“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 […]
I was just down at the “feed and seed” buying two baby chicks to replace my female duck that was carried off by a bird of prey, leaving one lonely male duck behind. No one told me that ducks don’t like chicks. The rest of the story is, well, let’s just say “it’s complicated.”
In any case, the details distract from the reason I’m bringing this up at all: The store was bustling with activity and filled with rural people of all ages. Yes, lots of kids too. Prepare yourself for a shock: these kids actually work on the farm!
We city people don’t really understand this world. We know that, and so do they. That’s okay. I marvel at the social structure of rural agricultural life, the way kids learn and work from an early age, how extended families and communities all share in the work, how impervious and protected the culture is from the mechanized, regulated and planned life the rest of us live.
To me, the milk on the farm tastes like butter and the butter tastes like cheese, and I don’t really understand where and how all this food comes from, much less how it is that young kids can learn to drive gigantic tractors and shoot varmints out the kitchen window with shotguns without blinking an eye. But it is all marvelous, regardless.
And on this very day, the news came across my screen. The Department of Labor had planned to destroy it all, and then barely pulled back when faced with massive protest. The bureaucracy was on the verge of passing new rules that would have banned many kids from working on farms. An exception in the law against “child labor” has always been made for agriculture. FDR would have been impeached if the 1938 law had not included that exception. (Other exceptions include family businesses, child actors and wreath makers.)
As a member of the Corleone family might say, the Obama administration don’t respect nothin’. The urban elite who run the government think it’s just awful that kids are getting up at the crack of dawn to feed chickens and bale hay when they should be reading a civics text that instructs them about the glories of government. Another sector that probably finds it awful: big agriculture that is fed up with dealing with these pesky extended family farms that keep horning in on its monopoly.
The proposed regulations were being pushed as an update to the last update from 1970. In government parlance, an update always means worse. The list of “shall nots” was extremely long and tedious and amounted to a complete ban on work by anyone under the age of 16 or, in the case of driving tractors, the age of 18.
The proposal was first made last August, to the cheers of “Human Rights Watch,” which apparently doesn’t believe in the right to be productive. Since that time, the Department of Labor had been getting closer and closer to making it law. Such a rule would transform rural life in America. Or maybe people will just ignore the law and stick with tradition? The government thought of that. The Department said it would use “all enforcement tools necessary to ensure accountability and deter future violations.”
Just think of it. One in two college graduates doesn’t have a job. Teen unemployment has never been higher in the whole of American history. Young kids are desperate for opportunities. So what does government do? It proposed to ban yet another opportunity, spreading misery as far and wide as possible.
But look at it this way. If this wiped more people off the labor rolls, unemployment would go down again. This is truly how this works in an Orwellian sort of way. It’s like poisoning people to death and then happily noting that sickness among the living is down.
The proposed law made an exception for children of parental owners, but no one took comfort in that. Most farms use extended family to help: nephews, cousins and the like. You can’t draw a strict line between nuclear families and extended families and not cause havoc in this world. For this reason, rural farmers protested bitterly and the Obama administration backed down — for now.
Anyone who has been exposed even slightly to the agricultural lifestyle knows that working on the farm or ranch is not really like any other job. It is part of who you are and what you do. Everyone pitches in from the earliest ages to the oldest. There is great pride among all these people in the life they lead. A rule like this would be devastating.
Also as part of the legislation, reported The Daily Caller, the government would have mandated replacing 4-H training programs and private systems with a government-administered program. To be sure, I know nothing about 4-H, but I do know that for many people in this world, this program is as central to one’s childhood experience as Sunday school in the suburbs or Catechism class in Catholic communities.
Thank goodness the Department of Labor has backed down. Regardless, this kind of thing should not be a threat in a free society. There would be no hectoring from Washington about things government can’t possibly manage or understand. The outrage is that this is threatened at all. No one should have to protest such a law; it should have never been proposed in the first place.
And while we are at all, let’s put in a good word for the city folk too. These so-called child labor laws came about 1938 only as an effort to prettify the unemployment data and give some extra market leverage to the labor unions that FDR was trying to win over.
Look at the 13-, 14- and 15-year-olds today. They have no opportunities to learn anything useful. They are denied a chance to be part of the world of remunerative work. They are thereby denied the opportunity to learn adult-like responsibilities and serious skills beyond repeating what the teacher says while they are strapped in their tax-funded desks.
These laws have been wrecking lives for far too long. And with labor law enforcement today, there are ever fewer opportunities to work for cash. Then when that magic day comes when they graduate from college and we shove them out into the workforce and say, “Go to it!” it should be no surprise that they have no idea what to do.
The feds can’t think of anything better to do that make sure that this pathetic situation spreads to another sector of life — and do it on on behalf of big agriculture. And what will the bureaucrats say when yet another generation is wrecked by mandatory sloth in prison-like educational institutions? Maybe they will tell us that they all should have become child actors. That exemption still lives. For now.