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Walter Hudson

Walter Hudson advocates for individual rights, serving on the board of the Republican Liberty Caucus of Minnesota, and as president of the Minority Liberty Alliance. He hosts a daily podcast entitled Fightin Words, proudly hosted on Twin Cities Newstalk Podcast Network. Walter is a city council member in Albertville, MN. Follow his work via Twitter and Facebook.
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A Selfless Parent Is a Bad Parent

Thursday, April 30th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

My colleague Michael van der Galien directed our attention to a story out of Germany not so long ago about a 65-year-old woman pregnant with quadruplets. Her condition sparked controversy, posing the question: is getting pregnant at that age “amazingly beautiful or extremely egotistical“?

That’s a provocative question. But perhaps we should back up a bit and ask a more fundamental one. Why can’t it be both? From where does this dichotomy between beauty and ego emerge?

The conventional notion of ego suggests an irrational self-worship or whim-fulfillment. However, an alternative school of thought exists wherein ego proceeds from rationality. From this point of view, getting pregnant at 25 proves no less egotistical than getting pregnant at 65. The choice to procreate, by its nature as a choice, fulfills an egoistic desire. In that context, the question becomes not whether pregnancy is egoistic, but whether it proves rationally egoistic beyond a certain age.

Calling this German mother “extremely egotistical” suggests that she places her desire to have children above the wellbeing of those children. If that’s the case, if she wants children in the way that children want toys, then her decision to procreate proves irrational. In that case, she doesn’t want children as such, but a kind of maternal fantasy-fulfillment wherein the children become victims of her irrational pursuit.

However, if her decision to have children has been well-considered in the context of reality, if she has made arrangements by which her children will be cared for in her absence, or if she has good reason to believe she will remain healthy and capable enough to care for them, then her decision may be entirely rational. It all depends on context and intention.

The story provides a launching point for a consideration of the role ego plays in parenting.

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Dear Black Facebook Friends: Let’s Rethink How We Pursue Change

Thursday, April 30th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

Dear Black America,

After reading this open letter to white people published at Salon and authored by middle school teacher Julia Blount, I feel compelled to offer an alternative perspective from a similar background. Like Blount, I too was born of mixed heritage. My father is black. My mother is white. Like Blount, I too have grown up in relative safety and affluence, but have nonetheless experienced disparities in treatment on account of my brown skin.

As I read Blount’s admonition to white America, I largely understand the motive behind it. That said, if we really want white people to understand and respond to the points Blount and others have made, we need to rethink how we pursue change.

First, let’s consider this notion of “white privilege.” What do we really mean by that? One offered definition is “the benefits that white people get from society that people of color don’t.” What are some examples of these benefits? The above clip provides a few, most of which can be summed up as not being judged negatively on account of skin color.

If our goal as people of color is to pursue a society wherein skin color elicits no judgment, our first task must be not judging other people on account of their skin color. Right? We can’t be hypocrites. We can’t on the one hand bemoan the prejudicial judgments of others, while offering prejudicial judgments of our own. We’re asking to be judged as individuals. Yet too many of us are judging others as members of a privileged whole. It’s a cognitive dissonance that creates an intellectual log jam preventing meaningful discourse and stymieing real social progress.

What we call “white privilege” is not something that white America does to us. It’s something that particular individuals do to us. If you’re being watched by a store clerk who thinks you might steal something because you’re black, you’re not being judged by white America. You’re being judged by that clerk. Does it really matter whether that clerk is white or Asian or Hispanic or even another black person? If they’re making assumptions about you based solely on race, isn’t that the problem rather than the color of their skin?

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How Would MLK Respond to the Baltimore Riots?

Wednesday, April 29th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

It’s like quoting scripture. You can torture a verse into saying just about anything you want it to say. So it is with quoting historical figures.

In the clip above, Fox News’ Gretchen Carlson cherry-picks an excerpt from a 1968 speech delivered by Martin Luther King Jr. which seems to condemn violence. We’re meant to take it as evidence that the good reverend would stand against the rioting which has taken place in Baltimore.

Yet, elsewhere, advocates of a different perspective produce their own MLK quote which appears to sanction the violence.

antimedia_mlk

Who’s right? First, we ought to recognize that quoting anyone out of an original context to claim their support in another proves dubious at best. No one can definitively claim that MLK would be on their side in any given debate.

That said, we can apply the spectrum of MLK’s expressed sentiments and speculate how he may have felt in a given scenario. We know that MLK condemned violence. We also know that he believed that it wasn’t enough to condemn violence. Therein lies the best indicator of where he might stand today, and it probably wouldn’t be with either Gretchen Carlson or the Baltimore protesters. In a fashion typical of his leadership in the civil rights era, he would forge a unique path that challenged paradigms on both sides of the conflict.

 

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Is There Too Much Jesus in Republican Politics?

Tuesday, April 28th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

As Republican presidential candidates, both announced and presumed, begin to woo social conservatives in Iowa, the role of religion in politics has once again become the subject of debate. Mark V. Kormes, an Objectvist and therefore non-believer, took to social media expressing his frustration.

Kormes1It didn’t take long for such a provocative decree to attract condemnation.

Kormes2

Was Mark expressing bigotry against believers? Or was he offering a valid point regarding the stakes in our political discourse? He asked me to chime in.

Kormes3

Tabling the issue of online etiquette, let’s consider Mark’s initial point and whether it properly ought to offend believers. First, recognize that a particular group of believers are being addressed, those who view an imminent return of Christ as an escape from political consequences. I’m not sure how large that contingent is or how engaged they are in the political process. But Mark seems to ask that they leave the realm of politics to those fully vested in life on earth.

As a Christian, I would modify Mark’s point. My appeal to fellow believers would be to remain vested in political consequences because, until further notice, this is the world we live in.

Imagine the secular equivalent. If a non-believer checked out of their earthly responsibilities under the reasoning that they will eventually die anyway, we would likely recognize theirs as an unhealthy state of mind. Why then should believers exhibit effectively the same attitude?

There’s a difference between retaining faith in the sovereignty of God and appealing to that sovereignty as an excuse for shirking personal responsibility. Jesus offered a parable to that effect when relating the tale of the three servants found in Matthew 25:14-30:

Again, the Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. He called together his servants and entrusted his money to them while he was gone. He gave five bags of silver[a] to one, two bags of silver to another, and one bag of silver to the last—dividing it in proportion to their abilities. He then left on his trip.

The servant who received the five bags of silver began to invest the money and earned five more. The servant with two bags of silver also went to work and earned two more. But the servant who received the one bag of silver dug a hole in the ground and hid the master’s money.

After a long time their master returned from his trip and called them to give an account of how they had used his money. The servant to whom he had entrusted the five bags of silver came forward with five more and said, “Master, you gave me five bags of silver to invest, and I have earned five more.”

The master was full of praise. “Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together![b]“

The servant who had received the two bags of silver came forward and said, “Master, you gave me two bags of silver to invest, and I have earned two more.”

The master said, “Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!”

Then the servant with the one bag of silver came and said, “Master, I knew you were a harsh man, harvesting crops you didn’t plant and gathering crops you didn’t cultivate. I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth. Look, here is your money back.”

But the master replied, “You wicked and lazy servant! If you knew I harvested crops I didn’t plant and gathered crops I didn’t cultivate, why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.”

Then he ordered, “Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one with the ten bags of silver. To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away. Now throw this useless servant into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

The point proves valid both within and beyond Christian theology. There is no virtue in sitting around waiting for the master to return. We ought to work diligently at our earthly responsibilities until relieved of them.

To Mark’s point regarding social conservatives, the question becomes whether believers’ earthly responsibilities include wielding the force of the state to regulate sinful but non-rights-violating behavior. I find nothing in the Bible mandating such a course. Instead, believers engaged in politics should be concerned with the same things that non-believers should be, the preservation of liberty so that each can live according to their conscience.

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Future of Fifty Shades Going Down in “Ball of Flame”

Monday, April 27th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

“This thing is a ball of flame crashing down to earth.” Such was the recent assessment of AMC Movie News editor-in-chief John Campea regarding the future of the Fifty Shades franchise.

Adapted from the controversial sadomasochistic novel by author E.L. James, the film Fifty Shades of Grey met with commercial success when released earlier this year. Money-making aside, few argue that the movie offered much in the way of narrative quality.

Prompting Campea’s pronouncement was news that future Fifty Shades films will be written by James’ husband, Niall Leonard. That news seems to confirm previous reports that the first film’s creative team clashed with the book’s author over control.

Of course, the open secret here is that narrative quality doesn’t really matter. No one watches porn for the story.

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Imagine an Alternate Diminsion Where New York Grew Free

Saturday, April 25th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

In this brief clip from ReasonTV, the invisible victims of urban planning achieve some semblance of expression. By imagining what New York City would look like if its Landmarks Preservation Act had been signed into law 100 years earlier, Reason gives a lost future form. In this way, the difficulty of conveying the unseen cost of government activism is overcome.

The takeaway from their observation is that our past doesn’t need protecting. Our future does. The only way to protect the future is to unleash its motive power, the untethered liberty of self-interested individuals.

What wonders might have manifest in your neck of the woods but for ill-conceived government restrictions?

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How the Drug War Keeps People Poor

Saturday, April 25th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

You could find a worse way to spend seven minutes than considering the above video with an open mind. John McWhorter, a teacher of linguistics at the Center for American Studies at Columbia University, explains the link between the War on Drugs and perpetual poverty within inner-city communities.

McWhorter relates the provocative fact that black communities in the Jim Crow era boasted high employment rates. He credits that to the economic incentives present in a relatively free market. Without the allure of a marked up black market drug trade, the only way to survive was through gainful legal employment.

McWhorter’s comments raise an intriguing question: what would today’s black communities look like without the drug war? How transformative might the combination of civil rights protections and a free market be?

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Remember When Tim Burton Almost Directed Nicolas Cage as Superman?

Friday, April 24th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

Years before Bryan Singer’s X-Men made comic book superhero films cool again, there was a dearth of quality entries in the genre. Director Tim Burton had created a notable exception with 1989′s Batman.

With Burton’s success came an opportunity to reimagine the Superman mythos. The project, known as Superman Lives, was loosely based on the “Death of Superman” story arc from the comics. It would have starred Nicholas Cage as the man of steel, and followed a script first authored by Kevin Smith.

Now, director Jon Schnepp takes viewers on a journey behind the scenes of the film that might have been in The Death of “Superman Lives”: What Happened? Schnepp interviews Tim Burton, Kevin Smith, and several others involved in the development of this odd comic book film which never came to fruition.

The Death of “Superman Lives”: What Happened? hits select theaters on May 1st, and will see wider release on July 9th.

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How Long Can You Shelter Your Children from LGBT?

Friday, April 24th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

In the above clip, Fox News’ Todd Starnes laments an incident in Maine where a primary school teacher taught five-year-olds about transgenderism. The kids were read a book called I Am Jazz about a boy who believes himself to be a girl.

Starnes properly rails against the school district’s disregard for parental rights. The nature of most public education is such that parents retain little control over offensive curriculum, certainly relative to a private model where business could be taken elsewhere.

That said, let’s take the public/private debate out of it and just consider the question of transgenderism itself. Surely, children are going to learn about such things at some point. We may prefer they be exposed at a point later than five-years-old, and that’s fair. But is it possible in this day and age to shelter our children completely from topics like homosexuality and transgenderism?

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Earth Day Thought Experiment: Do We Really Make Our Environment Worse?

Friday, April 24th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

You should be following the work of Alex Epstein. Once a fellow at the Ayn Rand Institute, Epstein left the organization a while back to found the Center for Industrial Progress, an organization embodying his personal approach to advocating for human freedom.

As evidenced in the clip above from Prager University, Alex offers an uplifting presentation of the human impact on our environment. His positive approach contrasts with typical arguments against the green movement by focusing primarily on what we should be for rather than what we should be against.

Alex’s approach to the environmental argument should be utilized as a model for crafting campaign narratives in every area of public policy. Ronald Reagan is remembered for the uplifting vision of America he offered during his campaigns. Such vision inspires people to dream of a better tomorrow.

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The Case Against Freedom, Part V: Slavery Is Freedom

Sunday, April 19th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

Robert Kuttner, professor at Brandeis University’s Heller School and senior fellow of the think tank Demos, believes that libertarians suffer from a delusion. He claims that the market is incompetent to price certain problems, and must be tightly controlled by government to prevent excess and abuse.

In a piece written for The American Prospect, where he serves as co-founder and co-editor, Kuttner submits examples which he believes demonstrate market failure. We rebutted his analysis in parts one and two of this series. Unsurprisingly, Kuttner’s assertions arise from a Marxist worldview wherein natural disparities in both wealth and knowledge require government activism to equalize “power.” We explored a couple of the fatal flaws of that perspective in part three. Most recently, we addressed the proper role of government in the market.

To close out the series, let’s take a look at the foundation upon which Kuttner builds his case against freedom. In Orwellian fashion, he attacks liberty by redefining it:

In the idealized libertarian world, individuals are “free to choose”—never mind that some are born with far more resources with which to choose than others…

Beyond assuming away inherited disparities, the Hayek-Friedman equation of markets and freedom leaves out the role of government in promoting affirmative liberties. A young person from a poor family who does not need to incur crippling debt to attend university is a freer person. A low-income mother who cannot afford to pay the doctor attains a new degree of freedom when she and her children are covered by Medicaid. A worker who might be compelled to choose between his job and his physical safety becomes freer if government health and safety regulations are enforced. The employee of a big-box store who can take paid family leave when a child gets sick is freer than one whose entire life is at the whim of the boss; likewise a worker with a union contract that provides protection from arbitrary dismissal or theft of wages. An elderly person saved from destitution by a government-organized Social Security pension has a lot more liberty than one bagging groceries at age 80 to make ends meet, or one choosing between supper and filling a prescription. An aspiring homeowner who doesn’t need to spend countless hours making sure that the mortgage won’t explode is freer to spend leisure time on other activities if government is certifying which financial products are sound and is prohibiting other kinds.

I could go on, but you get the idea.

Yes, we do get the idea. Rather then deal with liberty as such, Kuttner would prefer to conflate it with resources.

Liberty is not the capacity to act as you wish or get what you want when you want it. Liberty offers life free from coercion. Kuttner’s attempt to portray liberty as resources ignores the manner in which resources comes into existence. Someone has to produce the products and services, provide the healthcare, earn the money, pick the cotton. Someone has to work. To the extent the beneficiary of that work is not the person doing it, we have slavery.

Indeed, Kuttner’s version of freedom stands as a rationalization for slavery. Plantation owners in the pre-Civil War south enjoyed “a new degree of freedom” on the backs of their slaves. If we define freedom as Kuttner suggests, as the capacity to enjoy that produced by others, than one man’s “freedom” requires another man’s chains.

Kuttner’s cited “affirmative liberties” place claims upon the lives of others. Negative liberties, which are the only legitimate sort, demand only that you ”don’t tread on me.” So-called affirmative liberties demand that people be tread upon.

True to form, Kuttner rests his case against freedom on an appeal to envy. Generally, he stokes envy against those who have more. Particularly, he incites contempt for those who inherited what they have.

To paraphrase him, Kuttner argues that freedom doesn’t work because we have not each begun from the same starting block. Some have wealthier parents, lighter skin, better schools. The market does not handicap for such advantages, and therefore proves unfair.

Like the broader envy toward those with more wealth, inheritance envy ignores the means by which wealth comes into existence. Someone created it. Whoever that was, they own it. What difference does it make to the rest of us whether a wealth creator blows their earnings or passes it onto an heir? How does that affect our capacity to do what we must to create our own wealth?

If we take one point away from our time in Kuttner’s mind, it should be that slavery has not been abolished. Slavery lives. More than that, it thrives in the academy, in the culture, and most especially in our government. The notion that some men should labor so that others may benefit has never died. It’s merely been repackaged from an overt institution of human chattel to a more politically correct contempt for those who succeed.

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Here’s Why Blacks Aren’t Voting Republican

Thursday, April 16th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

Black Americans vote for Democrats 95% of the time. Republicans frequently argue that blacks should recognize the historic role which the Republican Party played in ending slavery, defeating Jim Crow, and fighting for civil rights.

Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly demonstrates in the above clip why that narrative doesn’t connect with blacks. People care more about their present than their past. Ignoring the disproportionate impact that the drug war has had on blacks presents tone deafness to the black community.

O’Reilly claims there is no organized effort among law enforcement to hunt down black people. Fair enough. However, when blacks are four times as likey to be arrested for drug-related crimes despite using drugs at the same rate as whites, there’s clearly some degree of injustice inherent to the system.

That injustice emerges from the nature of drug laws, which prove inherently subjective in their enforcement. When a person is victimized, they call the police and solicit a response. No one calls the police when they produce, distribute, or use a drug. As a result, law enforcement pursue drug suspects informed by bias rather than complaint. That explains the racial disparity, not an explicit policy of “hunting,” but a vulnerability which enables biased enforcement.

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Profit from a Glimpse of TomorrowLand

Thursday, April 16th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

This featurette evoking the creative futurism of Walt Disney, which took one form in his Epcot Center and will take another in this year’s feature film Tomorrowland, reminds us how vast the entrepreneur’s vision truly was. He clung to an optimistic view of the future where urban planning would improve the quality of life for new generations.

When we consider such past visions of the future, like that of 2015 imagined in 1989’s Back to the Future, Part II, we clearly see how much they deviate from our modern reality.

Why is it so difficult to predict future developments, and what lesson should we take away from that observation? Technology futurist Daniel Burrus relates in the clip below how we tend to focus on the wrong things when predicting the future. He provides some insights into how to focus on the right things, and profit from it.

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Wonder Woman Loses Director: Was She Hired for the Wrong Reasons?

Tuesday, April 14th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

Not long after it was announced that Warner Bros. and DC Comics would be producing a Wonder Woman feature film starring Gal Gadot in the title role, the studio made clear their intention to hire a female director for the project. In November, they secured Michelle MacLaren, whose credits including episodes of Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, and Better Call Saul.

Now, MacLaren has departed the project over “creative differences.” AMC Movie News editor-and-chief John Campea expresses his concern in the above clip.

Adding to his observations: was MacLaren hired first and foremost because of her gender? Could these “creative differences” have been avoided had the creative vision taken precedence from day one?

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Should Christians & Jews Fear a Muslim Majority?

Monday, April 13th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

Should this projected demographic shift worry non-Muslims?

Some controversial research suggests that an increase in the percentage of the Muslim population in a country correlates to increasingly aggressive rights-violating behavior from that population. Taken at face value, the numbers present a concern.

However, for Christians and Jews in particular, it would help to remember that minority status does not necessarily translate to domination. The early church was a minority from its conception and remained so for centuries.

Plus, when Christians look at their shared heritage with the Jews, scripture demonstrates that God reveals his sovereignty most dramatically when His people appear to be on the ropes. If a time of persecution approaches, we would do well to retain our faith – not in birthrates and conversions – but in God alone.

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The Case Against Freedom, Part IV: You Didn’t Build That

Sunday, April 12th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

Robert Kuttner, professor at Brandeis University’s Heller School and senior fellow of the think tank Demos, believes that libertarians suffer from a delusion. He claims that the market is incompetent to price certain problems, and must be tightly controlled by government to prevent excess and abuse.

In a piece written for The American Prospect, where he serves as co-founder and co-editor, Kuttner submits examples which he believes demonstrate market failure. We rebutted his analysis in parts one and two of this series. Unsurprisingly, Kuttner’s assertions arise from a Marxist worldview wherein natural disparities in both wealth and knowledge require government activism to equalize “power.” We explored a couple of the fatal flaws of that perspective in part three.

Now we turn from Kuttner’s critique of the market to his reverence for government. Where the market fails, Kuttner argues, government boasts great accomplishments:

Government can invent things that markets never would have imagined. Apple has created wonders, but it has piggybacked on government investment in advanced semiconductors and the Internet. America’s biotech industry’s success was reliant on massive government investment in the Human Genome Project and other basic research. Later in the special report in the magazine’s Winter issue, Fred Block’s piece describes the indispensable government role in innovation. Commercial broadcasters were disinvesting in radio as a serious medium of news, public affairs, culture, and humor, when along came public radio, partly underwritten by government and partly by listener-subscribers. NPR demonstrated that ingenious and high-quality noncommercial programming could attract an audience that for-profit companies did not know was there.

This echoes the sentiment of a government-adoring MSNBC promo featuring Rachel Maddow at the Hover Dam, claiming the private sector could never build it. Perhaps, but that hardly stands as justification for the means by which it was built.

The pyramids may never have been built without slaves. That doesn’t justify slavery. Nor do modern monuments to “the public good” or “national greatness” justify the theft utilized to construct them. That’s the best argument against Kuttner’s point, the moral argument. A thief doesn’t get to cite “the good” he did with stolen money as a justification for stealing.

Beyond that, we ought to question the value of these so-called public goods. If indeed, as Maddow asserts, the private sector never would have built the Hoover Dam, then perhaps the Hoover Dam should never have been built.

When we say that the private sector “can’t” do something, we’re really saying that it won’t.

We recognize, in other words, that the public good in question has insufficient value to warrant private investment. More to the point, it does not adequately serve those who pay for it.

Therefore, when we claim government must produce some good which the market “can’t,” we’re really saying that people should be forced to pay for something which does not serve them. There’s no getting around this point. Statists like Kuttner don’t even try. Instead, they argue that those stolen from to produce public goods deserve to be victimized on account of their “privilege.” The whole point of public goods is to benefit those who don’t pay for them at the expense of those who do.

The NPR example demonstrates this redistributive motive. Kuttner claims that the public radio audience eluded private sector investors. That’s an odd way of looking at the interaction. Is it really any surprise that an audience exists for free stuff? If investors were willing to throw their money away on a private venture that looked like public broadcasting, there would undoubtedly be an audience for it. But that audience wouldn’t be sufficient to make the venture commercially successful. In that light, what Kuttner is actually saying is that the NPR audience benefits from the theft integral to NPR’s production. Again, this fails as a moral justification.

It’s the height of arrogance to assume that technological developments like the internet or scientific research would not occur without government.

We have no way of measuring what hasn’t happened as a result of government interference in the market, no way to know the precise opportunity cost of resources seized, productivity displaced, or innovation prohibited. Even so, we can stand on the certainty of human nature and economic law, which suggests that people do not die of atrophy without government prodding them to action. Populations only starve when enslaved.

Despite its many immoral excesses, government retains a legitimate function. Kuttner comes close to articulating that role:

…The market itself is a creature of government. As Karl Polanyi famously wrote in a seeming oxymoron, “laissez-faire was planned.” Markets could not exist without states defining the terms of property ownership and commerce, creating money, enforcing contracts, protecting patents and trademarks, and providing basic public institutions. A Robinson Crusoe world never existed. So the real issue is not whether government “intrudes” on the market—the capitalist system is impossible without government. The practical question is whose interests the state serves.

The proper answer to that practical question is: the individual.

Government exists to protect individual rights. It does so by wielding a monopoly on force in retaliation against those who initiate force, applying due process according to objective law.

Kuttner postures as if government’s role in the market is some sort of revelation to libertarians. But this is a strawman. No one but the most ardent anarchists believe government has no role to play in the market. Indeed, a market cannot truly exist without government to ensure that individual rights are preserved and transactions occur by consent rather than coercion or fraud. Of course, by definition, that also precludes government from violating rights. You can’t rationally claim, as Kuttner attempts to, that government must violate rights to “protect” the market.

Next time, we’ll get into Kuttner’s naked contempt for freedom as such. The only thing more stunning than his wholesale rejection of self-ownership is the extent to which our culture embraces his anti-libertarian worldview.

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Getting Divorced in New York? Serve the Papers on Facebook

Tuesday, April 7th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

It may be the coldest possible way to do it. The ruling may nevertheless prove appropriate in some cases. From the Wall Street Journal:

Previously, if you couldn’t find a defendant, you had to leave the notice at a last-known address or publish it in a newspaper, and there was no guarantee the defendant would know about it…

In that context, getting served via Facebook may actually be an improvement. Besides, does the news really sting less served any other way?

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Who’s That Villian in the New Bond Trailer?

Friday, April 3rd, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

Last weekend, we got our first solid glimpse of the upcoming fourth entry in Daniel Craig’s run as James Bond. Retaining creative and narrative elements from the highly successful Skyfall, the new film will continue to mine the character’s previously unspecified past while setting up a future for the franchise rooted in its classic formula.

Titled simply Spectre, this Bond film will finally restore 007′s most persistent and lethal foe, the titular terrorist organization which surpasses the capabilities of nations. Hopefully, this continuity will build up to the return of Bond’s all-time arch nemesis, Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Could it be that Christoph Waltz’s “Oberhauser” is really that classic mastermind?

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Will the New Daredevil on Netflix Erase the Bad Ben Affleck Memories?

Friday, April 3rd, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

Variety has reviewed the new Daredevil television series, which will premiere exclusively on Netflix on April 10. When it comes to the nocturnal adventures of the vigilante-by-night, attorney-by-day Matt Murdock, the verdict is good.

Compared to Marvel’s experience with “Agents of SHIELD” for ABC, operating in Netflix’s pay-to-view world is clearly liberating, in much the way animated direct-to-DVD titles enable the comics companies to cater to knowledgeable fans without needing to worry too much about luring the uninitiated into the tent. And the binge prospect should be helpful in getting people hooked on the overarching adventure, complete with Russian mobsters and feuding crime factions building toward the inevitable Daredevil-Kingpin showdown.

The big winner here is Ben Affleck, whose 2003 turn as the character left a sour taste in audience mouths. The new series may displace our memory of that atrocity, wiping the slate for Affleck’s next big superhero role in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

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What Will Shock Fans in the Next Star Wars Trailer?

Thursday, April 2nd, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

From Collider comes news that the next trailer for Star Wars: The Force Unleashed will be attached to every copy of Avengers: Age of Ulron. The anticipated Marvel blockbuster hits theaters on May 1st. However, some of us will get to see the new Star Wars trailer even sooner than that.

The new trailer will first premiere at the Star Wars Celebration convention, which runs from April 16th to 19th, and Age of Ultron’s international release starts rolling out on April 22nd, so the question is when Disney/Lucasfilm will decide to put the Star Wars trailer online to avoid a low-quality version hitting first…

That seems likely. Certainly, releasing the trailer ahead of any bootlegs would be in keeping with previous choices Disney has made, such as when the first teaser for Age of Ultron was leaked online a few days before schedule.

The Star Wars teaser, which landed in December a full year prior to the film’s scheduled release, surprised fans with its reveal of a Sith cross-saber. The weapon generated more than a little controversy. What other surprises does director J.J. Abrams have in store?

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The Case Against Freedom, Part III: You’re Too Stupid!

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

Screen Shot 2015-04-01 at 1.01.44 PM

Robert Kuttner, professor at Brandeis University’s Heller School and senior fellow of the think tank Demos, believes that libertarians suffer from a delusion. He claims that the market is incompetent to price certain problems, and must be tightly controlled by government to prevent excess and abuse.

In a piece written for The American Prospect, where he serves as co-founder and co-editor, Kuttner submits examples which he believes demonstrate market failure. We rebutted his analysis in parts one and two of this series.

Kuttner summarizes his critique of the market by fully unveiling his statist economic worldview:

The free market doesn’t live up to its billing because of several contradictions between what libertarians contend and the way the real world actually works. Fundamentally, the free-market model assumes away inconvenient facts. Libertarians presume no disparities of information between buyer and seller, no serious externalities, no public goods that markets can’t properly price (Joan Fitzgerald’s piece in our special report in the Winter 2015 issue of The American Prospect magazine discusses one—water), and above all no disparities of power. But in today’s substantially deregulated economy, bankers have far more knowledge and power than bank customers (witness the subprime deception); corporations have far more power than employees; insurers have more power than citizens seeking health insurance. Labor markets can’t compensate for disparities of power. The health insurance “markets” created by the Affordable Care Act can’t fully address the deeper problem of misplaced resources and excessive costs in our medical system.

Kuttner’s concern over power disparity rings hollow in a context where he advocates for government activism. No private institution, no matter how large or influential, wields the legal monopoly on force bestowed to government. If his complaint is that big banks and large corporations have more power than consumers and laborers, Kuttner loses all credibility by prescribing an institution of even greater power.

Of course, when Kuttner writes about “power,” he’s really referencing private control over private affairs. He’s criticizing property rights and the freedom of association, not an application of force. To his mind, when a bank denies someone a loan, it has exercised “power” over that person’s life. In reality, the denied applicant has lost nothing. They have not been violated. They have not succumbed to force.

By contrast, government activism always applies force. That’s what government is.

That’s the defining characteristic that separates a public institution from a private one – the ability to legally wield force against individuals. By advocating for government activism, Kuttner actually endorses force. He seeks not to curb power, but to concentrate it.

Kuttner also points to a disparity in knowledge. Mom and Pop investors didn’t have the “knowledge” necessary to see through “the subprime deception,” he claims. Here too, his point proves self-defeating.

First of all, it’s absurd to hold up symmetrical knowledge as an ideal. No two people hold the same knowledge about any given transaction, and no principle exists which suggests they ought to. Even if such a principle could be articulated, as a practical matter, there exists no means by which to affect knowledge equality.

Indeed, disparity of knowledge proves natural in society and integral to the functioning of the market. As touched upon in part two of this series, the key benefit of the market is its division of labor. We each specialize in our chosen occupation and defer to the expertise of others by consenting to trade. You don’t have to be an expert in automotive engineering to purchase and make use of a car. Nor would you necessarily want to be.

Before engaging in a transaction, you weigh several factors which substitute for expert knowledge. You consider reputation. You consider the advice of others whom you trust. Above all, you consider price.

Price is the mechanism by which experts communicate their knowledge to non-experts. Price is the collective expression of individuals acting independently in pursuit of their self-interest. It is therefore a measure of value beyond compare. For a price to “lie,” the individuals involved in setting it through expressions of supply and demand would have to abandon their self-interest. A few may, but the overwhelming majority don’t. In this way, price tells us all we need to know regarding the value of a product or service.

To produce an economy that is more equitable as well as more efficient, government uses a variety of tools. It regulates to counteract market failure.

By advocating for government activism, Kuttner seeks to disrupt the price signals which convey knowledge from experts to non-experts. Indeed, as we covered in part two, it was such disruption which caused the 2008 financial collapse. Kuttner claims investors lacked the knowledge to see through “the subprime deception.” He’s right, but fails to recognize the means by which such knowledge is acquired – accurate price signals in a free market. He also fails to recognize the means by which the deception occurred – inaccurate price signals.

Government cannot create or distribute such knowledge. Government can only maintain the condition in which accurate pricing occurs – the condition of liberty. Taxes and government regulations merely keep people from applying their self-interested judgment to the distribution of their earned resources. To the extent capital is taxed away and economic activity is barred by regulation, knowledge which could have been conveyed through price is lost. As a result, remaining resources are to one degree or another misallocated.

The trick which statists like Kuttner like to pull is blaming the market for misallocations caused by government.

The financial collapse serves as a perfect example. Kuttner blames powerful banks for praying on ignorant investors while dismissing the role that government played. Government blunted the risk which banks should have bore, and thus distorted the prices which investors should have paid, which fostered transactions that never should have occurred.

Next time, we’ll get into Kuttner’s reverence for public goods and the proper role government plays in the market. Check back soon.

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image illustration via shutterstock /  

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Stay On Target: Star Wars Battlefront Lining Up for Attack Run

Monday, March 30th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

From the things-that-make-you-feel-old trivia file, it has been nearly a decade since the final Star Wars prequel, Revenge of the Sith, debuted in theaters. It’s been a full ten years since the last iteration of the Battlefield-inspired shooter Star Wars Battlefront hit PCs and consoles.

In the years since, rumors of a third Battlefront game utilizing modern technology have been persistent. It wasn’t long after Disney acquired Lucasfilm and its subsidiaries, including video game publisher LucasArts, that official news of a modern follow-up was announced.

Now, we know when we’ll get our first real glimpse at the new game. EA Star Wars reveals:

We’re thrilled to share that Star Wars Battlefront will be taking part in Star Wars™ Celebration next month in Anaheim, CA from April 16-19. We could not think of a better or more appropriate place to debut the game officially for the first time than the premier event that celebrates the Star Wars universe and the legions of fans who have fallen in love with it. For more information on Star Wars Celebration and ways to attend, please visit http://starwarscelebration.com.

It’s a good time to be a Star Wars fan.

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Will Alien Nation Reboot Include Amnesty Propaganda?

Friday, March 27th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

As Hollywood continues to rake recent decades for old material to tell in new form, The Hollywood Reporter reveals that 1989′s Alien Nation will be remade soon:

The original was set in a near future where humans and a race of aliens are forced to co-exist, tenuously, as humans keep the newcomers mostly segregated and without rights. The story then told of the first alien police officer, who is paired with a racially insensitive partner. Soon, however, a case comes along that brings the two together in friendship and respect.

Alien Nation managed the feat, rare for its time, of combining science fiction elements with an otherwise relatable human story. While promoting a clear social agenda, it remained entertaining and engaging, and didn’t feel too overwrought or preachy. Will a modern retelling model similar restraint?

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Cornered Animal: The Frenzied Fight in Conservative Activists

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

Five years ago, Tom Emmer was a Tea Party darling. An underdog in the 2010 contest for the Republican Party of Minnesota’s endorsement to run for governor, Emmer attracted support from the then-nascent movement. After securing the party’s nod, he came within one-half of one-percent in the general election, barely losing to billionaire department store heir Mark Dayton.

Emmer went from candidate to commentator, headlining the morning show at Twin Cities News Talk AM 1130 alongside libertarian talker Bob Davis. The duo often spent their mornings eviscerating the Republican establishment for failing to uphold conservative principles.

Then, an opportunity arose. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann announced that she would not seek re-election. Her 2012 win had been certified with the slimmest margin to date, less than her largely conservative district suggested should occur. Added to her high-profile and controversial style on the national stage, Bachmann’s  underperformance on the ballot attracted pledges of support for her would-be Democratic challenger in 2014. By stepping aside, Bachmann rebalanced the scales for a fresh face.

Emmer offered his name for the job. Having established his brand both within the conservative choir and beyond, his campaign sailed to victory last year.

Then, everything changed.

Emmer’s first vote as a newly sworn-in member of Congress was cast to re-elect John Boehner as speaker of the House. It was a vote that Bachmann had taken on more than one occasion. But while her votes had been forgiven or overlooked entirely, Emmer’s was called out with no holds barred.

The Minnesota Tea Party Alliance, an organization coordinating multiple local groups, took to their digital channels to proclaim that Emmer had “betrayed” them:

[Voters] put a man in office with the expectation that he would fight for smaller government and more liberty. However, in his first real test vote as a conservative, Tom Emmer voted wrong and against the wishes of his conservative base by voting for John Boehner as Speaker.

Emmer seemed taken off guard, as did many long-time party activists and observers who wondered who else Emmer was supposed to support. State Senator Branden Petersen, generally considered among the most libertarian, anti-establishment members of his caucus, risked the ire of his supporters to speak out in defense of Emmer. He wrote:

Tom Emmer cast the only vote that made sense. Absent a challenger to Boehner, it is absurd to think that he would strip himself of all credibility with the power structure in the House in order to “make a statement.” Let’s be clear, the only outcome was that John Boehner was going to be elected. Let us suppose that he and others did vote someone/thing other than Boehner, then what? A second ballot is what happens. AND . . . eventually Boehner would be elected. Except now Emmer used his first vote to burn all bridges but NOT in favor of a better Speaker candidate, but in favor of NO alternative. There was not a better candidate for Speaker that actually DID THE WORK to campaign for Speaker.

The Minnesota Tea Party Alliance would hear none of it, and continued hammering away.

Most recently, Emmer took another vote that again raised their ire, opting to fund the Department of Homeland Security rather than protest President Obama’s executive amnesty.

Once again, the Tea Party slammed him:

Too often, politicians go out to Washington and forget the principles that got them there in the first place. After voting for Boehner for Speaker and funding Obama’s amnesty program, it looks like Tom has become out of touch with his conservative CD6 roots.

Emmer countered through several media outlets and by attending a metro meeting of a Tea Party Patriots group, which is not affiliated with the Alliance. His case rested upon the federal government’s constitutional obligation to protect the American people from threats posed by foreign aggressors. Obama’s unconstitutional executive amnesty should be fought, he said, but not at the expense of national security.

For many constituents in his district, the justification seemed more like a rationalization. The vote was seen as a simple black-and-white dichotomy. Either defund Obama’s executive amenity, or betray principle.

Are these constituents right? Is the standard they’ve set reasonable?

Principles may be black and white. But their application rarely is.

A confrontational political model popular among ideological activists advocates a black-and-white approach to dealing with incumbents. Vote our way or face a primary!

There are circumstances where such a model works. But even those who teach it will tell you that battles must be carefully chosen, evaluated in the context of an overall strategy to achieve specific goals.

Increasingly, however, confrontation between activists and incumbent politicians seems random, vicious, and unmoored from any sense of purpose.

It’s a phenomenon that was referenced in remarks by the keynote speaker at this past weekend’s Minnesota state convention of the Republican Liberty Caucus. An up-and-coming force out of Texas by the name of Corie Whalen Stephens demonstrated a grasp of how to apply principle effectively – not just harp about it.

Corie comes from a state that is, in many ways, the polar opposite of Minnesota. Texas is a state where Republicans are dominant and the liberty movement is large and effective. That’s reflected in the approach that Corie takes toward politics. She’s slow to anger, slow to condemn, and very slow to write people off.

It’s an attitude scarce in Minnesota, where atrophy and attrition within the Tea Party and allied movements have left fewer stalwarts fighting against steeper odds. Those who have remained active have become increasingly desperate to see results. More than that, the standard by which those results are measured has been raised ever higher.

We see this exhibited in the relationship between Tom Emmer and the Tea Party Alliance. When Emmer voted to re-elect Boehner as speaker of the House, it was immediately condemned as a betrayal in spite of the fact that Bachmann also voted for Boehner on multiple occasions. Why wasn’t she also called a traitor? Some may have objected here and there, but any assault wasn’t on the scale of that aimed at Emmer.

The point here is not that some double-standard has been employed, but rather that the standard has been raised from when Bachmann was in office. It seems likely that the standard has been raised due to an ever-increasing degree of frustration and disappointment among activists.

Many have grown less tolerant and more absolutist in response to wave after wave of horrendous policies and disappointing conduct from those elected to office.

Corie, who comes from a state that’s in far less desperate circumstances than Minnesota, exhibits a much more tolerant attitude toward “bad votes.” It’s not that she thinks bad votes should be ignored, but rather that particular legislators need to be evaluated in a larger context. Is this person advancing the cause of liberty overall? If the answer is no, then fire away. If the answer is yes, then help them succeed. If the jury is still out, hold your fire and try to shape an environment where their future votes will be more favorable.

Such nuance does not come easy to frustrated activists who feel like corned animals. They don’t want to think. They want to act. They want to fight. More importantly, they want someone to fight for them, and they want to see that fight more than they want to see tangible policy results. So when a politician like Emmer talks about maintaining bridges with leadership so he can be effective, he’s speaking another language from much of his constituents.

What may be missing from many activists’ consideration is the hidden dimension of caucus politics in Washington. Does Barack Obama’s executive amnesty need to be opposed? Absolutely. But who came up with the idea to put DHS funding in the crosshairs? Increasingly, the strategy seems like a preconceived move by the House leadership to run a bait and switch on principled conservatives.

A while back, I wrote a piece asking whether Boehner had finally grown a spine. It was a reaction to this strategy of holding DHS funding ransom in exchange for defunding the executive amnesty. It didn’t add up why a guy who was so adamantly opposed to Ted Cruz’s defund strategy for Obamacare would try something similar with Obama’s amnesty.

But it all makes sense now: Boehner never intended for the strategy to work. He wanted overly zealous members of his caucus, motivated by the demands of desperate activists, to take the bait and vote against national security. He could then launch attacks against those members as soon as the vote went down. That’s exactly what has happened.

If this theory is accurate, then by demanding that members of Congress vote against DHS funding, constituents unwittingly did the bidding of Boehner, who wins either way with this strategy. If Emmer had voted against DHS funding, then he would have been targeted with attack ads for being soft on public safety. Like it or not, that would have been an effective narrative because most people outside the activist choir don’t think DHS should be defunded. On the other hand, by voting for the DHS funding, Emmer has evoked the wrath of his conservative base, which has the effect of alienating him from that base. Such alienation benefits the moderate establishment by isolating Emmer and making him more susceptible to bad votes when it actually counts.

If the leadership in Congress really wanted to go after Obama’s executive amnesty, they would have done so when the continuing resolution was up back in December. Or, if they wanted to wait until this year, they could have gone after the funding directly instead of tying it to all of DHS.

This was a calculated move based on the leadership’s read of how both members of Congress and constituents back home would react. We’re all sitting at a high-stakes poker table, and the leadership is playing at a level where the cards held matter far less than the ability to read tells and then manipulate others’ reactions.

For a member like Emmer to make good votes, he needs more than chastising when he votes wrong, he needs a base of support that he can count on when he votes right. The strategy theorized above aims to erode that support, and thus erode the value proposition for voting well. The strategy rests upon the predictable knee-jerk response of activists, applying their elevated level of expectation to every single vote regardless of context.

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