8 Shows to Watch Tonight Instead of the SOTU

 

Does anybody really care what Obama is going to say tonight? Don’t we all know the plan already, from the Air Force One teaser about free college to the predictable the emptiness of American speeches? Obama’s string of meaningless words is hogging several major stations tonight, but I did a little search of my own through the garbage to find some hidden gems of television. Friends, here are 8 more interesting shows than the SOTU on TV tonight at 9 pm EST. Enjoy!

Screen-Shot-2014-11-12-at-9.38.25-PM2004 State of the Union

CSPAN

We all love to reminisce, especially about the Bush years. Remember when things were just as terrible? Flashback to 2004 tonight, and fall in love with the PATRIOT Act all over again. Airing simultaneously with the 2015 address.

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Florida-Hotel-Exteriror-Shot-PoolHotel Showdown

Travel Channel

A new episode of this classic is airing tonight on the Travel Channel. Watch as hoteliers judge each other’s restaurants and spas–  and this episode won’t be one to miss. According to the TV Guide, these daring entrepreneurs experience the Cross-dressing Drunkerella, and a place where clothing is optional. Sexy!

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Nicki-Minaj-Obama-Feature-659x440

Nicki Minaj: My Time Again

MTV

Nothing like hearing the tale of a 32 year old musician who has accomplished more than the president of the United States.

 

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10448-weather-channelWeather

The Weather Channel

What kind of plans do you have tomorrow? Concerned about getting to work on time with a snowstorm on its way? Will your picnic be rained out? Good news– you don’t have to live in fear anymore! The Weather Channel offers around the clock news on your very TV with what you can expect outside tomorrow. Talk about the true state of the union!

 

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media-37839-139797I (Almost) Got Away With It

Destination America

This show tells the story of an Oklahoma drug lord wanted for murder and kidnapping who fled to Mexico to stay out of prison. But be careful parents, the economy may get an F, but according to TV Guide this show gets an L (Strong Coarse Language) and a D (Intensely Suggestive dialogue).

 

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internet-meme-poster-smallBest of the Internet 2014

Fuse

This is all you really need to know when it comes to the state of our union. What happened online in the past year? This defines us far more than any government program. Will Obama mention ANYTHING about how Grumpy Cat made it to the big screen? Sit back and remember what we’ve done this year that actually matters.

 

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main-imageGirls Gone Dead

Showtime

If you’re fortunate enough to have Showtime, this comedy seems like a fantastic alternative to the SOTU. A wild and sexy spring break beach party becomes a nightmarish bloodbath when a homicidal maniac shows up. Is it just me, or does that sound like the US the day Bush was elected?

 

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RB-dead-e1310585377755

MC Throwback Jamz

Mediacom, Channel 708

Do you miss old R&B? Do you want to hear the classics back to back with fun trivia facts on the screen to test your knowledge? Then this is the right program for you. Kick back and let the world burn as you let the sweet sound of laid back beats wash over the room.

Bossypants: A Review

In just five and a half hours, improv queen and master of late night entertainment Tina Fey defended feminism with more grace and effectiveness than most humans could do in an entire lifetime of outrage. No tweets were involved. No topless activism. What’s the secret?

The book starts with a couple questions directed at her all too often: “Is it hard for you being the boss? Is it uncomfortable for you to be the person in charge?”

It would be easy to jump on the anger train over this constant interrogation, with social media as your horse that runs alongside the tracks so you can swiftly glide inside the cargo.

But here’s the catch: that train is going nowhere. It’s headed into an endless pit of fiery rage that gets hotter and hotter as the engine is fueled by fingers typing furious tweets at handles like @MLady69, @MRA4LIFE, and @limbaugh. We should seriously consider angry bloggers as a source of abundant, sustainable energy. Nobody in Africa would have to burn their poop again.

We get it. You’re mad. Most of us are! But what does that accomplish, anyway?

The answer is obviously: nothing. Not today, when our country is polarized like never before and the art of persuasion has been abandoned. It hasn’t, however, been abandoned by Tina Fey.

Her secret is comedy. Bossypants adds the humor to feminism that is necessary and refreshing, which is essential more now than ever before. We. Need. It.

Feminism has become a left vs. right issue. This is a destructive trend, especially when it comes to things like global terror, civil liberties, and the directionally challenged. Why is this problem happening? Anger.

The greatest arguments are often wrapped in a joke. Example: Fey figures out how to make a point about healthcare in America through the character of a legally blind bus driver. Amazing. Remember, you don’t have to agree with something to recognize the tactics of persuasion.

This doesn’t mean we all have to hold hands and sing Joni Mitchell around the fire. (I’ve decided this can’t happen anyway. There are 0 RSVPs on my Facebook event for next weekend.) But we can refrain from attacks that do not further our agenda and create even more conflict and hatred. PvP stands for Player vs. Player in (the greatest game of all time) World of Warcraft, but in politics it is Persuasion vs. Polarization. Your argument will either fall under one or the other. Choose wisely!

Tina Fey is famous for her Sarah Palin impression, which surely enraged much of the right in fury over her ruining the entire election for their war hero John McCain! Bossypants told another story.

It was impressive to hear of Fey’s relationship with Palin being a positive one. She even went to great lengths to protect the vice presidential candidate’s reputation and dignity when appearing on SNL, after the supposedly rough impression became a hit. Not only did she stand up for Hillary Clinton as a victim of sexist remarks, but Palin as well. Sexism is not okay just because it is happening to women on the right. Statism is also not okay for any gender. It’s just as bad a sexism, but totally fine to pick on people for. You could be a transgender pan-sexual squirrel and get my vote if you weren’t going to spy on me or bomb other countries illegally.

As a show business veteran, Fey is a strong believer in judging by what is funniest, and not by gender. This is perfectly applied to any election as it pertains to political party, personal opinions and character. Who cares that Hillary Clinton is a woman? Do you agree with her platform? Do you understand her platform? Hopefully. If not, that’s sexist. (And pretty statist!)

Perhaps the finest point this incredible book makes is on the heated topic of water supply in the Middle East.

Just kidding– it’s actually Photoshop.

She walks you through the tedious process of a photo shoot from the luxurious perspective of the subject, from preparation to print. Of course, retouching is involved. While she picks on the obsessive work done by the shoppers who blend, shape and refine her body to “perfection”, the entire process is not demonized.

Feminists often do exactly this when it comes to editing the female body to create “unrealistic standards” for girls and women across the world. But Fey makes an excellent point to combat them– if everyone knows it’s a load of crap, is it doing any harm?

This is the pretty hilarious reality of a problem that has been blown out of proportion, ironically by doing exactly the opposite to body parts on magazine covers everywhere. Looking your best isn’t a crime. It is okay to be pleasing to the eye without looking like something out of a Disney movie. Photoshop will not ruin the world.

Bossypants is a beacon of light in a dark world of hatred debate. It is an example of how to correctly persuade an audience without antagonizing them. It uses the one thing that crosses any ideological barrier and the last strand of hope for humanity to survive and learn to deal with each other: a good joke.

Plus, you get to hear a spectacular honeymoon story. I won’t spoil that one for you.

The Most Sustainable Energy of All Time is Here… and It Always Has Been

 

With a new protest every week against the dangers of coal, plastic bags, or penguin cancer, outrage is spewing from coast to coast. Even in the Midwest, I am covered in a thin film of residual anger from the People’s Climate March. (Or maybe it’s just from the chemtrails.)

What exactly is all of this rage directed at? Corporations, big business, anyone who has a yacht that isn’t Leonardo DiCaprio. So, whatever. People have been outraged forever. But they haven’t always been so misguided. Remember when we used to get mad at the government?

IVN reports the federal government is the single largest consumer of energy with 500,000 buildings and 600,000 vehicles. In 2009 alone, the government’s bill for utilities and fuel totaled $24 billion, so it’s no surprise that the government’s carbon footprint is 123.2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide a year.

Yet activists still fight for another department, employee or program to fight back against the evils of the man (or woman, you sexist) in a suit. Or pantsuit. Or dress… you sexist pig.

The title of this piece mentions a sustainable energy that will fuel us for all of eternity, or until Jesus sends another flood. That energy, my friends, is not algae or solar, but freedom.

Still glad you clicked this link? You should be, because it is true. It’s not even one of my tinfoil hat theories! Though that silver shine really does bring out my eyes.

A study by the Fraser institute finds that economic freedom is associated with reduced air pollution after controlling for other relevant variables.

Here’s how I see it: the environment is natural. It’s nature! We as humans do not have to force any action upon the earth to let it exist… and thrive. But our actions can harm it as well. This is the reason activists so often protest the actions of those who alter our one, tiny inhabitable floating ball of matter. It interferes with nature.

However, the idea they cannot seem to grasp is that nature exists outside of the trees we hack down or the atmosphere we pump dino bone smoke into. (Only the most scientifically accurate and elite academic science terms here, folks.)

The free market is about as natural as it gets. It is instinctive. To buy and sell, to cooperate and create. To grow! Businesses are exactly like those trees you hippies love to hug. I hug trees too, but only in the park, and usually right before I get arrested for public indecency.

We know that you cannot force a tree to succeed. You can water it, place it somewhere it can grow successfully, but you can never declare a tree “grown.” You would have to have some superpower or defy every law that exists on this planet. Even still, this effort it takes to grow a plant is maybe fun, but unnecessary. You can’t force a business to succeed either (sustainably) for the same reason: nature. So why do we try to force environmental health through regulation? It will happen by itself, if we allow it to do so.

Regulation, to put it simply, is anti-nature. It throws off the laws of supply and demand and absolutely ruins the natural growth fueled by the market. It doesn’t work in the economy, and never has. An economy (something that is natural) rejects regulation and law as a hindrance to its potential success. Is that unlike an ecosystem? So I challenge leftist environmentalists: why are you inconsistent in your views?

The only thing regulation helps with is the success of corporations that thrive in the protection they receive from our government. Corporatism, as many do not know, is not capitalism. It is an artificial and harmful disease that our country is sickened with, and it is not representative of the free market whatsoever.

While the environment is affected by our actions, we must remember that adaptation is also natural. Putting my tinfoil hat back on, personally my theory is that the environment will handle what is thrown at it, simply because of this idea of adaptation. Sure, CO2 is being pumped out like no tomorrow, but so what? Regardless of my belief, let’s look at the facts here. Our president is dead set on being the Climate President. Terrorism is whatever. But whatever we do about climate change will be completely useless, because…

According to the European Commission, China (the world’s leading CO2 emitter) could potentially double their emissions by 2030. Whatever we do to combat this will be only an indent in the larger problem.

Now, it is important to note that China is a property rights disaster. Letting the state control land is like giving a party of 8-year-old boys a replica city of Tokyo after showing them Godzilla. They will race to see who can have the most fun (or profit) first, and let it be destroyed in the process. It is important to protect property rights, for the good of the earth. Owners take excellent care of their land because they are responsible for the resources. They aren’t going to destroy the value of what they own.

So quit begging for more intervention. Sustainability comes from innovation, and innovation only occurs naturally in a free market environment. Don’t subsidize industries, don’t attempt to force a solution. People will work to handle problems without the strong hand of the government strangling necks of taxpayers who wouldn’t be able to afford a comfortable existence without the life saving works of coal. While coal may be “unsustainable”, it is one piece of the pie that is freedom, working its magic on our development as a country and planet. And it is one delicious freakin’ pie. Let’s hope other countries waft in the enticing scent of the baked goods we are giving off, and make one of their own. The recipe is simple. Freedom.

How to Really Make Music Education a Priority: School Choice

 

Music: “It will test your head and your mind, and your brain too.”

A quote deeper than my hole of lies. Here I am, alone in my apartment with the warmth of twinkly Christmas lights the only thing breaking the cover of darkness. It’s only 7:30 on a Friday night and the evening has potential, so I pregame with the Melvins, writing about our public education system and watching my Sprite bubble. Skin Horse is seeping into my ears– the chipmunk voice is haunting.

My whole body is tingly. My mom characterized this band as “end of the night heroin music”, but I’ve never needed heroin (or anything else) to get the trip. Nuns can veg out to sludge metal too. Everyone needs that release!

Remember the movie School of Rock? Of course you do. The way Jack Black looked in those shorts at the end scarred me at a very young age (he is responsible for many years of therapy). The movie may have been wholly unrealistic, but after watching it earlier this week it actually made some points that stuck out to me.

In the movie, the kids learn a lot outside of school. Not just about music, but life. How things work. How people interact. What if someone wanted something more like this kind of education for their child, but was not allowed it through the current public system?

In 2010, the United States spent $11,000 per elementary student and $12,000 per high school student. It topped the list in spending (as a percent of GDP) when stacked against other countries, so you’d imagine our test results topped it as well.

Nope. We are about as mediocre as it gets. But with our budget, it isn’t mediocre at all– it’s a horrendous failure.

Is this a cultural problem? That surely ties into it, but can that be solved with just more money?

Education reform has a long history. We have seen it happen several times in recent years:

Carter created the Department of Education in 1979. Reagan declared a national campaign to restore excellence in education during his service. Bush set goals for education in America 2000, which was built upon by Clinton in Goals 2000. And who could forget GW Bush’s No Child Left Behind? Today, we’ve got Common Core.

So if these reforms work… why do we need so many of them presidency after presidency?

A lot of fighting happens in politics, just slightly less than on one episode of America’s Next Top Model. How do we spend all of this money we are taking from citizens!? More vacations for congressmen! ROADS!

Specifically, there is a huge debate over cutbacks on music and art programs in public schools. There is the question of whether or not it is the public’s responsibility to handle music and art– or should they be treated like religion? Often times to combat this accusation defenders of the arts will offer reasons music is different by stating its benefits to other areas of education. It helps with math, English, cognitive development, etc. Good Lord.

It should be clear that I was once a Music Ed major, and I find it really important and potentially life changing. This tactic bothers me because music shouldn’t have to be treated like a supplement to other subjects. It should be taught solely because it is music.

But I understand why they use these arguments– it’s like a final hope to keeping their beloved arts funded by the government. Not everybody gets it, they want something that increases test scores and that’s it. However, that’s the point… not everybody gets it.

Students are individuals. They are all different. So why are we creating a one size fits all system to educate them?

Choice is an interesting word. Lefty statists often define themselves as pro choice, but really only when it comes to abortion. Everything else? Nah. But choice is what makes everything work, improve, rock, and roll. That’s why school choice is important.

Instead of fighting over what we as individuals want funded, why not allow schools to privately focus on certain areas, such as music, and let parents decide what is best for their child? All while being funded at a lower cost by the state governments, while operating in a free market environment.

So how do we implement this idea of school privatization? The Friedman Foundation of School Choice describes it pretty well:

“School choice is provided a variety of ways. Vouchers, education savings accounts, tax-credit scholarships, and individual tax credits/deductions are the programs currently in operation in various states.”

First, a voucher system would allow the freedom of choice by parents to decide which school they want to send their child to, using funds allocated for education by the state government. The voucher could be used for partial or full tuition of a private school. Additionally,

“Education savings accounts allow parents to withdraw their children from public district or charter schools and receive a deposit of public funds into government-authorized savings accounts with restricted, but multiple, uses. Those funds can cover private school tuition and fees, online learning programs, private tutoring, community college costs, and other higher education expenses.”

The entire idea of school choice is moving education to a more financially efficient platform and creating a better environment for students of all races, income levels, and talents. We get to choose everything from food to clothing brands– we should hold education to the same expectation.

Some say that privatization will lead to schools acting like companies– treating students like money making products instead of people. But that is a misguided view of how the system works. The teachers and curriculum are the products. Students are merely the consumers, and with competition in the market, schools will be eager to please them. How do you get more customers at your school? Be a damn good school.

There could be all different types, targeted to all different kinds of people with different needs. Just like everything else in the free market.

Liberals claim to celebrate difference. Everyone has a different gender, sexuality, style and taste. So I challenge you, America’s left, to accept difference in education as well. Because it exists. School choice creates more individuality in the classroom and forces higher standards. It would also offer a way for teachers to earn based on merit, judged by their boss and not standardized testing. Equality is the enemy of progress.

Arguments against privatization bring up the students that will somehow be left behind or fall through the cracks. But as Dr. Larry Reed has pointed out, in our current government system, millions of kids fall through the cracks every day. And for an absurd cost.

No, No Doesn’t Always Mean No

Clickbait intended. I’m trying to be ironic.

Maybe you have noticed– more often the titles of opinion pieces popping up online start with one ubiquitous word: No. Like this one! I’m always hip on the new trends. I myself am a trendsetter, it’s just that nobody seems to catch on…

Intimidation is a useful tactic when making a point. It can be especially killer in the case of a triple threat, implemented through who is writing it, how they word it, and where it’s coming from. Right off the bat, the title of a piece can plant an idea in the brain that is positive or negative. If you disagree with the statement, it could be worrisome. Why is that? Let’s say an article was posted on HuffPo Women that reads: No, You Shouldn’t Have to Pay for Tampons. Add to that, it was shared on Facebook by a person who is universally accepted to be “cool”. That’s a threat to your social status right there.

This two letter kickoff (no) is probably the simplest part of the lengthy word salad you’re about to read, but likely also the most effective. Right away the point is clear, and it’s on the offensive. Don’t agree with the statement? Then you’re wrong. Done deal. If “no” isn’t doing it for you, try “stop”! Immediately makes a point, rejects disagreement under the protective cloak of cool, and the conversation is over with.

“Cool is identified only by defining others as uncool.” -Gutfeld

Intimidation effectiveness also depends on who is writing the thing. Is it Johnny Hipster from Salon.com, eco-friendly animal rights activist with a passion for tending to an array of succulents in his cozy Manhattan apartment, or is it Walter Whiteguy of WSJ, economics major with an Austrian preference, a Rothbard fanboy who just wants to get his ideas out there? Muh liberty movement!

Walter doesn’t have the image on his side, and nobody will be afraid of him. He probably wrote a respectful, fact based argument lacking emotional charge and is welcoming comments from opponents. His ideas will be challenged, and then met with a intellectual defense. Johnny, on the other hand, doesn’t need a defense. His fashionable army will be there to mock the challenger with more daunting words and perhaps a follow up article titled “No, We Can’t Fix Climate Change Without Government” in order to attack Walter, probably.

Writers are just people too. They are not all-knowing beings, no matter the harshness or confidence in their words. Cool websites with nice coding and attractive, cat eyed journalists shouldn’t intimidate us into a viewpoint through angry words, because our thoughts and ideas are just as valid as theirs. Nobody is a superior thinker just based on their image, company, or bright red lipstick…

There are some topics that cannot be disagreed with. Case closed, hands down. For example: rape culture, white privilege, climate change, universal healthcare. If you do disagree about the existence of any of these or want to abolish the last one, you are wrong. And journalists will tell you that with condescending, carefully worded scare tactics and a cool militia at their disposal for when ideas are met with intellectual challengers. It’s easy to identify those who are full of crap. They need to have this definite answer without discussion or rebuttal, they need the word “no”, because:

“When you lack truth, all that’s left is exaggeration.”

So, no doesn’t always mean no. No means “I am right and you are wrong, no matter facts or statistics”. Which often means, Yes! Everything on this website could be a load of crap! You don’t have to believe it and I’m not trying to be intimidating, if that’s at all possible. I mean, there are a lot of knives in my apartment. This is the problem with the new media, that some outlets are threatening to disown you socially if you disagree, while others want a bastion of free thought and acceptance. The latter is much cooler. When it comes to your menstrual agony and wallet woes, why not try to instead title your piece:

Should We Have to Pay for Tampons?

The Price of Tampons is Too High

Pity Me, For I Bleed

Vagina Band-Aids for All

Soak Up the Red Hot Savings This Summer with Government Distributed Feminine Plugs

Write whatever you want. Believe whatever you want! Just remember,

“The cool hate nothing more than when a genuinely original thinker rejects them.”

Little Known Government Annoyance of the Day: The Highway Beautification Act

 

I’ve said it before and will say it again: there is money in billboards!

Next time you are traveling on a long stretch of highway across the country, keep your eyes peeled for a unsightly blank sign, usually hidden in the brush. On a recent trip to Omaha, I must have spotted at least 10 abandoned signs lining the road.

These kinds of boards were likely built many years ago and are no longer used, sometimes due to poor placement or a business that just couldn’t hack it. Some clever entrepreneurs have been buying these signs off of the land owners for a dirt cheap price, fixing them up, then selling them off to advertisers.

Fun fact: according to CRE University, the most effective signs are the EXIT NOW boards that are thrown up right before the exit to reach the business, and these get you the big bucks.

Outdoor advertising is enticing to many, with the one-time payment and minimal upkeep, but a huge return on investment. You can potentially build a small board for around $4,000, and sell each side for about $2,000 a year if your reach is decent. So I read up on the subject in hopes of finding some helpful information on how to possibly purchase or build my own sign.

How do I get a permit? Where can I actually build a sign? How big can it be? My new arch nemesis: the Highway Beautification Act.

It was put in place by everyone’s favorite president, Lyndon B. Johnson, in 1965. Since then, this law has been amended too many times than I care to count.The HBA allows only certain signs:

  • Directional and official signs.
  • On-property signs – sale, lease or activity
  • New signs in commercial and industrial areas consistent with the size, lighting and spacing criteria in the State/Federal agreements.

Johnson’s wife, Lady Bird, was the biggest supporter of this approach to clear the highways of all things ugly:

Ugliness is so grim. A little beauty, something that is lovely, I think, can help create harmony which will lessen tensions.  -LB

What’s uglier, a billboard or roadkill? A dead bird, Lady Bird? Should we regulate that too? Squirrel justice!

It’s understandable, though. Signs everywhere would not be a pleasant sight and would probably make leftists cry over corporate America ruining Mother Earth. But who said there would be that many boards?

First of all, the HBA isn’t even working very well. Scenic America reports that there are at least 425,000-450,000 billboards on America’s federal highways today. That grows by roughly 5,000-15,000 billboards each year.

The HBA allows billboard operators to come onto the public highway right-of-way and clear-cut public trees to improve the visibility of their billboards. And environmentalists, billboard operators clear-cut publicly owned trees at least 1,000-2,500 times a year in 24 states. How is that making the Earth more beautiful?

Scenic America reports:

Because of inadequate permit fees, public subsidies to billboard operators total more than $6 million each year. Billboard operators pay no road user taxes, tolls, or fees, and the public has paid more than $250 million to remove nonconforming billboards.

What if there was an effective way to control highway signs without all this government garbage? Oh, wait— the free market!

Billboards only work because there aren’t that many of them, relatively. Maybe this is because of the HBA, or maybe because of supply and demand. If there were too many billboards, the impact of each would be smaller.

Imagine a constant line of signs along the road for miles and miles. McDonalds! Taco Bell! A SPAM museum? Pickle factory tours? Too much stimulation! Nobody would advertise with boards if there are too many competing.

On Highway 5 in middle of nowhere Minnesota, which I took almost every day between my farm and Dairy Queen, there is one company that dominates the advertising business throughout the entire stretch of the 45-minute drive: Lamar.

It’s a big name, up there with Clear Channel and CBS. On my commute every day, I’d look at all the open land along the highway where Lamar signs haven’t popped up yet, and imagine the benefits of me throwing up a sign.

Remember how EXIT NOW boards are the highest paying and most effective? As of now, all the businesses between Norwood and Victoria have no choice but to use Lamar for all their outdoor advertising needs. That’s where I come in. I just have to make sure to follow the regulations. However, that can be tricky. For example:

No new signs can be erected along the scenic portions of state designated scenic byways of the Interstate and federal-aid primary highways, but billboards are allowed in segmented areas deemed un-scenic on those routes.

Deemed un-scenic? By who?

Then, I came upon the Bonus Act:

The Bonus Act provided an incentive to states to control outdoor advertising within 660 feet of the Interstate highway system. States that volunteered for the program would receive a bonus of one-half of one percent of the Federal highway construction costs on segments of Interstate highways controlling outdoor advertising.

But then it was amended:

The first amendment was known as the “Cotton Amendment”, which exempted any areas adjacent to part of a right-of-way, acquired prior to July 1, 1956. This allowed billboards in areas adjacent to interchanges, overpasses, and along roads that ran parallel to the Interstate.

These seemingly arbitrary regulations are a disincentive to entrepreneurs.

Without regulation, people could easily start a business and sell ads for 75 percent of what Lamar is charging. Then they would have to lower their prices too, and landowners would take home a nice 20 percent cut of the profits. Everyone wins, except Lamar’s monopoly.

Why Musicians Make Good Libertarians

 

I’m a musician (or so I claim, there is actually no evidence to prove it) and I am surrounded constantly by other musicians, be it at concerts, rehearsals or sweaty raves in my neighbor’s basement. Music is the greatest thing about life, with winning debates as a close second, and Nyquil in third. I can get down with pretty much any genre– and I mean it. It all comes down to the three B’s: Brahms, Bjork, and Billy Joel. Everything else basically stems off of them. I also really dig the band Say Anything, Joni Mitchell is my woman, and I grew up on U2. I just really like music. It’s important, it keeps us sane (or insane, whichever you prefer).

Here is a list of reasons why I believe musicians are 1) awesome, and 2) actually pretty libertarian. It applies to everyone from metalheads to classical performers.

1) Punk Rock and sticking it to The Man

There’s no doubt that punk rock seeks to stick it to “The Man”. I love it. However, who is The Man? What is The Man? Ever dream this man!?

download (1)

Hah. (thisman.org, for you losers that weren’t on the internet in 2009)

I digress. According to Wikipedia, my favorite source, “The Man” is a slang phrase that may refer to the government or to some other authority in a position of power. The page also explained how it can be used as praise: “In more modern usage, it can be a superlative compliment (“you da man!”) indicating that the subject is currently standing out amongst his peers even though they have no special designation or rank, such as a basketball player who is performing better than the other players on the court.”

The fact that the words “superlative” and “amongst” were used to describe this slang is hilarious. See, this is why Wikipedia is my favorite source.

Let’s assume it means the government, since it has a monopoly on force and is the only power that can decide throw you in jail. I’m not talking about the emotional prison your ex boyfriend put you in. Some self defined punks might argue that it is “corporate America” that really controls us, or “the 1%” that rules the nation. So you think that corporations and money control the government? Fair enough. But why would fixing this be accomplished by more government?

I can’t think of anything less punk rock than expanding the size of the government.  Yet, there’s still anti-capitalist teenagers begging to increase regulation, create more laws, and ban more crap while relentlessly “fighting the police state”. They suck at the teat of authority, exactly the opposite of what they preach.

2) Regulation hurts songwriters

I did a little research on the industry expecting to find some evidence of regulation hurting musicians. How could it not? It hurts everything else! According to the National Music Publishers’ Association, government regulations are costing songwriters roughly $2.3 billion a year in lost revenue in the U.S.

For its part, the music industry’s goal is to move to an entirely free market system where individual publishers can negotiate licensing deals with companies directly. It already does this with specific companies such as Apple for iTunes Radio, but the industry ideal would be to move to this model for all licensing deals. According to the NMPA, annual revenue for music publishers would increase to $4.52 billion in the U.S. in a free market system.

Mmmm. Free market system. Lovely. This increase in revenue leads to the next reason:

3) Equal opportunity

Music on the radio today is horrible, we all know that. One of the biggest complaints is that it all sounds the same. More money in the industry opens up more doors for risk taking, allowing more artists to be heard, creating diversity and less musical homogeneity.800_370

Libertarians advocate for creating equal opportunity rather than equal success. You have to work hard and be good at what you do to succeed. Just like in music! Do we want to subsidize shitty bands even though they are failing, like what is happening how with terrible government programs?

Competition may not be the core of music, but it definitely plays a prominent role. Singing practically qualifies as a sport these days. Nobody knows the wonders of competition and how it increases quality like musicians do. If you want to earn first chair, work your ass off to beat out the current holder. Once you get it, they’ll practice constantly to win it back. It’s like Pong for music, and the scores only keep getting higher.

4) Licensing hurts small venues

“First, here’s how it works if you want to host live musicians who play even one “cover” song, or a song that is copyrighted work:  you need a license. You can get a license from three major music rights organizations—BMI, ASCAP, or SESAC.  BMI deals with the superstar artists and songwriters.

‘The law just doesn’t take into consideration small venues in small towns.  I think it’s based on a big nightclub in New York City, maybe, or people who are drawing in 20,000 dollars a night in revenue. And it’s just taking into consideration that, in a small town like West Plains, even though we could seat 70 in Roper’s, most likely, we’ll have 30 or 40 on a good night—on the best nights. We’ve had nights when we had five to 10 people, or sometimes none, for concerts.'”

Muh gigs!

5) The IRS sucks

Musicians are some of the most hardworking people I know. Practicing is life consuming and you have to achieve perfection to get work. I don’t want the state to be another factor getting in their way. Instruments are already ungodly expensive, not counting repairs, tune ups or accessories, so why would we tax them to death? Save the music, damn it!

Charles_Dutoit_and_the_Philadelphia_Orchestra_concert_in_TianjinIf you sell something for more than you paid for it, you have a capital gain, on which the IRS requires us to pay tax. I bought my oboe for $7,900. Let’s say it’s a few years in the future and I decide to sell it, but find that the model is in greater demand now than it was when I purchased it. I sell the oboe for $9000. Profit of $1,100, right? Nope! I don’t just have taxes to pay on my $1,100 capital gain, I have to add the total depreciated amount—$7,900.

In the past, the IRS has taken the position that old string instruments are antiques that appreciate in value and therefore are not depreciable. There have been several court cases involving this issue. The most recent rulings have maintained that antique instruments used in a trade or business are subject to the same wear and tear as any other property used in a trade or business, and therefore are deductible. Based on these court cases it appears, at least for the present, that all musical instruments, including old string instruments, are deductible as long as they are actually used in a trade or business (i.e., having the instrument in a display case or hanging on a wall would not satisfy this requirement). However, the IRS disagrees with these decisions and may still disallow the deduction outside of the judicial circuits where the cases were decided.

6) Many instruments contain ivory

A new regulation from the Obama administration is concerning some musicians, as it could end careers and reduce the quality of performances around the world.

In an effort to crack down on illegal animal trafficking, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) issued an order earlier this year that bans the trade of materials containing African elephant ivory. Musicians say the order could keep them from traveling overseas, because they often perform with expensive antique instruments that contain ivory.

However, the administration is looking to find a solution in exempting instruments from this regulation.

 

7) Private charity rules

I live in Milwaukee and hear the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra often, for a delectable student rate of $12 a show. Recently, there was an emergency campaign launched to raise 5 million dollars to keep the orchestra running.

Area foundations committed $1,192,000, with donations pledged from The Bradley Foundation, the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, the Helen Bader Foundation and the United Performing Arts Fund, according to the MSO.

Look at what can be done without the use of coercion! Voluntary giving is so much more powerful than people realize. These donations weren’t forced, and no tax collector came by to make sure you paid your dues. When you have true charity, done by those who actually care about the cause, they make sure to use the money effectively. Voluntary action, man. It works.

punk_rock_means_freedom_by_miyavik

http://www.jsonline.com/entertainment/arts/milwaukee-symphony-campaign-has-raised-48-million-confident-it-will-make-5-million-goal-b99205795z1-245574281.html

http://ksmu.org/article/are-music-licensing-laws-disproportionately-hurting-small-town-venues-one-owner-says-83171

http://www.buzzfeed.com/peterlauria/songwriters-are-losing-23-billion-a-year-due-to-outdated-gov

http://www.polyphonic.org/2011/03/24/tax-time%E2%80%93musical-instruments-and-depreciation/

 

Corruption in China: Bringing liberty to the world

 

Transparency is something that is a problem for all countries. What is the balance between what the people should be able to know, and what is best to be kept secret? A corrupt government that hoards secrets and conducts sneaky backdoor deals can lead to social dissatisfaction and confusion. The post-Mao reform period was the start of major increases of corruption in China. Bribery, tax evasion, and theft of state economic information became a huge part of the government. Campaigns are today being launched to put an end to the underground actions that fuel a dishonest political system. But is that all it will take?
Corruption can happen in many different forms and by a variety of means. There are two groups that classify types of corrupt actions at an abstract level: plunder and transactive. Certain kinds of crimes, such as bribery, could be part of both groupings. The main difference between these two categories is that plunder corruption does not usually benefit both parties, while transactive is an exchange of money or services and usually benefits both involved. Some actions that would be classified as plunder corruption include stealing tax money and expropriation. It very often targets the rich private sector and business, causing major problems economically.
The first attempts at stopping political crime under Mao were the Three and Five Anti campaigns, launched in 1951 and 1952, respectively. During this time, corruption was occurring among mostly low ranking officials and bribes were carried out with liquor or other gifts, rather than money. The first three issues attacked with the Three Anti campaign were corruption, waste, and bureaucracy. It specifically looked at many members of the CPC, as well as officials outside of the party. It caused the expulsion of a million members and many were executed. Some victims of the campaign were tortured and paid fines to the government. Many were sent to labor camps or committed suicide. The Five Anti campaign attacked capitalists and business people, taking on the issues of tax evasion, bribery, theft of state property, and stealing state economic information. Anti-capitalist activists started speaking out against company leaders, and business affairs were spied on to ensure legal activity was happening. The campaigns brought in large amounts of money from the fines, which businesses could pay off by selling stock to the government. This created public-private enterprises, which allowed the party to gain more political power. The party claimed the campaigns were to stop “corruption, waste and bureaucratism.” However, the real goal was get rid of officials who were not entirely loyal to the government.
After Mao Zedong’s death in 1976, a new culture of corruption flourished. It became common for back door deals to occur through personal relationships and favors. Money wasn’t as important because resources were rationed to the public, making personal networking and the exchange of other goods an easy access to what was really needed. Gifts like cigarettes and alcohol were being used to obtain ration cards. This occurred into the 80’s, when reforms were started again by the CPC. Many officials were publicly executed for their crimes. However, evidence shows that these crackdowns were not able to hinder the increase in corruption that occurred.

“The Procuratorate filed 9,000 corruption-related cases in 1980, the 1989 anti-corruption campaign yielded some 77,400 cases. Thereafter, the average number of cases hovered around 60,000 from 1991 to 1997. Revision of the criminal code in 1997 resulted in the decriminalization of a range of lesser offenses, and dropped the average number of cases filed to approximately 32,000.”

Even with the changes made to the criminal code, allowing minor offenses to slip by did not eliminate the massive amount of serious corrupt crime.
How did the economy see such a booming growth in GDP between 1980 and today when corruption levels were only increasing? This growth China experienced actually was able to feed off the rising corruption. With an increase in private business owners and a successful private sector, it became common for larger scale bribery to occur. This is compared to when the state was in control of the economy, and there was not as many private companies to influence the officials with bribes. The corruption levels in China during their rapid growth were not unusually high for a developing country. Petty bribery in the 1980’s wasn’t a hindrance to the beginning of their development. Until the 2000’s, the campaigns were able to keep the corruption mostly under control, however this did not stop the worsening of the situation in the long term.
Human rights issues are abundant in China. They tie in to the political corruption when the basic rights to speech or press are infringed. One of the most important parts of the relationship between a people and their government is the ability to make change when the people are dissatisfied. Rather than the government being a boat floating on the water of people, it should be seen as not something above the people, but an equal to them. When the state becomes so powerful that it is above the citizens, rights are violated. Politicians have the ability to stop petitioners and activists through violent police acts when they are seen as a threat. Since the Chinese Judiciary is not independent of the party and government, the state is able to interfere and dictate verdicts in cases including whistleblowers (who disclose secret information that the government has hidden from the people) and journalists who expose corruption. These people are seen as a source of instability to their political career or reputation, so the activists are oppressed. Journalists have exposed pollution factories and other forms of major income for some officials, and while this should be a positive move in the anti corruption movement, they were punished. There have been cases of involuntary confinement that violate the Mental Health Law, forcing activists who start protests into psychiatric institutes. Journalists have been arrested for demanding to know the salaries of government officials. Is this really the right way to handle corruption?
Xi Jinping has made it known that he is serious about putting an end to corruption in China. 182,000 party members were punished in 2013. However, this has created an insecurity within the party and a mistrust in the government. This may be both harmful in the short run, but beneficial in the long run. It is likely a good thing that some of the officials feel their position is unstable when there is a crackdown on fraud. How do you fight corruption while maintaining unity as a government? The campaigns have been divisive to high ranking officials, which creates an unstable leadership. Additionally, the current efforts to stop corruption may be decreasing in effectiveness. Over time, officials will learn how to adjust to the new system and find ways to carry out crimes in other ways.
The hypocrisy of the Chinese government is astounding; punishing those who are truly fighting the war against corruption. These campaigns are an effective way to eliminate some of those in power who commit crimes, but there is another part of the problem that cannot be solved without major reform. Media is the key to government transparency. With a government monopoly on the media, a huge part of corruption will never be resolved. In the US, journalists are able to take down politicians and leak stories without any help of the government. It is costly to implement campaigns with goals that could be accomplished by the people, done because they care about their personal lives being affected. According to a recent report by Bank of America, the Chinese government’s recent campaign could cost more than $100bn to the economy this year (Sudworth).
China has a long way to go when it comes to tackling the corruption problem. The launching of costly campaigns is not necessary when the solution lies in the media. They need to stop punishing whistleblowers, and journalists must be free to report without the fear of being jailed. While these efforts by the government seem to be doing good, the effectiveness will diminish over time. If the government is corrupt, how could one trust the government stop its own problem? The simple freedom of press and speech is the cheapest and most effective way to eliminate corrupt officials, while cutting down on human rights issues and spending at the same time. History shows that campaigns have not been highly successful in the past, and corruption is still running rampant in China. While their economy has grown immensely in a short amount of time, the fraudulent activities and shady deals have also risen from local officials to the high ranking administrators, and on a larger scale. No longer is petty bribery the only problem, but huge deals between officials and the new private sector executives, as a result of the booming economic growth. To truly solve the problem of corruption in China, full human rights need to be restored and speech limitless, to let the people of the country solve the problem the government has created.

I am currently at the Young Americans for Liberty national convention in DC and the international work by Students for Liberty has been brought to my attention. China needs these ideas, and we can be the people to help them push for freedom. Liberty is important here in the US– but we need to advocate for peace and freedom everywhere to create a better world. Libertarianism is going international.

Growth and Corruption in China. 2012. Vol 11. No. 2. China Research Center, Andrew Wedeman
Congressional Executive Commission on China. Roundtable discussion, November 21st, 2013.
Yan, Sun (2004). Corruption and Market in Contemporary China. Cornell University Press.
Manion, Melanie (2004). Corruption by Design. Harvard University Press
Sudworth, John. “Price Tag of China Anti-corruption Drive.” BBC News. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 May 2014.

Why First World Problems Matter Too

 

Last night my car battery died in a Perkins parking lot. I was with a friend of mine and we hadn’t even eaten at Perkins, but there isn’t a lot to do at midnight in Chanhassen but sit in a parked car and listen to Kanye.

I called up my dad and he thankfully came to jump it, and soon enough we were on our way. Of course, only to come back in about ten minutes, pick up some fiesta potatoes from the Taco Bell across the lot and park a few spaces over from where my Mazda was just resurrected.

What a fun story! I swear it will make sense in a minute.

Right now there’s a lot of shit going down across the world. Syria, Israel and Palestine, Ukraine and Russia… and I’m here browsing the otherkin tag on Tumblr for the entertainment value. When there’s violence occurring that doesn’t really affect us, it becomes harder to feel strongly about it. Every other scroll down Twitter I see a picture of a mangled corpse, maybe a beheaded kid, bodies strewn across a field among plane wreckage, or a woman being stoned to death. I have honestly grown numb to real gore. It’s horrible and unfair, but I can’t do anything. Whether I like it or not, violence is going to happen. With something like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, fueled by such long history and complexity, it’s not an issue I can decide how to settle. I just don’t know.

So right now I’m lurking a minimum wage debate online. Both sides are throwing out terrible points and one of them just cited Mother Jones, so I’m having a good time. It’s nice to not be involved. But every once in a while, as I read through their argument on my timeline, one of those brutal photos of a corpse chopped in two pops up in an unrelated tweet.

Seeing a post containing a picture of a dead kid squeezed between two other posts about wages in the US is a little awkward.

We spend a lot of time focusing on domestic problems. They’re easier to talk about, for sure. Anyone can throw out common sense arguments about abortion, but relations with Russia? A little more research is needed before you dive into a debate in that department. Life is really good in the United States, as our impoverished are better off than the wealthy in many countries. How can we complain? We aren’t being slaughtered– shouldn’t we just be happy with that? Sometimes, I feel like many issues that I debate are just petty problems we nitpick at to have something to fight about. Because in comparison, there are civilians being murdered, planes being shot down, and disaster that we can’t see. Are our issues actually important?

Yes. They are.

Talking about our spending problem, government spying, economic restrictions, and the decimation of personal liberties is not something to be guilty of. We should be passionately concerned about protecting the greatest nation on earth. We have discovered how to thrive, while most of the world hasn’t figured it out yet. Why would we ruin that?

When my car broke down, it was useless. Well, we could still crank Late Registration. My dad drove his car over to save us, which jolted the battery and gave us the jump start we needed to get back on the road. When my Mazda was in despair, the Audi was a beacon of light. Thank god my dad takes care of his car, fills it with gas, and keeps it running. Because if he didn’t, that car couldn’t have helped me out. We have to take care of America for the same reason. We are working. Our economic freedom is working! Compassion fuels the modern activist, even if they are devoid of fact or logic. Even if what they fight for is limiting the freedom that makes our nation work. But a broken country can’t save another broken country, and we can’t express compassion through helping others become more like us unless we are strong ourselves. We have to make the moral case for freedom more often, because it wins. We have to show that capitalism is caring because without it, there will be no beacon of light or Audi to help all the dying cars. I don’t know how I feel about being the world’s policeman– however, we’ve got the key to success. Instead of wanting a bunch of immigrants flee from Mexico to escape violence and poverty, why not help Mexico improve to be like us? (Because now it’s cool to be anti-American exceptionalism).

Maybe I don’t know how to fix the world, but I know what can fix a lot of problems in the world. Not that everything can be solved. Religion, history and hate fuel violence and chaos, and I am just watching it all unravel from the sidelines. Injustice will occur in other countries beyond my control, and it’s depressing. But that doesn’t diminish the little battles we need to fight for every day domestically, to maintain the standards that we have built here. We can be a model of what the rest of the world should be and encourage their journey to freedom. Hopefully, the most peaceful resolves can occur through whatever policy or leadership it takes, but through it all we cannot be afraid to stand up for the seemingly less urgent issues at home. The minimum wage is a lot bigger argument than it seems.

Eyebrow Shaming Game on Point

 

(I don’t even want to Google this to see if it’s a thing or not, because I want to write about a thought without my dreams being crushed by the reality of inevitable imitation.)

My brows are bushier than a squirrel’s tail. I used to have a unibrow– though light– and I look like a little cavegirl in old pictures, covered in dirt with the bones of deceased enemies in my pigtails. Were cavemen often homicidal? I don’t know, I went to Catholic school for nine years.

In middle school I attended a sleepover (shocking statement) for a friend’s birthday, and being a group of girls from St. Hubert’s we had to bring the party to church in the morning. We stopped at Starbucks on the way there, where I was mocked for ordering hot chocolate instead of coffee. I still remember this because the unwarranted and irrational shame creeps back in when I buy other drinks at coffee establishments. I don’t understand coffee. Just give me rum! Anyway, we got to church on that morning and took our seats… or pews. I distinctly recall being stationed behind a family compromised of two grown kids who may have been back from college, and the two aging parents that made them be there.

I’d say it was a wonderful sermon and a delightful hour of prayer, but I wasn’t paying attention. There was something far more alarming in my presence.

The dad directly in front of me. I am not exaggerating when I say that his eyebrows reached out past the side of his head. The entire mass was spent cringing and staring at these beasts, and I wanted so terribly to yank them off of his face. Come the exchange of peace and handshakes, he turned around. It was like a jungle of vines that seemed to be growing in every direction.

bushy+eyebrowsThis was disturbing to me. Around the same time, I learned about the little mites that live in our eyebrows and other follicles. This one drove me crazy. Certainly there are LOADS of them that fit on my caterpillar brows! My face is a mite magnet! An anthropod oasis! After too much time spent fruitlessly scratching at my furry forehead, obsessed with some bizarre idea that I could and should rid my face of the mites, I decided something had to be done.

This was the day I plucked my brows the very first time. It was eye opening. Literally, because the hair was so long it obstructed my vision. For the next few years, the unruly beasts were shapely and tame. You could say my eyebrow game was strong.

Today, as I write this, I can truthfully say I haven’t touched the things in months. Maybe this is because of my bangs that cover them almost entirely. Maybe I’m just letting myself go. I did wear sweatpants yesterday. However, my interest in eyebrows as depleted while the societal interest has grown.

I love a good eyebrow, they’re very sassy and attractive. But everyone seems obsessed lately with crafting the perfect line of hair. I’m only concerned with crafting the perfect line of coke! It’s so infuriating when there’s Cheeto dust everywhere… I said, in my sweatpants.

(No, I don’t actually do coke. Cheetos however…)

Back to face hair. Eyebrows are praised today more than winged eyeliner and thigh tattoos combined. But what about those people with… gasp, no eyebrows! They exist! Or at least tiny, nearly transparent brows that are so scarce you could count each follicle. These are not, according to the trend, “on point”. Should these people be pressured into drawing the perfect angle of artificial hair above their eyes in order to be fierce? It’s all a facade.

tumblr_mxq2bvi1Q11sn714zo1_500I’m not one to be outraged. This isn’t a social problem, or whatever. I think it’s great that people are interested in beauty and makeup, do anything that makes you happy. Unless you’re a murderer. Or a homicidal caveman. Draw on your face all you want! I love juggalos! But maybe we shouldn’t be glorifying the brows so much. I mean, just like you could be genetically heavier, you could be genetically eyebrow-less. And yearn to be skinnier like you yearn for big, beautiful brows. Everybody just chill out. The time you spend critiquing yours or others’ eyebrows could be spent… I don’t know, maybe complimenting their personality or ideas!

Not everybody has to end up like me. There might actually be ice cream crusted in my giant eyebrows as I type. But I think the obsession over this strip of hair is a little excessive, and I don’t think anyone needs brow perfection to be fierce.

Animal Crossing is for Statists

 

There is a video game out there, if you haven’t heard of it, in which you are a human living in a town of talking animals that have a lot of psychological problems. Though it may sound like I am harboring negative feelings about the game, I’ve got more hours logged than a lumberjack.

It started early. Somewhere around 1st grade, more specifically. Along with our shiny new Gamecube, we brought home some classics including Super Smash Bros, Sonic Adventure 2 Battle, and of course Population: Growing. I plugged in the sucker and popped in AC, welcomed by the opening train scene (no, I’m not getting confused with Final Fantasy VII) and listened to Rover mock me for not securing a place to live before leaving and bringing along only 1,000 bells (the super creative currency in this beautiful game).

Here is the first problem. Rover, likely a responsible member of society, calls me out for being financially reckless. I appreciate this. However, he also asks if I am a boy or a girl. Gender is a spectrum, ya jackass!

Anyway, after a horribly awkward conversation Rover calls up his pal Tom Nook and gives him a heads up that I am on my way to his town– a wandering child in need of a place to stay. Nook, a raccoon, meets me at the station upon arrival and shows me to a small neighborhood containing four small houses. I browse what each has to offer, only to realize that they are furnished exquisitely with a shitty radio and a candle atop a cardboard box. Isn’t this a fire hazard?

animal-crossing-nook-aprongI pick the lesser of four evils and talk to Nook to find that I am instantly 19,800 bells in debt. Fantastic. At this point I am nearly convinced that Nook is a serial killer or the leader of some sick cult, and that opinion is affirmed once I am forced to work at his sad excuse for a general store to repay my mortgage.

So I do odd jobs, including stealing the flowers meant to be planted in front of his cheap shack and greedily placing them around my new abode. Eventually I pay off enough money and he releases me. But wait– there’s more! I won’t be satisfied with this tiny square room forever. How will I entertain all my furry friends? I should expand! The scam artist brainwashes me into expanding my home and I am slapped with another debt of 148,000 bells.

This reminds me of college. “No, in order to be successful you MUST dump thousands of dollars into an institution to purchase a degree that doesn’t guarantee you a job! But wait– THERE’S MORE! GRAD SCHOOL!” Tom Nook is essentially brainwashing and enslaving us all. I don’t have enough money for this crap!

I decide to get acquainted with my new town. Meet some neighbors, explore the map. After circling a few times it hits me: where are the other stores?

There’s one tailor shop, but other than that it’s all residential. So, wait a minute. You’re telling me this fucker Tom Nook has a MONOPOLY on LITERALLY EVERYTHING? No wonder why the cost of living is so damn high! It costs half my bells for a freaking fishing pole! He’s got everyone in the town under his control, with all of us picking fruit and begging for pocket change. If we could just get one more store in this town, the competition as allowed by the free market would solve all of our problems. But the game doesn’t allow it. Because the developers are probably working for Nook Corp.

1308732-animal_crossing___police_stationLet’s talk about government employees for a second. Each town has a post office, police station, museum and a town hall. The post office is home to Pelly and Phyllis, who run the mail service during the day and at night, respectively. Pelly is bubbly, positive and kind to customers. Phyllis on the other hand, is quite frankly a bitch. They’re probably unionized and I bet Phyllis makes as much money as Pelly, if not more, as she works the night shift.

At the police station, another government run operation, Booker and Copper run the show. Inside is a lost and found full of items dropped across the town. You can literally take anything you want. Booker stands there and watches as you steal from your neighbors– then bids you a good day when you exit with your loot. What about stopping crime? How about you quit standing around all day and investigate whatever Tom Nook is doing in that sketchy shack of his? My tax dollars are supporting this useless crap!

Over at the museum, an owl named Blathers sleeps all day. Again, paying for this nonsense.

TortimerBut the town hall is the worst of it. Tortimer is the mayor: an elderly tortoise that only emerges on holidays to hand out free gifts. Yeah, “free”. I wonder what his salary is. Or who will pay for his retirement…

Fast forward to 2013. The 3DS is the handheld of choice, and the first 3D Animal Crossing installment comes along with it: New Leaf.

The thing about this game is that YOU are the mayor! Tortimer is gone at last! Although, he is retiring luxuriously on a nearby island, likely funded by the taxpayers. You can go there to play games that he hosts, where he awards medals based on your success. Power trip, much? At least he awards additional medals to those who worked the hardest, instead of giving equal reward to unequal effort. So he’s not all bad.

As the mayor, you are responsible for erecting “public works projects” around the town. Citizens propose things such as bridges, lampposts, and other buildings that they want. The more you build, the more citizen satisfaction goes up. A donation center sets up where the project will be established, and collects from the animals until the goal is met. Sounds good, right?

It isn’t.

The more my neighbors complain about wanting new stuff, the more I feel pressured to build for them. If I want the perfect town status, I need to keep them satisfied!

animal_crossing_by_red_flare-d69iff0

Except that they are all apparently broke. Every time, I find myself contributing 99% of whatever it costs to build. Say the project costs 400,000 bells to complete. In total, the townsfolk will contribute maybe, MAYBE 2,000 bells. In a whole week. I could make that much money in 2 MINUTES! Is this an issue of income inequality? In my wealth, should I be obligated to pay more for the city’s growth?

This mayor gig pays absolutely nothing. You know how I make my money? Catching bugs at night on the island. I have never once seen Drake pick fruit. Or catch fish. Or bugs. Or do ANY kind of work whatsoever. Yet, he complains about my inability to build a new Park Clock!

Still, I can’t put up a toll on the bridge that I completely funded. After the project goes up, the animals have a ceremony to celebrate their accomplishment. Bullshit! Our hard work? How about MY hard work, free loaders!

Another power as mayor (tyrant) is declaring ordinances. You can choose between Beautiful Town, Early Bird Town, Nightlife Town, and Bell Boom Town. These are basically government regulations. The first one is an environmental boost, keeping flowers alive and weeds rare. Who’s paying for the weedkiller? Taxpayers. Insecticide? Taxpayers. Fertilizer? Employing citizens to water flowers? Taxpayers! Now, environmental health is important, but I can only imagine it is costing us more than necessary. My guess is that our environmental department creates more waste than we are cleaning up.

Animal-Crossing-Wild-WorldThe Early Bird and Nightlife ordinances both dictate how late and early shops must be open, and when citizens go to sleep or wake up. This is just a constitutional nightmare.

Bell Boom is the most interesting of them all. It increases buying and selling prices at each of the shops. Nice. Government trying to stimulate the economy. How could it go wrong?

 

Basically, I love these games. But in reality, not everything would be as perfect as it seems. Or perhaps I am actually a closet big government advocate, living out my fantasies in a virtual world.

… nah, no I’m not.

May the Force Not be With You: The absurdity of religious exemption

I’m sitting here on my bed with a beverage balanced dangerously on a Seinfeld box set beside my laptop, a lonely guitar gently weeping to my right, an eerie statue of a pug knocked on its side to my left, and no internet.

You heard it folks, I’m off the grid tonight. I’m posting this via my delivery pigeon who has skillfully pecked each letter into a computer at the library. Thanks, Brenda!

I am attracted to the idea of buying a flip phone and dumping Siri. But I’ve never been able to bring myself to actually get in the time machine and crank her back to 2008. Here’s a sad story: this morning my dog was torturing my llama (yes, I have a llama) and it was really terrible but also a fantastic show. Foolishly, I chose to scroll Twitter instead of watching an evilly hilarious, somewhat cartoonish dance between two unlikely partners. Hooves were being bitten at, grassy spit was shooting like bullets. I couldn’t stay disconnected to experience the entire battle, which leads me to admit– going without internet is hard.

Right now, on a farm in east-Jesus-nowhere with no wifi, I feel like I am forced to write. I guess that’s a good thing. Usually I get distracted by one of my many feeds, open too many tabs to handle, and “Untitled Document” on Google Drive is the first to be closed. Without internet, I feel this force to sit down and write something. Am I truly being forced? That guitar to my right is still lonely. Every episode of Seinfeld is but inches away. But I still feel like I have no choice.

Force has been on my mind lately, mostly because of this Hobby Lobby outrage (I prefer the typo Hooby Looby). I understand both sides. To be honest, both irritate me a little. On one hand, there’s those who are declaring a major victory for liberty when the company had to argue their religious beliefs to gain exemption from force. I get it, but it’s just one chip away at a massive problem. On the other hand, there’s a huge over-exaggeration of the consequence from this decision. It really didn’t do much. Look, I’m a girl and I think birth control is rad (There’s actually bipartisan support to make birth control pills available over the counter, including some male GOP politicians). But I also think choice is rad– making force bad.

Luckily last night, when I did have internet, I downloaded an ebook called The Essential Voluntaryist. The first pages are titled “What We Believe and Why”. Reading it was like going to a show by your favorite band. Each bullet point was like a new song, and I kept verbalizing my agreement. “YEAH! Yes! RIGHT ON!” Maybe this is illegal, but I am going to post some of the list here:

1. Every person, by virtue of being human, owns (controls) his own mind, body, and actions. No other person can think with your mind nor order you about unless you permit them to do so.
3. No person, or group of people, has the right to threaten or use physical force against the person or property of another because such coercive actions violate the rights of self-ownership and property ownership.
4. Each person has the absolute right to do with his property what he pleases (this being what ownership means), as long as it does not physically invade another’s personal property, without the other’s consent. People can inter-relate in only two ways, peacefully or coercively, but only the former is compatible with the principles of ownership.
6. A pure free market is right because it is the only socioeconomic system in accord with the above precepts.
7. We believe if an activity is wrong for an individual, then it is wrong for a group of individuals. For example, majority rule cannot legitimize taxation. If it is wrong for an individual to steal, then it cannot be right for 51% of the voters to sanction stealing from the 49% who oppose it.
8. We believe in the voluntary principle (that people should interact peacefully or not at all.) Just as we must not force our ideas of ‘better’ on other people, so they may not impose their idea of ‘better’ on us.
10. We believe that power of any sort corrupts, but political power is especially vicious. “A good politician is about as unthinkable as an honest burglar.”
11. We believe that actions have consequences; that there is no such thing as a free lunch. Somebody always pays.
14. We believe taxation is theft. The State is the only social institution which extracts its income and wealth by force. No government possesses any magical power to create real wealth. Whatever it has obtained, it has “taken” (stolen) from us, our ancestors, and, unwittingly, from future generations.
15. We believe the only way to know what value people place on things is to watch them voluntarily trade and exchange in the unfettered marketplace.
16. We believe an individual’s right to control his own life and property does not depend on how much he earns or owns.
19. We believe that freedom and liberty are not bestowed upon us by government. Liberty is the absence of physical coercion among human beings and comes about naturally when no one does anything to forcefully interfere with another. Some people use violence toward others out of frustration because they cannot control them, but violence never really works in the long run.
23. We believe that although certain goods and services are necessary for our survival, it is not essential that they be provided by coercive political governments. However, just because we do not advocate that governments provide these goods and services (for example, public education) does not mean that we are against that activity (education) itself. Just because we recognize that people have a right to engage in certain activities (for example, drinking alcoholic beverages) does not necessarily mean that we endorse or participate in such activities ourselves. What we oppose is compulsion in support of any end; what we support is voluntaryism in all its many forms.

Agree with all of that? It’s a pretty fundamental argument for nearly everything. It’s easy, as I see it. Is the action forceful? Then I’m against it. There you go.

Taxes are complicated to me. How do we decide which are vital or in excess? Freedom is the absence of coercion. Taxes are coercive, so we aren’t free. We can’t imagine a taxless society because our government is so huge. How would we fund it all! I think most taxes are unnecessary, but others not entirely. I know there are many other functional options and pro market solutions to wasteful government programs that aren’t being considered. Why would the government vote to shrink the government?

I digress, to talk about rape. To be honest, this territory is a little frightening for me considering the backlash that can be suffered by one poorly received statement. (Halfway through that sentence I decided that I don’t care.) Rape is coercive sex, which is why it is deemed wrong. You have to get consent for sex to be legal. There is overwhelming support for those who have been raped as victims of coercion.

Taxation isn’t rape, if that’s the conclusion you think I am drawing. But the word “force” comes up all the time in this area. I think it’s interesting. Force is force. There isn’t good force or bad force, ugly force or hairy force… it’s just when there’s no way out. Yet, you can be coerced and still be left with a choice, like a decision to defy the law and get thrown in jail. My question is, how can we pick and choose what is good to force on others, based on our view of the world and politics? Am I picking and choosing by thinking some minimal taxes are inevitable?

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Hobby Lobby is being accused of forcing their religious beliefs on their employees. But in reality, it is actually eliminating force and creating choice. I’d reword the accusation as Hobby Lobby “choosing what to offer those who choose to work for their company based on religious values”. This is accurate from whatever side you’re on. True force would be banning all forms of birth control from employees that will be hung in the town square if they don’t show up to work. Businesses can’t do that! But the State could.

Let us remember that we have freedom OF religion in this country, not freedom FROM religion. However, I think it is unfortunate that religion has anything to do with this case at all. Ergo, the subtitle of this piece. This ruling dictates that religion is needed to be exempted from force. The difference between the government forcing companies to offer insurance to employees and a business making a decision is that the former is real coercion, because there is no way out. It’s coercion whether you agree with it or not. Nobody makes anyone work for a certain company, but you can’t opt out of following the law without consequence by the government. As I mentioned before, you can argue that it forces you to make a choice. But it is unclear to me what the drama is about this decision: keeping your job and paying for a few uncovered types of birth control, or taking your labor elsewhere? If everyone boycotts Hobby Lobby for this decision of theirs, maybe they’ll decide to change it. Mmmm, choices. Consequences. The market will fix it all!

There is a difference between natural consequence and a consequence as dictated and carried out arbitrarily by an inescapable authority. Punishment for not giving in to force versus punishment in financial ruin because of poor decisions. Consequence will happen through the market, be it for labor or products. We don’t need force to make it work.

Anyway, this brings me back to the beginning, when I felt forced to write about something in the absence of the internet. It wasn’t true force, because there was no authority. I suppose I am my own authority, albeit not a strict one. This false sense of force has infected the outraged and turned the term into a buzzword that is abused like an 8 year old’s pet rabbit.

Before anyone comments (nobody comments, who am I kidding), I don’t hate healthcare. Let’s throw it back to #23 of the Essential Voluntaryist:

23. We believe that although certain goods and services are necessary for our survival, it is not essential that they be provided by coercive political governments. However, just because we do not advocate that governments provide these goods and services (for example, public education) does not mean that we are against that activity (education) itself.

Basically, I don’t care that Hobby Lobby is a business and not a church. I don’t care that they cover vasectomies but not IUDs. It doesn’t matter to me– I just think force sucks, and I think that it is being wrongly defined and spewed by a lot of angry tweeters. My whole political viewpoint has become Not Caring. Just don’t mess with me, don’t mess with my wallet, and certainly don’t mess with my wifi. Ever again. Because I need to finish Orange is the New Black.

What Should the Minimum Wage Be?

Facts and figures can be thrown around in debates back and forth with often biased data to support either side. Instead of getting into another one of these arguments, I’d like to take the conflict back to a sound center. The fundamental argument about the minimum wage, at a very basic level. Stripping everything away to the core can be a simple way to decide what is right and wrong, what works, and what doesn’t.

There was no U.S. minimum wage at all until the eve of World War II. States had tried to institute minimum wages, but the United States Supreme Court repeatedly struck down those state laws. The Supreme Court’s reasoning was that a minimum wage deprived workers of the right to set the price of their own labor.

Let’s look at what we have as far as legislation goes today in the workplace. $7.25 is the federal minimum price of labor, with certain states and cities choosing to raise it higher. This is an arbitrary number. As is $9, or $11, or $15. What is deciding these wages? Who is deciding these wages?

We know the government dictates the wage, with the support of lobbyists who propose and push for certain numbers. But that still leaves the question of how they choose it.

“In reality, there has never really been an established formula for determining the federal minimum wage. Some sources believe that it is calculated as a certain percentage of the current poverty line for a family of four, but in recent years that has not proven to be the case. Currently, it is not indexed to the rate of inflation, either. There have been efforts to tie the minimum wage to the annual inflation rate, but those proposals have not been adopted. In fact, the most recent raise, adopted by Congress in 2007, does not even match the actual spending power of the 1979 adjustment.” –wiseGEEK

Essentially, the numbers are pulled out of somebody’s ass to win votes. It sounds really good for everyone to make $15 dollars an hour. It sounds really good for them to make $30 an hour as well. I’d love it.

The “minimum wage” is simply but unhelpfully worded. I don’t like it. Millions of Americans are now striving for “the minimum”. Giving a name to a wage that we want to earn is harmful, in my opinion. The fact that we say “you should be able to support yourself on the minimum wage” creates this mindset that the minimum is enough. It should never, ever ever ever ever ever be enough. It means that no matter what, no matter how poorly you may be performing at your job, the government will always be there to take care of you. Further, the federal or state decision of a minimum wage discourages employers to treat workers as individuals. It’s easy to put them on “the minimum wage”– instead of making a deal with each employee with a wage that works for both of them. I believe it encourages low wages.

We always hear about the need to create jobs. The president speaks about it often, and reports are out each month totaling jobs created and lost. It is important to note, as learning work ethic and the value of a dollar are two of the most important things a job offers you, which is what people mean when they say “getting skills”. Unskilled workers don’t just learn how to flip burgers at fast food joints, they learn how to show up on time, stay on task, work with others, customer service, and how to deal with conflict. You learn how to earn your money. So basically, work is important, and everyone needs to be doing it. This applies here with the minimum wage:

“In truth, there is only one way to regard a minimum wage law: it is compulsory unemployment, period. The law says: it is illegal, and therefore criminal, for anyone to hire anyone else below the level of X dollars an hour. This means, plainly and simply, that a large number of free and voluntary wage contracts are now outlawed and hence that there will be a large amount of unemployment. Remember that the minimum wage law provides no jobs; it only outlaws them; and outlawed jobs are the inevitable result.” –Murray Rothbard

A few days ago I wrote Why Pharrell is Happy, on why earned success is so important. The minimum wage works just the same way as welfare– giving unearned success. How would it make you feel to have your employer be forced to reward you? Now, not saying that nobody currently on the minimum wage is worth more, but there’s a hefty chunk that aren’t. I’ve seen them– and there’s another chunk that are so obviously worth less. Not the employee personally, but the value of their labor.

Once the minimum seems too low, employees ask the government rather than their employers to raise their wage. Maybe this is because their employer won’t give them a raise. But why not?

Someone I know was recently unhappy with her low paying fast food job, and decided to quit because of an overload of hours each week, and obviously the work was not worth to her what she was being paid. On her last day, her boss decided to make a deal– he’d cut her hours down reasonably, and even give a raise. She took the deal. Notice how this all happened, in a nice step by step format for all you skimmers:

1) Employee decides she is worth more than current wage

2) Employer is faced with the choice of having an important asset gone, or meeting the demands of the employee

3) Employer realizes employee’s worth to his business and raises pay

This only works if the employee is worth more than the current wage. Otherwise, the boss would likely say suck it up, or get out. Is this a bad thing?

No way. Why would we eliminate competition and the desire to be a better employee in the workplace? There is a reason I work really hard at my job. I want to prove myself worthy to my boss as better than my coworkers in hopes of him recognizing my effort and rewarding me. That both encourages productivity and a natural increase in my wage. There is also only so much to improve on at an entry level job. There is a reason why they don’t pay as much as many other kinds of employment. Even if you work hard at it, unless you move up to management or corporate, there isn’t much else you can do to increase the value of your labor past a certain point. These jobs aren’t meant to be held forever, or satisfied with in the long term. That would be absurd if we were encouraging living on a McDonald’s wage. Oh wait… we are. There is certainly an over dependence on college degrees today, though as they become more meaningless I believe higher education will grow more and more useless. Opportunity exists. We want to celebrate how many people get the hell off the minimum wage and move on to other levels of employment.

There are those employers that do not raise wages no matter what– no matter how hard you work, you still get paid a bum wage. This is where the government intervenes.

They come in and say “Woah, woah– hey now. Can’t you see that Alice is working very hard? Why are you not rewarding her? You know what, no. You have to reward her.” And grants a minimum wage increase. Sounds good, no? Sounds like a protection from bad employers.

However, this isn’t a natural decision as it would be decided by the market. Prices for everything else we consume are created by supply and demand, and the balance created by the two is perfect. When competition is present and nobody has the power to influence or set price, the market (producers and consumers) determines the price of a product, and the price determines what is produced, and who can afford to consume it.

So, we know that intervention hurts economically when prices are set by external factors. It screws with this balance that cannot be forced. You cannot mess with the equilibrium of supply and demand for products, so why should we believe an arbitrary number forced upon businesses is going to be beneficial?

Because “Americans deserve better”. Do they? How do we know, in each individual case?

We don’t. Which is why it should be up to the employer to decide who is worth what. Wages should be decided based on what the employee is willing to work for, and what their labor is worth to the employer. Nobody will work for $2 an hour if they have to support themselves. Companies need employees just as much as the employees need jobs. The struggle at a low paying job should be incentive to work hard, increase the worth of your labor and demand to sell yourself for a price you are satisfied with. Most entry level workers are past minimum already. We can’t be happy with an arbitrary number that decides our worth, and we can’t afford to sell ourselves short.

 

Why Pharrell is Happy

What is the secret to happiness?

I’ve been watching videos on this topic by Arthur Brooks via the American Enterprise Institute, after someone sent me a video called “Don’t Eat Your Dog”. No, I wasn’t considering nor interested in cooking up my pug (though when the pantry is bare, her fat rolls do look plump and delicious), and it wasn’t attached to an email from my shrink. The reason I was sent the video, and the reason why this is so fascinating, is that it makes the most important case for economic freedom. I’d like to share some data from these videos and throw in some of my thoughts, because I find the information overwhelmingly relevant and crucial to the liberty argument.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Well gee, Thomas Jefferson! How elegantly worded! It’s almost like you ripped off the name of a Will Smith movie at the end there. Don’t think nobody noticed.

So, the pursuit of happiness. The phrase in question. What does it mean?

“Pursuing happiness is not some silly notion of chasing after that which puts a smile on one’s face. It is a real, concrete philosophical notion which means something much deeper. Some have proposed that the term really means pursuing virtue and morality.” –Chadwick

In one of the videos I watched, data from a University of Chicago social survey was shared that didn’t exactly surprise me. If you take two people who are basically the same in regards to age, sex, race, and religion, that both say they have earned their success, but one earns 8 times as much as the second, they are equally likely to say that they are very happy with their lives.

We’ve been taught our whole lives that “money doesn’t buy happiness”. Well, this proves it true– but happiness is also not free.

I reject the notion that “money is evil”. While you can have success without the reward being in cold hard cash, the currency isn’t something to demonize. Money is obtained by selling your personal labor (something you own), and is then exchanged for other things that may also directly bring you happiness. Not the items you buy, but tools you may invest in to provide means to earn happiness for yourself.

Now, the dilemma of taxing the rich is relevant here. Though money is not happiness, it could be represented as a currency. If their labor has been equally exchanged for a dollar amount, and that labor is the pursuit of their happiness, the money is also the pursuit of their happiness. So let’s go back to the Declaration of Independence for a minute:

“When the Founders signed the Declaration of Independence, they never envisioned a redistribution of happiness; they never envisioned taking from the more happy to give to the less happy so that there was an equal distribution of happiness, all carefully redistributed through the Department of Happiness. The Founders merely and rightfully thought that Americans had a right to pursue happiness, and within a capitalist system, some would pursue it successfully and others not so.” –Chadwick

Is wealth redistribution actually moving around happiness? No, you can’t use wealth to dictate who is happy because happiness isn’t money– the happiness comes from the pursuit, and can only be present if the pursuit actually happens. The pursuit cannot be carried out by another, it has to come from the receiver of the happiness. So we are literally taking happiness (money) as the result of a pursuit (work) from another, and giving to someone who has not earned it, in an ironically sad attempt to make them happier with their lives. But there’s tons of data to show how this is all backwards. A sort of safety net or welfare system may be effective in helping people acquire the financial ability to allow them earn their success later, but what we have going on now is not creating this desired outcome. It is being abused to the point of becoming a lifestyle, but money (what many people believe is happiness) without the pursuit creates a statistically unhappy, entitled mindset. Happy

I’ve written about this before, but it is at the core of every problem we face as a society. The mindset of the masses. “What do I deserve?” You deserve life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Yet, so does your relatively wealthy neighbor. His work is his pursuit, and the money is success, and perhaps happiness. What is the government to take that from him by force? Is that not unconstitutional? Additionally, he may be rich but not happy. The data as presented in the video shows that if the man is earning his money, he is more likely to identify as happy with his life. However, if next door you are poor but do non profit volunteering for charities and achieve a feeling of success in the form of your affect on others, you are also more likely to identify as happy.

Money can’t buy you happiness, but it can buy you a laptop, which you may believe is the same thing. However, what do you do with the laptop? Right now, I am writing this post for my blog. It isn’t this material object making me happy, it is the success I will achieve after the work I do with it. However, the laptop itself was instant happiness for me as well, because the purchase was a success as the result of my slaving away at Dairy Queen. It is the new American mindset of entitlement that will be the death of happy in our country. It will also be the death of our country. A welfare state seeks to spread wealth around in hopes of helping people achieve happiness. It doesn’t, though, make them pursue it. We aren’t constitutionally guaranteed happiness in life, we are guaranteed that pursuit. What wealth redistribution does is destroy the need and desire to earn things. If someone doesn’t realize that the way for them to be truly happy is working for what they want rather than being given what they want, and we just give them what they want, is that cruel? Are we not robbing them of their pursuit of happiness?

So the reason why Pharrell is happy is because he earned his success. He’s clapping along because he’s built a name for himself in the fashion business and has launched clothing lines, a series of jewelry, and worked in furniture design. He’s also building a $35 million after school center in his hometown Virginia Beach, and started a charity for youth between the ages of 7 and 20 in at risk communities throughout the country. I bet that makes him happy, and provides help to those who can now achieve happiness for themselves.

I want all Americans to be happy. How do we achieve this? Let them earn success.

 

Citations: http://us-politics.yoexpert.com/politics-101/what-does-%22pursuit-of-happiness%22-mean-6600.html

The secret to happiness: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sDH4mzsQP0w

 

I Literally Do Not Care

Today I saw this shirt at Forever 21 while spending obscene amounts of money. I took a picture to send to my friend, who I thought would like it… if that pesky comma wasn’t there. Seriously, who designed this? Are they illiterate? But the terrible grammar isn’t the reason for this post. That kind of nonsense can be exposed in 140 characters or less.

While browsing the mall (the Mall of America, for anyone wondering) I thought more about the shirt. For the record, yes, I was there alone. When I shop, I am on a mission and cannot be distracted. Most of us could probably agree that Forever 21 is a nice store, unless you’re pretty upset about sweatshop stuff. The clothes are dirt cheap, which I am probably evil for taking advantage of. Apparently they’ve faced copyright lawsuits for stealing from designers, and have moved much of their labor to Asia after a suit against unfair labor practices. It’s hard to believe a lot of good stuff is going on over there when you can buy jeans for $5. But be honest, women of America, you’ve shopped there.

So, let’s say a girl buys this shirt. What would be the motivation behind the purchase? I would assume she wanted to buy it to look cool.

(Disclaimer: most of the thoughts I have about this concept are built on ideas from the fantastic book Not Cool, by Greg Gutfeld. Go read it.)

I think the shirt looks alright. The word “literally” isn’t a favorite of mine, even though dictionaries have recently added the informal definition of adding emphasis.794

But the message may be what a buyer thinks is most cool about the shirt. She wants to tell the world she doesn’t care! Don’t like her? She doesn’t care! Important test at school? She just doesn’t care! Everyone will see this shirt and think she is so awesome because it isn’t cool to care about test scores, or grades, or respect for authority. Maybe the shirt means “I don’t care what you think of me because I am going to do well in school, have hobbies that I enjoy regardless of your opinion, and succeed in life.” If it meant that to every wearer, I wouldn’t have anything to write about. But I don’t think it does. And this doesn’t only apply to the buyer– it applies to anyone who takes pride in indifference.

It’s no new thought that not caring is cool. However, my bet is that many of the girls who bought this care about equality for marriage. They are likely vocally concerned about misogyny, the environment, pollution, dolphin cancer, and rights of underrepresented transgender cats. Maybe not, but given how society is developing and how our generation thinks, one can safely assume they are worried about these hot topics. Is it accurate to say that indifference is still cool, when concern for popular issues is almost necessary?

I’m watching 21 Jump Street as I write this. They just got to school, and hot cop (I haven’t been paying enough attention to get names down) was instructing nerd cop on how to be cool. When he was in school, it was cool to not care about anything. So that is what he did– and ended up being accused of not caring about the environment, then punched a guy that got him in trouble for being “homophobic”. There’s no doubt that cool has changed, but what makes something cool to care about? Obviously the Forever 21 buyer doesn’t care that a kid in a sweatshop probably made their shirt. Maybe that’s the point of wearing it. What a statement! But how could you care about saving the whales and not ending abusive labor? Is it because you’d then have to pay an extra 10 bucks for a piece of fabric that says you don’t give a shit about doing homework or going to college?

To quote Gutfeld, “Real charity has no fanfare. Social consciousness, however, is often nothing but that.” This isn’t about charity, but regardless there is no fanfare to getting good grades. Maybe you can boast about it once you get accepted to a good college, but kids often have trouble thinking in the long term. Also, it takes real effort to get straight A’s and involve yourself in volunteer work and extra curricular activities for your application. Not a lot of work goes into showing up at the local marijuana march and passing around a potato packed with spice. Things that are truly worthwhile take effort. Studying is good for you. Walking down the street sucking god knows what out of a vegetable is probably not good for you. (Though all that walking really gets the blood flowing!)

When is it good to not care? I dig the punk mindset of not caring what people think of you. But by choosing what to care about because of what is trendy… that’s caring in itself. If you aren’t caring about it because it is trendy, are you not caring about something else because of what someone might think of you? If there is another reason aside from cool to slack off in school, I’d like to hear it. Laziness is real, but laziness is also funny. Which makes you pretty cool.

So to the people wearing this shirt or those eternally shrugging across the country: do you really not care? Literally? Or do you seek to send a message of selective indifference dictated by an unseen panel of hipster judges?