“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 […]
Driving into work the other morning, I reached over and gave my windshield a quick spritz. Nothing. Oh, sure, the wiper fluid came out just fine, the blades slid across my windshield as they should, but it was to no effect. So I sprayed again and again; eventually, my window was clean, but it took far too long and much more fluid than should have been necessary.
Just as I was thinking I’d been duped by the manufacturer, I thought of Jeffrey Tucker: “If some product annoys you in surprising ways, there’s a good chance that it is not the invisible hand at work, but rather the regulatory grip that is squeezing the life out of civilization itself.”
And sure enough, over the past two decades, bureaucrats in various state environmental protection agencies, with help from the feds, have placed ever-tighter restrictions on the concentration of cleaning solvents in wiper fluid.
Since the mid-1990s, the amount of cleaning agents in wiper fluid (as a percentage of weight) has fallen in California from roughly 35% to 10%. Texas, too, has a statewide limit of 23.5%. The cities of Atlanta, Ga., and Phoenix, Ariz., also have restrictions, with the former being only 8% by weight. Most other states have limits around 35%. There have also been limits placed on the volume of antifreeze that can be included in pre-mixed fluid. Typically, there are some exceptions made for mountain areas — or regions that are often colder during winter months, as in California — but increasingly, your over-the-counter wiper fluid is often little more than colored water.
While these restrictions are limited to a few states, the effect of the legislation has been widespread, such that retailers often carry products that are compliant even outside of these regulated areas. I surveyed a number of local auto parts stores and found that many products contain solvents in accordance with California’s or Texas’ standards and say as much on their labels. Ostensibly, it is more cost-effective for a manufacturer to offer one blend, rather than producing and distributing multiple goods to differing regulatory fiefdoms.
The cost of not complying with this can be extraordinary, as Ace Hardware learned a few years back. In the state’s largest settlement, Ace was forced to hand over $850,000 to California’s Air Resources Board for selling blends that exceeded state limitations. In another case, an Indiana company was fined $150,000 for violating the Clean Air Act and, under the terms of their settlement with the EPA, agreed to reduce the amount of cleaning agents they added to their wiper fluid blend.
And so it goes. Nothing that improves the lives of consumers is beyond the grasp of the legislators, the regulators, the bureaucrats and the busybodies employed by governments. There’s the shower head, the toilet tank, laundry and dish soap and many other attacks on civilization. Now we can add windshield wiper fluid to that list of state-ruined consumer products.
In this case, such intervention goes beyond reducing material comfort; and it’s not only a nuisance, but impacts safety as well. Without adequate solvents, your wiper fluid won’t properly clean your windshield, and can even freeze while driving in cold weather. Cellphone usage is the safety hazard du jour, but the real threat to motor safety is the obstructed windshield. And unlike the cellphone, which has sprung from the voluntary market, and for which the market can provide a solution, the dirty or iced-over windshield is a product entirely of the State.
In Georgia, for example, during the 1990s, the city of Atlanta released a tri-fold pamphlet on the city’s wiper fluid regulations. In the classic gangster threat veiled in concern, they wrote: “Complying with this rule is easy. Not complying with this rule can be expensive.”
Under the heading of noncompliant fluids, we find this: “Windshield wiper fluid that works in temperatures less than 20 degrees Fahrenheit” and “deicers” are not allowed. So the city threatened businesses, telling them if they sell a product that works in low temperatures — as it is meant to — it “can be expensive” for them.
Now, it is true that winter temperatures don’t often fall below 20 degrees Fahrenheit in the South. But having lived there for several years, I can say that’s not always the case. It’s also apparent that such products were in sufficient enough demand that stores felt compelled to offer them prior to this ban, hence their prohibition. Were there no one looking to buy these products, it follows that the ban wouldn’t have been instituted.
There’s something else about the ban on deicers that makes no sense if the goal really is to protect the environment. Without them, a driver has to idle his vehicle in order to heat the windshield enough to melt the ice. As we’re told, this leads to an increase in air pollution and is also not good for the environment. Of course, consumers could simply use more wiper fluid. But that’s no different in principle than having to repeatedly flush the toilet or rewash one’s clothes; it’s not only inconvenient, but it also negates the supposed gains in protecting the environment.
Curious about how to fix this problem, I looked at what the market is allowed to offer. Most stores carry a handful of brands, and they all have a few variants of washer fluid. At every store, there was at least one product that had 35% solvents, but most had a lower blend. None of the locations had a concentrated formula meant to be mixed by the consumer, as there once was. One store manager told me they used to carry the concentrate, but stopped a few years back. He wasn’t sure why.
Unable to find what I needed in the physical world — the world controlled by the state — I began searching online, and to my never-ending joy found that Amazon offers myriad products and concentrated formulas for windshield wipers.
So the solution to such madness is simply to mix your own wiper fluid with the concentrated formula at a higher rate than the packaging suggests. In the winter months, you can add a little antifreeze to your wiper fluid as well. These two fixes will roughly return the wiper fluid to its pre-adulterated state, ensuring clean and ice-free windshields for safer driving.
It truly is a sad commentary that we’ve been reduced to hacking virtually every household appliance and mixing our own cleaning products in order to reverse the trend of regression the state has forced upon us.
Some of these are simple, inexpensive and easily accomplished, even by those not inclined to handiwork, but some can be far more complex and costly. The point is, however, that none of it is even necessary, since the division of labor had solved all of this long before government declared war on our housewares.