Capturing A Pawn… By Sacrificing Your Queen

I’m of two minds about the Hobby Lobby decision.

It’s always good when a branch of the federal government acknowledges (in effect) freedom of conscience and choice. On the other hand, the possibility of these types of endless specialty niche carve-outs from what is a clear mandate of the law, seems to just tie commercial interests even more closely to a begging-for-favors scheme with the Feds.

And even worse, this is *bad law* and these kinds of small wins may actually be counter-productive. They may take what was a clear overreach into private exchange and commercial transaction decisions of individuals and organizations, and transform it into a measured step towards more central control and planning of our lives by government overseers.

People react to clear overreach, but measured steps in the wrong direction becomes like the frog in pot. Just a little more heat… Just a little more heat… Just a little more heat…

I know the legal fight to overturn this whole shebang as an illegitimate use of government authority already lost once and forcefully, but people should be guarded in their celebration of these subsequent “victories”. They may simply modify the enforcement of the legislation in a way that camouflages what a true disaster it really is.

Two Burger Trucks

So Seattle just passed a $15/hr minimum wage and my question is, are people really that stupid?

I’m not talking about understanding the economics of price floors, or shortages, dis-equilibria, or any complicated theory on the voter side. I’m saying that aside from all of that, you have to be working with the assumption that employers and employees are GARGANTUAN IDIOTS to think that a minimum wage is anything but nonsense.

Maybe a little parable would help… This isn’t about detailed economics, it’s about extremely simple small business finance.


Bob and I used to own two comparable burger food trucks. Both of our burgers were really good, and we found over time that at $5/burger we had solid lines from 11am to 11pm everyday. The only restraint on our total income was how many burgers we could make during those 12 hours, and what determined our “profit” was that total minus the cost of ingredients and the wage we paid to the cook. Continue reading

“King Of America” Does Have A Nice Ring To It!



(We) must do more than chase the vain illusion that someday a good and illuminated man will come to power. – ProReforma Campaign Brochure, Guatemala, 2009

I don’t know why this quote came to my mind this morning, but as I greeted Tax Day and started looking towards mid-term elections, 2016, and beyond, it seemed an apt reminder and warning. Good societies are built not on good people; they are built on good institutions.

The Rule of Law is arguably the most important institution and political tradition of Western Civilization. It allows us to hold each other accountable for our duties and commitments. It allows us to plan for our lives without surprise interference from our neighbors or a government official. It protects our lives and livelihoods from abuses of authority. It is an institution which enables progress towards equality in the only way that equality truly matters, in our dealings with a government which can and will use coercion to enforce its judgments. Like a referee on a sports field, judgments may be against an individual or on an individual’s behalf, but a rational expectation of consistent, rule-based treatment is a necessary condition of players in games and citizens in societies.

“Nothing distinguishes more clearly conditions in a free country from those in a country under arbitrary government than the observance in the former of the great principles known as the Rule of Law.” – F.A. Hayek, The Road to Serfdom (Chapter 6, “Planning and the Rule of Law”)

In short, if we know that government will enforce its judgments, the Rule of Law simply requires these judgments be Continue reading