“Nowadays to be intelligible is to be found out.” — Oscar WildeIn the wacky world of American politics, if you as an employer have a religious objection to paying for your employees’ contraceptives, it is you who is contemptuous of religious freedom.As the New York Times editorial board lectured a judge who thinks otherwise, “the […]
Socialism is the big lie of the 20th century. While it promised prosperity, equality, and security, it delivered poverty, misery, and tyranny. Equality was achieved only in the sense that everyone was equal in his or her misery.In the same way that a Ponzi scheme or chain letter initially succeeds but eventually collapses, socialism may […]
Six months ago, I stepped out from the shadows of the United States Government’s National Security Agency to stand in front of a journalist’s camera. I shared with the world evidence proving some governments are building a worldwide surveillance system to secretly track how we live, who we talk to, and what we say. I […]
I opened a new bottle of probiotics this morning, and it had one of those circular seals on the top. You know, the one that reads, “Sealed for your protection.”And that seal got me thinking… how much protection do we need? How much security is enough?How much homogenization, pasteurization, disinfection, national security, etc…. do we […]
Last spring, Barack Obama told the graduating class of Ohio State University:“Unfortunately, you’ve grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that’s at the root of all our problems… They’ll warn that tyranny is always lurking just around the corner. You should reject these voices. Because […]
In the Huffington Post last week, Glenn Greenwald, Slate contributor Ryan Gallagher, and Ryan Grim had an investigative piece reporting that the NSA had been tracking the online porn-viewing habits of several Muslim leaders whom it viewed as radicals. A top-secret document shows that the agency was considering exposing these firebrands’ Internet dalliances as a […]
Americans are still trying to get a handle on the full extent of the government’s domestic spying activities, including the recent revelation that the National Security Agency (NSA) has been collecting and storing the email address books of ordinary Americans using online messaging services. Many users of such services are looking to tech executives for […]
A few months ago at a demonstration against the president of Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway, a Canadian citizen made the following claim: “We don’t have guns, we are not Americans, we are civilized.” A few days before, in early July, a train of the company had run away and exploded in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, killing […]
From the Tongue-In-Cheek Department of Laissez Faire Books…Washington, D.C. — Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, announced that her committee will hold a “major review into all intelligence-collection programs.” This surprising declaration followed the revelation, through documents leaked by government whistle-blower Edward Snowden, that the NSA has been listening to the […]
From the Tongue-in-Cheek Department of Laissez Faire Books…Washington, D.C. – The complex negotiations aimed at bringing a long-term solution to the federal government’s expenditure and debt problem have produced an unconventional proposal. “Although the solution only focuses on a tiny fraction of government expenditures,” declared President Barack Obama, “it is a step in the right […]
I’ve just spent a harrowing weekend reflecting on Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, the pamphlet that came out in January 1776 and turned the public toward seeking independence from Britain. I say harrowing because the distance between the ideals found in this pamphlet and those of today’s America is so vast as to be nearly unrecognizable.The […]
It was a wild ride last week in the world of the Deep Web, that section of the Internet that requires special tools to access. The feds took down the site called Silk Road and claim to have arrested its founder and administrator. The news streams were filled with lurid tales of derring-do in this […]
Want to know just how invasive the state is going to get in the United States?Well, take a look across the pond.In terms of the large, invasive state, we English are way ahead of you guys. We’re a good 50 or more years further down the road to serfdom.Nineteenth-century Britain was about as glorious a […]
A tense drama unfolded this week with the virtual shutdown of vital government agencies: the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the National Labor Relations Board, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, as well as many other such federal agencies. Without them, the Founding Fathers could not have imagined the republic.Even if fewer […]
Three months after Edward Snowden’s leaks began to reveal the extent of the U.S.’ mass surveillance program, “serious people” are beginning to make the case that it’s time for the outrage and indignation to subside and give way to a “national conversation” about the future of surveillance. So has the moment come for us to […]
A sixth-grader has been suspended for drawing an inappropriate picture. The drawing did not include any gun, but showed a checkpoint backed up by a SWAT team carrying flower pots while an unarmed drone hovered above.The suspended girl, whose name is kept secret at the request of her family, said she “just wanted to draw […]
The second part of this two-part article reveals an untold part of the story about how they were stopped last time. And shows how, if not again stopped, how it could lead to a fundamental loss of civil rights and freedom on the Internet.The offending legislation was barreling down the track, seemingly — even in […]
Two years ago, Hollywood, no kidding, masterminded a plot to, in effect, steal the Internet (by criminalizing certain conduct, booby trapping the Web in ways that few non-mega-corporations could cope with). There are signs, as perceptively flagged by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, that the perps are back at it. We should care.This two-part article reveals […]
It has now been nearly two centuries since French political scientist Alexis de Tocqueville visited America and compared American democracy to the French variety. The Martian asked his Earth correspondent to redo the comparison.The typical Frenchman thinks that Paris is the center of the universe, life without a baguette is not worth living, France is […]
I was at the Canadian border, headed toward the freedom that exists a few feet beyond the last security check. I was gently waved down a side corridor.Ninety minutes later, I was let go, but not before something truly alarming happened. I’m pretty sure that the Canadian government captured a mirrored version of my smartphone […]
Fort Meade, MD – The United States, the least unfree country on Earth, is fighting a major invasion of the Blueshirts.The most visible Blueshirts constitute a 50,000-plus army that occupies all the airports in America. Recognizable by their blue shirts and their inquisitive eyes and hands, they search and humiliate all Americans trying to leave […]
Sometimes, the news of the day causes me to say, “Huh?” The New York Times revelations last month about NSA programs and activities to enhance the agency’s ability to spy on ordinary citizens prompts today’s “Huh?” Who knew that our every phone call, Internet post and tweet is being recorded by the government?I have operated […]
U.S. and British intelligence agencies have successfully cracked much of the online encryption relied upon by hundreds of millions of people to protect the privacy of their personal data, online transactions and emails, according to top-secret documents revealed by former contractor Edward Snowden.The files show that the National Security Agency and its UK counterpart GCHQ […]
Oh, how the media love a good strike. Look at these fast-food workers and peasants standing up to the owners of capital! They aren’t going to take the oppression anymore. The suits in the boardrooms had better shape up and stop hoarding all that money. They need to give it up to the men and […]
Like all great historical ideas, the project of licensing journalists so that they may benefit from the First Amendment was born in a very modest place. In fact, it began in the most modest of all places: the brain of Dianne Feinstein, U.S. senator from California.The new law, which was just adopted by Congress and […]
The position that there need be a state is too often taken for granted.The main body of Sartwell’s book Against the State is dedicated to destroying the arguments for a state from the likes of Hobbes, Rousseau and Hegel. In fact, one thing that becomes crystal clear in reading Sartwell’s book is how bad the […]
Crispin Sartwell is someone you should know. He is doing important work in recovering forgotten greats in America’s anti-authoritarian tradition. Among other works, he’s put forward a lean and powerful book titled Against the State.In what follows, you’ll see why he’s my favorite living philosopher. Sartwell will take you on an intellectual tour de force […]
“All the profits of drug trafficking and none of the risk.”
That’s how the prosecutor in a federal criminal case described Carlos Garcia’s smuggling operation that has landed him in the federal pen for 13 months.
Before wearing leg irons and striped pajamas, Garcia was a top executive in Marcone Inc., a leading supplier of home appliances. Today he is just a statistic, the newest addition to the world’s largest prison population.
His crime: He was the mastermind behind Freaky Freon Friday. On this day, the company would distribute to wholesalers and repairmen, at low prices, the thing that millions desperately want but cannot otherwise get, thanks to federal regulations. They want HCFC-22 to fill air-conditioning units… so that their offices and homes can stay cool.
It has been illegal for two years to sell units that use it. But nearly all existing units use the old coolant. Importing HCFC-22 is severely restricted. The government’s idea was to drive up the price, making it too expensive to maintain existing units, and thereby somehow inspire manufacturers to invent things to make us all more virtuous. But replacing units with unproven technology is expensive and risky.
When there is money to be made, through perfectly legitimate desire to keep people cool indoors, some people will “break bad” and go outside the law. Three years ago, the stuff sold for $55 per canister; now it sells for $140. It is produced in China, the label on the canister is changed, and then it is hidden among vast other cargo, imported to the U.S., repackaged, sent to Mexico, and sent back again. Apparently, this circuitous route is the safest and least detected.
Mr. Garcia was caught simply because the only office of the Justice Department that specializes in “environmental crimes” is in Florida near the office where he ran the operation. Garcia was the victim of a wiretap and a sting operation, as The New York Times reports. He was probably aware that what he was doing was technically sketchy, but he was unable to expunge from his mind the consumer-service ethic. His job was to make people cool.
Meanwhile, illegal HCFC-22 operations carry on all over the country, a fact we know because the street price of the coolant is falling even as demand is increasing. It’s profitable contraband.
There are no restrictions on coolant in Mexico and most other countries in the world. It is still legal to actually make it in the U.S. and export it. It just can’t be legally sold here. Nevertheless, people will stop at nothing to get it, especially given that more than half the country would be uninhabitable without air conditioning and that 90% of the existing units need coolant, and will for a long time in the future.
The hot war on cooling has only just begun. But roots of it all date back to the 1970s with the regulatory attack on aerosol, later becoming an attack on CFC, and then ramped up to abolish the CFC replacement HCFC, and we’ll see how long its replacement is for the this world. The goal, as you surely recall, was to stop the hole in the ozone layer — a thing that’s been out of the news since the real goal of passing the regs was achieved.
Now it turns out that the ambition is broader. Environmentalists are insisting that we turn up the temperature in our house to 85 degrees and just learn to live with it. The regulatory press (i.e., The New York Times) is running articles about how incredibly scary it is that many countries in the world are demanding ever more air conditioning.
No kidding. Air conditioning is an essential part of the civilized life. And that is precisely what government hates about it. That’s because ever more in our times, government is devoted to taking away everything we love.
Of course, the regulators have “science” to cite to justify the attack on our happiness. The scientific evidence of some relationship between our cool living rooms and the melting Earth runs all directions. Not knowing enough about the technical aspects, count me as a skeptic. There is just something mystical and wacky about this whole notion.
Modern-day primitives are just too quick to imagine that a boiling planet is Mother Nature’s way of forcing propitiation on us for our sins of man-made prosperity and comfort. Government loves these people because they provide a cloak for control and regimentation. There is always a scientist happy to cash a check from the government to confirm the pagan faith. Their data always evade that critical question of causation.
H.L. Mencken defined a puritan as someone who has a haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy. It is true with regulators too. They have a haunting fear that someone, somewhere, might be using technology in a way that brings comfort and convenience to life. They are seeking to crush this at every turn, and air conditioning is high on the list.
Meanwhile, the list of banned and soon-to-be banned products is growing. We are being hectored for our burgers, hounded for our sodas, denounced for smoking, jailed for growing pot, told to use less water, to use less energy in everything, to drive bikes, not cars, fussed at for having lawns, told to stop indulging ourselves with ice makers and large houses — even indoor plumbing is under fire.
They want to take it all away from us and manufacture some alternative universe in which we are happy as can be growing our own food, turning our toilets into compost pits, and cooking over an open fire, provided we don’t cut down trees. Government has settled on these poverty-creating policies because it apparently realized at some point that it could not contribute anything toward make us better off, so it does more of what it is good at: spreading human misery and calling it good.
But it is not working, because these policies are contrary to human nature. Mankind wants a better life. That’s most of what we do here on Earth. We struggle our way through the vale of tears called scarcity to make and get more and better. That’s the very meaning of the process of living. We don’t respond well when a bully says you cannot have access to a good or service that would improve your life. You must learn to accept your downgraded state of being.
At some point, we recognize that it is not worth it to surrender all to our powerful masters. These policies are driving us all toward “breaking bad,” a phrase drawn from the popular television show in which a chemistry teacher becomes a meth manufacturer in order to provide for his family. No, we are not making meth, but we are doing lots of things we aren’t supposed to do.
Breaking bad takes many forms. We drink more than we should and then work to drive extra safely. Don’t gasp; probably two-thirds of the drivers in my town on a weekend night could be jailed for DUI, and the same is true of your town. People buy extra pseudoephedrine in off months to stock up for bad times, technically acting as smurfs just to clear our clogged noses.
We hack our shower heads and our hot water heaters. We buy pirated products and stream videos illegally. We smuggle in Spanish ham in our bags, bring back Cuban cigars from our travels, pay and receive in cash instead of credit cards, search for gas stations that sell cornless gasoline, and drive across state lines to get our TSP so our clothing can get clean.
We are choosing to be outlaws, rather than chumps, and, as such, are ever more willing to recognize how impossible and undesirable it is to comply, rather than live a good life. In fact, the forbidden fruit is attractive to us. We want raw milk, home remedies, real light bulbs, cheap meds from Mexico, sketchy software from Thailand, off-the-books jobs, “counterfeit” sunglasses, and pirated shoes and handbags from anywhere.
Thanks to the Internet, the rebellious spirit in our bones, and the impossibility of stopping it all, we are all breaking bad and getting used to it.
In a country where everything wonderful is becoming illegal, and everything depreciated and inferior is mandated, this is the only way to live. To comply is to accept the status of poor slaves; to break bad is to leap into the speakeasy economy with trepidation but at least some hope of an improved life.
There are ways around the regulatory Nazis, but you have to be creative. I’ve assembled 12 of the ideas in a single report called “Hack Your Showerhead and Eleven Other Ways to Get Around Government.” This report singled the dawn of a new epoch at Laissez Faire Books: to embrace not just the theory of liberty, but its practice as well.
The new Laissez Faire Books began a Club of people dedicated to this goal. We gather to read the e-books distributed every week. These are classics and new works. I wish I could tell you some of the offerings that are coming, but this much I promise: there are books coming that no one else on the planet would be willing to risk publishing. Regardless, each book comes with a video and an opportunity for group engagement to inspire more learning and more liberty each day.
No, we never asked permission to start this Club. It’s our way of joining the mass movement. Break bad with us and join the Laissez Faire Club.