export Restrictions

One such policy is the practice of federal and provincial governments in Canada charging below-market rates when they sell lumber from their vast land holdings. That’s a subsidy, and if the land were owned privately it’s hard to imagine that private firms would charge less than the market will bear and encourage over-use of their resources through underpricing simply to be charitable.

Likely more counter-productive than those subsidies, writes McKenna, are “log export restrictions that exist only in British Columbia.” (Though both British Columbia and the federal government in Ottawa restrict the export of logs from government land, British Columbia is the only government that restricts exports from private lands as well).

I had to read that two or three times. Log export restrictions? What? So governments subsidize logging on their lands and then stifle the sale of logs to the U.S.? Yes. This is government, mind you, so it doesn’t have to make sense to anybody but politicians and their politically-connected friends.

McKenna writes,
Those restrictions, in place since the 1880s, are an aberration in Canada’s generally open economy. Indeed, logging is a rare example where governments dictate to private interests what they can export, for reasons other than national security … Economists in Canada have warned for years that the policy lessens competition for logs, increases the supply of timber available to mills in British Columbia and suppresses prices by up to 50 percent. And that lowers the cost of finished lumber (emphasis mine), such as two-by-fours, destined for the U.S. market.
If that’s confusing, just think of it this way: What government gives loggers with one hand in British Columbia, it substantially takes with the other by telling them where they can sell their logs. Subsidized logs that can’t go to the U.S. because of export controls end up at Canadian mills at depressed prices. There, they are converted into planks and two-by-fours whose export is not restricted. And it’s those planks and two-by-fours that Trump just slapped a 20% tariff on.

A Better Path

You slap me, I poke you in the eye. Wouldn’t it be better for everybody if we all just stopped slapping and poking each other? Yes, and that’s called free trade. The problem is that even though “free trade” makes all the sense in the world, governments have both the power and the incentive, at least in the short term, to slap, poke, subsidize, and sell favors.

Moreover, log export restrictions are not unique to British Columbia. “The United States, for example, has an export-licensing regime for trees cut on federal and state lands,” says McKenna. “What’s unusual about Canada’s regime is that it also covers trees on private land in British Columbia.”

One of the reasons governments shouldn’t intervene in trade in the first place is that interventions become addictions. The benefits are targeted on a few at the expense of the many and when those benefits are offset by a government on the other side of the border, it’s hard to get the first government to call it quits. Intervention A leads to Intervention B, which provokes Intervention C, which in turn sparks Intervention D and so on, until the process is reversed or the alphabet and economic freedoms are exhausted.

From another city in Canada – Montréal, in the eastern province of Quebec – comes an intriguing proposal to scale back some of this nonsense. The Montreal Economic Institute suggests that trade negotiators for Canada and the U.S. should work out a “lumber for cheese” swap: the U.S. would dismantle its barriers on Canadian lumber and in exchange, Canada would get rid of its barriers on American dairy and poultry.

MEI says the crazy-quilt patchwork of subsidies, quotas, and export controls on both sides of the border cost consumers billions in higher prices. Since “supply management” by the two governments has been problematic from its inception, premised as it is on the insane notion that fines and penalties help the economy, let’s just negotiate them away. Tit-for-tat in the right direction, for a change.

Free traders like myself see many advantages to abolishing protectionist devices unilaterally, regardless of what the other side does. As Frederic Bastiat explained, we should be grateful when the sun shines its light for free, even if it means candlemakers sell fewer candles. Forcing everybody to paint their windows black to keep out the free sunlight only deprives everybody of value and convenience. We can apply the savings to some other endeavor, stimulating yet other industries in the bargain. If that’s unrealistic, it’s only because of politics, not because of economics.

Let’s rid ourselves of these senseless interventions as soon as we can, one way or the other.

Thinking about all this as I departed beautiful Vancouver, I found myself shaking my head as I’ve done so many times when contemplating the policies of government. What a ridiculous, self-defeating racket this protectionist stuff is!

Oddly enough, it was the 20th-century comedian Jimmy (“The Schnoz”) Durante who gave us a succinct answer to this recurring problem when he said, “Don't put no constrictions on da people. Leave 'em da hell alone.”

Additional recommended reading:
Lawrence W. Reed

Lawrence W. Reed is President of the Foundation for Economic Education and the author of the book Real Heroes: Inspiring True Stories of Courage, Character and Conviction. Follow on Twitter and Like on Facebook.

This article was originally published on Read the original article.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

California Authorities Are Failing to Track and Prevent Abuse of Police Databases

California Authorities Are Failing to Track and Prevent Abuse of Police Databases

Police in California have your data literally at their fingertips.

They can sit at a computer terminal or in their squad car and check your DMV records, your criminal records, your parking citations, any restraining orders you’ve filed or have been filed against you. They can search other state databases and even tap into the FBI’s trove. If you’ve got a snowmobile, they can look up that registration too. Much of this personal data they can access through a smartphone app.

Is there a name for this information network? Yes, it’s really boring: the California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System (CLETS). Most people pronounce it “Clets.”

Do police abuse their access to CLETS? You betcha. For example, they’ve used it to stalk their ex-partners, gain advantage in custody proceedings, and screen potential online dates. In one of the worst incidents, an officer allegedly attempted to leak records on witnesses to family of a convicted murderer. According to the latest data, 2016 was a record-breaking year: California hit a statewide, all-time high for police discipline involving CLETS; meanwhile the Oakland Police Department broke an all-time record for individual law enforcement agencies.

Is anybody doing anything about CLETS misuse? Yes and no. Certainly EFF has been making noise about privacy violations involving CLETS. The government, not so much.

For years, we’ve pushed for better data to track when California cops misuse CLETS data. We have filed request after request for misuse data under the California Public Records Act. We’ve sent letters, met with staff, assisted journalists, and spoken up during public meetings to demand state officials overseeing these databases take some sort of action. This is the third report we’ve published on misuse data.

Yet state officials have made zero progress in addressing widespread database misconduct. No hearings on misuse have been held, no disciplinary actions have been taken, and the horror stories continue to mount.

Who are these state officials? Get ready for another boring acronym: the CLETS Advisory Committee (CAC). Yes, CAC is an acronym containing an acronym. Most people pronounce it “Cack.”

CAC was created by the California legislature decades ago to oversee CLETS as part policy body, part disciplinary board.  It comes under the California Department of Justice and works hand in hand with CADOJ’s Criminal Justice Information Services department.  CAC has 11 members, with more than half being appointed by special interest groups that lobby for law enforcement and municipalities. That means CAC is controlled by groups that are predisposed to support—not punish—their members.  As a result, the body has gone out of its way to pass policies that police ask for, while simultaneously taking a largely hands-off approach to discipline.

It used to be that CADOJ and CAC investigated violations, but several years back they handed off that responsibility to the individual agencies that subscribe to CLETS.  Nowadays each of those agencies is required to file disclosures about each investigation they conduct, including an annual summary for CAC to review. Then CAC decides whether further administrative action is necessary

Or at least that’s how it’s supposed to work. CAC has not even looked at the misuse data in years, and consequently, they’ve taken no action whatsoever against anyone or any department—not even a “don’t do it again” warning letter.

What’s even worse is that they’ve been remarkably lax about whether agencies need to file anything about CLETS violations at all. This year some of the state’s largest law enforcement agencies failed to file the mandated paperwork. Meanwhile, agencies that do report often list investigations as “pending,” but never follow-up with the eventual outcome as required.

So, when EFF obtained the latest round of misuse data, we knew it would be bad. But we also knew it would be incomplete—the tip of a very large, blue iceberg.

Download the 2016 CLETS misuse data.  Previous data available: 2011-2014 (zip) and 2015 (xls)

Screen grabs from official CLETS training videos. Source: Lemoore Police Department

What the Misuse Data Told Us

Police agencies disclosed that a total of 159 misuse investigations were launched in 2016. Of those, 117 investigations found that police had in fact abused CLETS. Another 39 cases were listed as pending conclusion. That means there were only a small number of cases—potentially in single digits—where an investigation cleared the officer.

Let’s focus on those 117 cases of confirmed misuse. They represent a 14.5% increase over misuse in 2015, and a 50% increase over 2011.

In 27 cases, the misuse was so severe that the offending police officer either resigned or was terminated. Three cases resulted in a misdemeanor conviction, and three cases resulted in a felony conviction.

In 24 cases, no action was taken to discipline the offending officer at all. In 28 cases, the result was “counseling.” Another 21 mystery cases were listed as “other” action having been taken, leaving the public in the dark.

When we opened the data file, two agencies immediately jumped out as repeat offenders.

First, there was the Oakland Police Department, who for the first time since we’ve been collecting data, actually turned in their disclosures. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that they reported 17 cases of CLETS misuse—the highest number for any agency in at least seven years. These are likely related to the ongoing, expansive scandal in which at least one OPD officer is accused of providing CLETS records to a teenage sex worker whom he—and many other officers—allegedly sexually exploited.

The head of OPD’s internal affairs department filed the hard copy of the disclosure with CADOJ. However, when we called OPD’s public affairs division, a spokesperson challenged the numbers, staying that only 1 misuse case was found in 2016, while the remaining 16 are still pending. That’s still bad and possibly even worse, if it turns out OPD provided wildly inaccurate data to CADOJ.

The Yuba County Probation Department—a very small agency in central-northern California—also drew our attention. In 2015, they broke the record with 15 violations of CLETS policy, all of which resulted in only “counseling” for the officers who broke the rules. CADOJ ignored our request for a public hearing on this. Facing no action to deter further violations, Yuba reported another six cases of misuse in 2016—again with counseling as the only outcome.

What was missing from the data also jumped out at us. The Los Angeles Police Department for the seventh year in a row filed no misuse disclosures with the state.  Typically, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Office conducts more investigations into CLETS misuse than any other agency. This time, they did not file anything at all.

Oversight on Hold

Will this be the year CADOJ and the CLETS Advisory Committee finally steps up to protect our privacy? Probably not.  In December, CADOJ failed to produce historical misuse statistics as requested by CAC, so the committee agreed to postpone discussion until its next meeting. However, since CAC reduced its meetings to the statutory minimum of two per year, it won’t meet again until this summer. The year will be half over and, if the trend continues, many, many more people will have had their privacy invaded by misbehaving police.

One thing you can count on: EFF will continue to pressure these state officials, and if we can’t get them to do their jobs, then it’s time for the legislature to find someone else who can.

A Note on CLETS and the California Values Act 

EFF has fielded a lot of questions recently about CLETS as legislators consider S.B. 54, the California Values Act. The bill, among other measures to protect immigrants, would limit the federal government’s access to California’s law enforcement databases for the purposes of immigration enforcement. CLETS would clearly fall into that category.

During the bill-making process, S.B. 54 was amended to allow immigration officials to access criminal history information via CLETS. EFF is very concerned that this CLETS provision would create a backdoor to the very data the bill was designed to protect. While S.B. 54 may still protect some Californians’ data accessible through CLETS from immigration officials, implementation of those protections would require an oversight body with the motivation to enforce the law.

That oversight body would be—you guessed it—the same CLETS Advisory Committee that refuses to take any action on database abuse by police officers. In fact, several of the organizations that have seats on CAC—including the California Peace Officers’ Association and the California State Sheriffs’ Association—are actively lobbying against S.B. 54.

EFF supports S.B. 54 and believes it will do much to protect the data of California residents. However, we hope that as lawmakers build a firewall against data misuse by the feds, they take a close look at the officials who would be watching the CLETS gateway.

Source: California Authorities Are Failing to Track and Prevent Abuse of Police Databases | Electronic Frontier Foundation

Culpability for this Ransomware Belongs to the NSA

Culpability for this Ransomware Belongs to the NSA

Culpability for this Ransomware Belongs to the NSA

In all the coverage of the recent ransomware attack shutting down computer systems around the world, one point has been buried and obscured. The focus has been on precisely who spread this horrid thing, what damage it has done, what to do once you have it, and how to prevent it.

All fascinating questions. But an equally, if not more, important question is: who created this weapon of mass computer destruction? What was its origin? How did it get released in the first place?

And here, the answer is as sure as it is alarming. The culpability belongs to the National Security Agency. That’s right. The government that claims to be protecting us against cybercrime both made the virus and failed to secure it from being stolen by malicious actors.

ComputerWorld explains
The tools, which security researchers suspect came from the NSA, include an exploit codenamed EternalBlue that makes hijacking older Windows systems easy. It specifically targets the Server Message Block (SMB) protocol in Windows, which is used for file-sharing purposes…. The developer of Wanna Decryptor appears to have added the suspected NSA hacking tools to the ransomware’s code, said Matthew Hickey, the director of security provider Hacker House, in an email.
ArsTechnica explains:
A highly virulent new strain of self-replicating ransomware shut down computers all over the world, in part by appropriating a National Security Agency exploit that was publicly released last month by the mysterious group calling itself Shadow Brokers…. Another cause for concern: wcry copies a weapons-grade exploit codenamed Eternalblue that the NSA used for years to remotely commandeer computers running Microsoft Windows. Eternalblue, which works reliably against computers running Microsoft Windows XP through Windows Server 2012, was one of several potent exploits published in the most recent Shadow Brokers release in mid-April.
The New York Times says:
The attacks on Friday appeared to be the first time a cyberweapon developed by the N.S.A., funded by American taxpayers and stolen by an adversary had been unleashed by cybercriminals against patients, hospitals, businesses, governments and ordinary citizens…. The United States has never confirmed that the tools posted by the Shadow Brokers belonged to the N.S.A. or other intelligence agencies, but former intelligence officials have said that the tools appeared to come from the N.S.A.’s “Tailored Access Operations” unit, which infiltrates foreign computer networks. (The unit has since been renamed.)
The furious president of Microsoft weighed in:
Starting first in the United Kingdom and Spain, the malicious “WannaCrypt” software quickly spread globally, blocking customers from their data unless they paid a ransom using Bitcoin. The WannaCrypt exploits used in the attack were drawn from the exploits stolen from the National Security Agency, or NSA, in the United States…. The governments of the world should treat this attack as a wake-up call. They need to take a different approach and adhere in cyberspace to the same rules applied to weapons in the physical world. We need governments to consider the damage to civilians that comes from hoarding these vulnerabilities and the use of these exploits. This is one reason we called in February for a new “Digital Geneva Convention” to govern these issues, including a new requirement for governments to report vulnerabilities to vendors, rather than stockpile, sell, or exploit them.
Cyberscoop interviewed several experts:
“In my view, there isn’t a policy problem, it’s an operational problem,” [former White House National Security Council cyber staffer Rob] Knake, now with the Council on Foreign Relations, told CyberScoop. “NSA should not have lost those tools. No way for policymakers to account for that problem other than to move quickly to get info on the vulnerabilities out, which they apparently did. Loss of the tools is an operational problem. The response was appropriate and timely.”
This is obviously terrible for the United States in terms of international relations. It is the equivalent of having built a weapon of mass destruction and inadvertently failing to secure it from access by criminals. Yes, the people who use such weapons are bad actors, but the bureaucracy that made the weapon and allowed its release in the first place bears primary responsibility.

And while the NSA’s responsibility is certainly being downplayed in the American mainstream media – NPR reported it but quietly and inauspiciously – you can bet it is all the talk in the 100 countries that are affected.

Yes, it would be very sweet if users around the world were forgiving and understanding. Everyone makes mistakes. Sadly, that is not the case. The NSA developed this virus to use against network systems of enemy countries and failed to secure it. The head of Microsoft is correct that this really is an outrage, and cries out for a fix.

Had a private company been responsible, its stock would now sit at nearly zero and the feds would be all over it for responsibility for cybercrime. Probably there would be jail time.

What will be the fallout from the NSA screw up? Watch for it: surely a bigger budget.

Jeffrey A. Tucker

Jeffrey Tucker is Director of Content for the Foundation for Economic Education. He is also Chief Liberty Officer and founder of, Distinguished Honorary Member of Mises Brazil, research fellow at the Acton Institute, policy adviser of the Heartland Institute, founder of the CryptoCurrency Conference, member of the editorial board of the Molinari Review, an advisor to the blockchain application builder Factom, and author of five books. He has written 150 introductions to books and many thousands of articles appearing in the scholarly and popular press.

This article was originally published on Read the original article.

Don’t Thank the Government for Your iPhone

Don’t Thank the Government for Your iPhone

Don't Thank the Government for Your iPhone

There is much chortling in economists’ circles at this tweet from Marianna Mazzucato:

Yes, I know, but then economists don’t have much in the way of jokes. The laughter is because Ms. Mazzucato is the economist who insists that government is responsible for innovation in this world of ours. Yes, that’s right, the same government that took four months to notice a typo on a visa application, she argues, is the one which made the iPhone possible.

She’s written an entire book on the subject of the entrepreneurial state and is setting up an institute to propagate the idea.

Invention vs. Innovation vs. Government

The problem with her assertion is that she, and her acolytes, have forgotten the basic economics of invention and innovation – something which we really should remember given that William Baumol, the man who explained it all to us, died this past week.

The essential point is that we must distinguish between invention – the creation of new things – and innovation – the combining of extant things to enable new things to be done. Baumol was insistent that the state was equally good, or equally bad, if you prefer, at that invention part in comparison with the market unadorned. But the market performed heroically in comparison with the state with regard to innovation.

This is a hugely important distinction – don’t forget that the word "entrepreneur" is not meant to mean someone who invents new stuff, it’s meant to mean someone who organizes stuff in a new manner. An entrepreneur collates capital, labor, and technology in order either to sate some human need or to do so in a different manner. The state, as Baumol insists, is bad at being the entrepreneur.

It’s not even, as a series at The Register shows, very good at supporting the invention either.

Mazzucato’s basic observation is that the varied underlying technologies which go into an iPhone were all backed by government money. The touch screen, for example: it was, in a small way, state-funded in America. But the Register story is all about how the British state invested in an earlier solution to the same problem and entirely messed it up.

You’d think that if the state were taking 40 percent of everything everyone does every year, then, as with the blind monkey who occasionally finds a banana, we should get some useful tech out at the other end. However, the broad point is that this isn’t an efficient way of doing it – whether or not it produces the odd useful result.

Where Government Funds Start and Stop

And even this is to miss Baumol’s point. Let us concede, for the sake of argument, that all of the iPhone technologies did come from government paid research. GPS, for example, was designed to let soldiers know where they were and where the enemy was assumed to be. We can call that invention. But no government ever thought to put that same technology into a smartphone so that we could be sent an ad by the doughnut shop we just walked past. That’s innovation, a new use for an extant piece of technology.

Nor has any government ever designed a successful smartphone. Even if the basic technologies all were tax-supported, government didn’t do the innovation. Apple designed and made the iPhone, not government.

As for our government, we wanted to have a slice of the equity in what was being developed with tax money – the touch screen technology. The American version of the same sort of thing was also developed with tax money through Darpa, the defense research agency. But the one thing that Darpa never does do is take equity stakes in technologies it funds. That’s why any old entrepreneur can pick up a Darpa-funded technology, play with it, and see if it can be combined in some useful manner into something people want.

Mazzucato, however, insists this sort of government invention must be run the British, unsuccessful way, not in the successful and American manner.

This is to misunderstand economics at an even more basic level than Baumol’s ideas, for the reason that we ask government to fund basic research is because it is a “public good,” something that the private sector will not fund because it is almost impossible to make a profit out of it. Thus there will be too little production of public goods and we’ll be made richer if the state overcomes this problem.

Mazzucato is now insisting that the state must take ownership of the public goods it creates. Yet the very reason we ask the state to create them is because it’s damn near impossible to usefully own them. This is not a notably logical line of reasoning.

The very analysis which leads to us asking the government to tax-fund certain research is the very reason why the government shouldn’t be trying to own the results.

Inventions are public goods. Gaining access to public goods is one of the reasons we have government – because ownership of such isn’t really possible. Which is why, if the state does produce them, it should give them away. We’ve paid our taxes, we’ve got our public goods, what’s the problem here?

And no, the state did not invent the iPhone. That’s innovation, the one thing government is provably, ridiculously, bad at.

Republished from CapX.

Tim Worstall

Tim is a Fellow at the Adam Smith Institute in London

This article was originally published on Read the original article.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Occupational Licensing is a Scam

Occupational Licensing is a Scam

Occupational Licensing is a Scam

What word best describes the actions of government? Would it be greed? How about thuggery? Or cronyism?

Writing for Reason, Eric Boehm has a story showing that “all of the above” may be the right answer.

But I Am an Engineer

At first it seems like a story about government greed.
When Mats Järlström’s wife got snagged by one of Oregon’s red light cameras in 2013, he challenged the ticket by questioning the timing of the yellow lights at intersections where cameras had been installed. Since then, his research into red light cameras has earned him attention in local and national media – in 2014, he presented his evidence on an episode of “60 Minutes”…on how too-short yellow lights were making money for the state by putting the public’s safety at risk.”
Three cheers for Mr. Järlström. Just like Jay Beeber, he’s fighting against local governments that put lives at risk by using red-light cameras as a revenue-raising scam.

But then it became a story about government thuggery.
…the Oregon State Board of Examiners for Engineering and Land Surveying…threatened him. Citing state laws that make it illegal to practice engineering without a license, the board told Järlström that even calling himself an “electronics engineer” and the use of the phrase “I am an engineer” in his letter were enough to “create violations.” Apparently the threats weren’t enough, because the board follow-up in January of this year by officially fining Järlström $500 for the supposed crime of “practicing engineering without being registered.”
Gasp, imagine the horror of having unregistered engineers roaming the state! Though one imagines that the government’s real goal is to punish Järlström for threatening its red-light revenue racket.

But if you continue reading the story, it’s also about cronyism. The Board apparently wants to stifle competition, even if it means trying to prevent people from making true statements.
Järlström is…arguing that it’s unconstitutional to prevent someone from doing math without the government’s permission. …The notion that it’s somehow illegal for Järlström to call himself an engineer is absurd. He has a degree in electrical engineering from Sweden… it’s not the first time the Oregon State Board of Examiners for Engineering and Land Surveying has been overly aggressive…the state board investigated Portland City Commissioner Dan Saltzman in 2014 for publishing a campaign pamphlet that mentioned Saltzman’s background as an “environmental engineer.” Saltzman has a bachelor’s degree in environmental and civil engineering from Cornell University, a master’s degree from MIT’s School of Civil Engineering, and is a membership of the American Society of Civil Engineers.”
Limited by Licensing

In other words, this is yet another example of how politicians and special interests use “occupational licensing” as a scam.

The politicians get to impose “fees” in exchange for letting people practice a profession.

And the interest groups get to impose barriers that limit competition.

A win-win situation, at least if you’re not a taxpayer or consumer.

Or a poor person who wants to get a job.

Some of the examples of occupational licensing would be funny if it wasn’t for the fact that people are being denied the right to engage in voluntary exchange.

Such as barriers against people who want to help deaf people communicate.
If you want to help a deaf person communicate in Wisconsin, you’ll have to get permission from the state government first. Wisconsin is one of a handful of states to require a license for sign language interpreters, and the state also issues licenses for interior designers, bartenders, and dieticians despite no clear evidence that any of those professions constitute a risk to public health in other states without similar licensing rules. …It’s hard to imagine any health and safety benefits to mandatory licensing for sign language interpreters, which is one of eight licenses highlighted in a new report from Wisconsin Institute of Law and Liberty, a conservative group. …Since 1996, the number of licensed professions in the Badger State has grown from 90 to 166 – an increase of 84 percent, according to the report. Licensing cost Wisconsin more than 30,000 jobs over the last 20 years and adds an additional $1.9 billion annually in consumer costs.”
Or restricting the economic liberty of dog walkers.
…according to the Colorado government, people who watch pets for money are breaking the law unless if they can get licensed as a commercial kennel – a requirement that is costly and unrealistic for people working out of their homes, often as a side job. This is not simply a case of an outdated law failing to accommodate modern technology. There are more nefarious motives – those of special interests who want to protect their profits by keeping out new competition. …it is time to add “Big Kennel” to the list of special interests that support ridiculous occupational licensing schemes.”
Or trying to deny rights, as in the case of horse masseuses.

The Risk of Rogue Interior Designers

The good news is that there’s a growing campaign to get rid of these disgusting restrictions of voluntary exchange.

The acting head of the Federal Trade Commission is getting involved. On the right side of the issue!
Maureen K. Ohlhausen, the new acting chair of the Federal Trade Commission, thinks it’s high time that the FTC start giving more than lip service to its traditional mandate of fostering economic liberty. And the first item in her crosshairs is the burgeoning growth in occupational licenses. Over the past several decades, licensing requirements have multiplied like rabbits, she noted. Only 5 percent of the workforce needed a license in 1950, but somewhere between one-quarter and one-third of all American workers need one today. …depending on where you live, you might need a license to be an auctioneer, interior designer, makeup artist, hair braider, potato shipper, massage therapist or manicurist. “The health and safety arguments about why these occupations need to be licensed range from dubious to ridiculous,” Ohlhausen said. “I challenge anyone to explain why the state has a legitimate interest in protecting the public from rogue interior designers carpet-bombing living rooms with ugly throw pillows.”
Hooray for Ms. Ohlhausen. She’s directing the FTC to do something productive, which is a nice change of pace for a bureaucracy that has been infamous in past years for absurd enforcement of counterproductive antitrust laws.

A column in the Wall Street Journal highlights Mississippi’s reforms.
State lawmakers in Mississippi are taking the need for reform to heart. Two weeks ago Gov. Phil Bryant signed into law H.B. 1425, which will significantly rein in licensing boards. …H.B. 1425 explicitly endorses competition and says that the state’s policy is to “use the least restrictive regulation necessary to protect consumers from present, significant and substantiated harms.” Under the law, the governor, the secretary of state, and the attorney general must review and approve all new regulations from professional licensing boards to ensure compliance with the new legal standard. This should be a model for other states. …Mississippi’s law…covers all licensing boards controlled by industry participants, spells out a pro-competition test, and requires new rules to be approved by elected officials accountable to voters. Mississippi has smartly targeted the core problem: Anticompetitive regulations harm the economy, slow job growth, and raise consumer prices.”
Here’s some of the national data in the WSJ column.

Keep in mind, as you read these numbers, that poor people disproportionately suffer as a result of these regulatory barriers to work.

Opportunity for Low Wage Workers
In the 1950s only about 1 in 20 American workers needed a license, but now roughly 1 in 4 do. This puts a real burden on the economy. A 2012 study by the Institute for Justice examined 102 low-income and middle-income occupations. The average license cost $209 and required nine months of training and one state exam. …Even the Obama administration saw the problem. A 2015 report from the White House said that licensing can “reduce employment opportunities and lower wages for excluded workers.” In 2011 three academic economists estimated that these barriers have result in 2.85 million fewer jobs nationwide, while costing consumers $203 billion a year thanks to decreased competition.”
Professor Tyler Cowen explains in Time that licensing laws explain in part the worrisome decline in mobility in America.
Some of the decline in labor mobility may stem from…the growth of occupational licensure. While once only doctors and medical professionals required licenses to practice, now it is barbers, interior decorators, electricians, and yoga trainers. More and more of these licensing restrictions are added on, but few are ever taken away, in part because the already licensed established professionals lobby for the continuation of the restrictions. In such a world, it is harder to move into a new state and, without preparation and a good deal of investment, set up a new business in a licensed area.”
Last but not least, we have a candidate for the Bureaucrat Hall of Fame. Elizabeth Nolan Brown explains for Reason that a paper pusher in Florida managed to use occupational licensing fees as a tool of self-enrichment.
In Palm Beach County, Florida, all topless dancers are required to register with county officials and obtain an Adult Entertainment Work Identification Card (AEIC), at the cost of $75 per year. The regulation is ridiculous for a lot of reasons, but at least applicants – many of whom are paid exclusively in cash – were able to pay the government-ID fee with cash, too, making things a little more convenient and a little less privacy-invading. But not anymore, thanks to the alleged actions of one sticky-fingered government employee. …Pedemy “diverted” at least $28,875 (and possibly an additional $3,305) from county coffers between October 2013 and mid-November 2016. The money came from both adult-entertainer fees – approximately 70 percent of which were paid in cash – and court-ordered payments intended for a crime Victims Services Fund.”
At the end of the article, Ms. Brown looks at the bigger issue and asks what possible public purpose is being served by stripper licensing.
Demanding strippers be licensed in the first place is a problem… There’s no legitimate public-safety or consumer-protection element to the requirement – strip club patrons don’t care if the woman wriggling on their laps is properly permitted. Government officials have portrayed the measure as a means to stop human trafficking and the exploitation of minors, but that’s ludicrous; anyone willing to force someone else into sex or labor and circumvent much more serious rules with regard to age limits isn’t going to suddenly take pause over an occupational licensing rule they’ll have to skirt. The only ones truly affected are sex workers and adult-business owners. Not only does the regulation drive up their costs…, it gives Palm Beach regulators a database of anyone who’s ever taken their clothes off for money locally – leaving these records open to FOIA requests or hackers – and gives cops a pretense to check clubs at random to make sure there aren’t any unlicensed dancers. Those found to be dancing without a license can be arrested on a misdemeanor criminal charge.”
Though I guess we shouldn’t be too surprised. If you peruse “Sex and Government,” you’ll find that politicians and bureaucrats like to stick their noses in all sorts of inappropriate places. Including the vital state interest of whether topless women should be allowed to cut hair without a license!

Reprinted from International Liberty.

Daniel J. Mitchell
Daniel J. Mitchell is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute who specializes in fiscal policy, particularly tax reform, international tax competition, and the economic burden of government spending. He also serves on the editorial board of the Cayman Financial Review.

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