Noteworthy news and views from the week ending April 21, 2011

The Antritrust Assault on Apple

Discussing the government’s antitrust action against Apple, an attorney for the company said, “We believe that this is not an appropriate case against us and we would like to validate that.” Calling the government’s action “inappropriate” is a gross understatement: It is a vicious assault on the rights of Apple, its stockholders, and Americans at large.

Although Michael Shermer does not make his position on antitrust fully clear in his article for the Los Angeles Times, he does make a great point regarding the Apple case: “The Justice Department should have left things alone. Essentially, two titans—Apple and Amazon—clashed, and competition was working. . . . Rather than Justice's meddling, we consumers have a much more effective tool against companies that charge a price we don't like: Don't buy the product.”

For principled commentary about the government’s assault on Apple, see a recent Forbes article by Don Watkins and Yaron Brook, and see my recent posts at TOS Blog.

Colombian Hookers, Las Vegas Clowns, and Your Tax Dollars

While in Cartagena, Colombia on official business, members of the Secret Service engaged the services of prostitutes. While in Las Vegas, employees of the General Services Administration spent nearly a million tax dollars partying it up. (Jon Stewart had some fun mocking the GSA for spending money on clowns, a mind reader, and other silliness.)

Unfortunately, America’s reality-television pop culture fixates on such scandals while ignoring the greater obscenities. Let’s not lose sight of the monstrous federal debt, efforts to fully nationalize health care, increasingly atrocious entitlement spending, and so on.

Regarding the GSA, the real scandal is not that the agency blew nearly a million tax dollars partying in Vegas, but that the agency hires 12,635 full time employees and spends $26.3 billion annually. Because the agency buys supplies for the rest of the federal government, the size of the GSA is but a symptom of the out-of-control federal government.

The Intensifying Assault on Free Speech

The First Amendment is quite clear and means what it says, so why do leftists continue to call for censorship of political speech? Law professor Eugene Volokh summarizes the latest insanity in his post, “Congressman Proposes Amendment to Strip Most Newspapers, Churches, Nonprofits, and Other Corporations of All Constitutional Rights.” Nancy Pelosi endorsed the idea of amending the Constitution to demolish the First Amendment.

The Institute for Justice’s Steve Simpson wrote an important article for The Objective Standard about the history of political speech and the partial restoration of the First Amendment resulting from the Citizens United decision.

Food Stamp Program Stomps Harder on Rights

The food stamp program is rapidly expanding: “The Congressional Budget Office said Thursday that 45 million people in 2011 received Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program [food stamp] benefits, a 70% increase from 2007.” The figure is expected to grow into 2014.

A Feckless Effort to Strip Stripper Welfare

Last month in “Why the Outrage Over Welfare for Strip Clubs?” I pointed out that numerous recipients of “welfare” cash cards pulled funds out of ATMs at strip clubs, liquor stores, casinos, and amusement parks. Recently a Colorado state senator argued for tighter restrictions on using the cash cards at such locations. Of course, this will do nothing to prevent welfare recipients from accessing taxpayer money elsewhere and spending it at strip clubs or the like, and it will do nothing to address the fundamental injustice of the forced wealth transfer.

A Call to Lift the Prohibition on Drugs

Over at Forbes, Art Carden sensibly calls for an end to the so-called war on drugs. Carden argues that prohibition erodes our liberties, causes profound gang violence, and does little to stop people from using drugs. Recently I interviewed professor Warren Orbaugh, professor at Francisco Marroquín University in Guatemala, and one of the issues we briefly discussed was the devastating impact of drug prohibition on Latin America.

Increasingly Ominous Tax Day

One annual marker of the degeneration of American liberty is “tax day”—which becomes more and more ominous as government expands. Richard Salsman reviews the growth of federal spending in his latest article for Forbes. He begins:

During this awful week when hardworking American taxpayers struggle to comply with a burdensome, oppressive, and indecipherable U.S. tax code, it’s worth examining the root of their fiscal pain: the fact that the majority keeps voting for a government whose size and scope are far beyond all rational (and Constitutional) limits.

Although I disagree with Salsman’s suggestion that voting be restricted to those who pay income tax (because, for among other reasons, the income tax should not even exist), his analysis of the basic causes of today’s tax-and-spend fiasco is spot on.

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