You can’t wear those–they’re illegal

WASHINGTON–In the distant past, the Food and Drug Administration limited its tyrannical powers to dictating what citizens can and cannot ingest, but recently it has become more and more interested in dictating what citizens can and cannot wear.

On Monday, the FDA halted importation of decorative contact lenses that are sold without a prescription.  Contact lenses bearing sports logos or other unusual markings have become a popular and fun way to enhance Halloween costumes over the past few years, but this year goblins from the FDA will be on the prowl.

According to the FDA, decorative lenses are extremely popular at beach shops, where much cavorting is often spotted.  The FDA will also be targeting convenience stores and flea markets, where sellers of unapproved lenses can expect to have men with guns confiscate their inventory.  But the agency has blessed the prescription-only sale of some tamer versions of cosmetic contact lenses, said FDA Deputy Commissioner Lester Crawford.  Approved lenses come in exotic monochrome tints, such as blue.

Fun is not explicitly permitted by any FDA regulation.

Regulatory Knockout

Canada’s National Post published an op-ed by Capitalism Magazine’s own Mark Da Cunha on ImClone’s Sam Waksal titled, Regulatory Knockout. The byline reads: “Sam Waksal pleaded guilty in the ImClone scandal, but it wasn’t insider trading that destroyed shareholder wealth at the company, it was the FDA”

Culture Briefs

The October 15, 2002 edition of the Washington Post quoted a Capitalism Magazine article in their “Culture Briefs” section (Excerpts and quotes from the cultural war of words in publications around the nation):



BETTER THAN OTHERS


“Did Columbus ‘discover’ America? Yes — in every important respect. This does not mean that no human eye had been cast on America before Columbus arrived. It does mean that Columbus brought America to the attention of the civilized world, i.e., to the growing, scientific civilizations of Western Europe. The result, ultimately, was the United States of America.


“Prior to 1492, what is now the United States was sparsely inhabited, unused, and undeveloped. The inhabitants were primarily hunter-gatherers, wandering across the land, living from hand-to-mouth and from day-to-day. There was virtually no change, no growth for thousands of years. With rare exception, life was nasty, brutish, and short: there was no wheel, no written language, no division of labor, little agriculture and scant permanent settlement; but there were endless, bloody wars. Whatever the problems it brought, the vilified Western culture also brought enormous, undreamed-of benefits, without which most of today’s Indians would be infinitely poorer or not even alive.


“Some cultures are better than others: a free society is better than slavery; reason is better than brute force as a way to deal with other men; productivity is better than stagnation. In fact, Western civilization stands for man at his best.”



–Michael Berliner, writing on “Did Christopher Columbus ‘Discover’ America?” Thursday in Capitalism Magazine at www.capmag.com

Jimmy’s Appeasement Prize

Today Jimmy Carter has joined the ‘illustrious’ ranks of terrorists like Arafat by his being awarded the Noble “Peace” prize. According to the chairman of the Norwegian Nobel committee, Gunnar Berge, Mr. Carter’s selection “must be interpreted as a criticism of the present U.S. administration.” Now this is enough make me nauseous.


What wanted to make me throw up was Larry King’s second-handed comment praising Carter, which he regurgitated approvingly: “Someone once said about you, President Carter, you’re the only man in history to use the American presidency as a steppingstone to greatness.” As if an award that recognizes the “achievements” of a terrorist and cold-blooded killer like Arafat is greater than an office held by men like Jefferson, Adams, and Washington. Where is my bucket?


On the bright side, I can imagine what Bill Clinton is saying to himself: “That should be me, and not that grinning buffoon. Arafat should have accepted those terms when I handed Israel to him on a silver platter. It should be me up there. That prize is mine.”

The Aristocracy of the Couch Potato

YOUR LIVING ROOM–Many Americans harbor a general feeling of anxiety about the US government–as if something is definitely wrong, yet they can’t quite identify how to fix it. But cable channel FX has. The problem, according to FX’s president of entertainment Kevin Reilly, is that the nation’s abundant resource of lazy, catatonic, couch potatoes (mostly found in the fly-over states and more littered neighborhoods of major cities) hasn’t been adequately utilized.

But that will all change when FX introduces its new series, “American Candidate” in early 2003. “Hopefully, we’ll find some very qualified civil servant who lacks a power base and maybe also a plumber from Detroit who (tells) it like it is,” Reilly explained. Riding a (second-handed) high from the success of “American Idol,” a reality-based television series that recently adorned an aspiring 20-year old singer with national fame, producers at FX hope to coax the country’s television addicts into nominating a presidential candidate for the 2004 election. A panel of “experts” will choose the first 100 show participants, who will deliver drippy speeches, compete in whinny debates, and regurgitate meaningless clichés in response to loaded questions. Winners will then be selected via audience response and telephone/internet voting. All of this fanfare will culminate in a live show from the National Mall in Washington, where the “people’s candidate” will be chosen.

There are still some small islands in the Pacific that can be purchased from their governments at a reasonable price.

{Thanks to Justin Wheeler for shooting straight and speaking the truth.}

White British Woman Rails Against White Zimbabweans

Even I am amazed at what some “people” will go through to justify a “free lunch” obtained involuntarily at someone else’s expense, i.e., theft. According to the UK Telegraph:



A white British woman who formerly worked as a local government officer in Essex is the latest and most unlikely beneficiary of Robert Mugabe’s land-grab policy in Zimbabwe. Anne Matonga and her black Zimbabwean husband, Bright, have been given possession of a 1,500-acre farm after it was seized from a white farmer on the orders of the President. Mrs Matonga’s new home, which the farmer and his family had lived on for four generations, is a reward for her husband’s support of Mugabe, whose dictatorial policies are responsible for Zimbabwe being ostracised by much of the outside world.


…Despite moving to Zimbabwe only last year after a lifetime in Britain, Mrs Matonga last week spoke angrily, and without a hint of irony, against the “white colonialists who stole our land”…After delivering her diatribe, Mrs Matonga returned to supervising the crop of roses that had been planted earlier this year by Mr and Mrs Schultz…


…Mr Schultz had been arrested by the police for defying the eviction order only minutes before. “Mrs Matonga was screaming at me: ‘Get off our land: we are taking back what you stole from our forefathers’,” said Mrs Schultz. “I thought it was a remarkable thing for her to say since she was clearly white and British.” Mr Schultz, 57, is now virtually penniless.

The U.S. Should Withdraw from the Geneva Convention

IRVINE, CA–The investigation of a marine for the suspected “crime” of killing an unarmed Iraqi terrorist is a moral and judicial travesty, said Dr. Yaron Brook, executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute.


“The accused marine was completely right to kill a terrorist who he suspected was setting up a booby-trap by faking death–a common terrorist technique used in Iraq. For the marine to do otherwise would have been to risk his life and the lives of his fellow marines to preserve a committed murderer. Yet this is exactly what the U.S. government says he should have done, in the name of the ‘rules of war’ of the Geneva Convention.”


“Throughout the War on Terrorism,” explained Dr. Brook, “America has sacrificed its military objectives and the safety of its soldiers in the name of adhering to the Geneva Convention accords, which are based on so-called Just War Theory. Monsters like Osama bin-Laden and his deputies are still alive because we hesitated to bomb them out of their hideouts, for fear of hitting so-called innocents. Hundreds of American soldiers have died unnecessarily due to crippling rules of engagement requiring them to place the lives of Iraqi civilians above their own.”


“Now,” said Dr. Brook, “we are telling our soldiers that if they kill a terrorist who happens to be wounded or unarmed, they could be court-martialed!”


“America must assert its right to defend its citizens–including its soldiers–by any means necessary,” said Dr. Brook. “And as a first order of business, we must withdraw from the suicide pact that is the Geneva Convention.”

Spamming for Freedom

For anyone looking to defend property rights and make money at the same time, here’s an interesting business model I discovered: 



The Tabloids, an Oakland-based rock band… recently launched stopnapster.com, urging people to sabotage Napster by mislabeling songs posted to the site. Music entrepreneurs and Internet saboteurs have already started circulating fake versions of popular songs on Napster. 

Stopnapster.com also calls for releasing songs into Napster that have anti-piracy speeches inserted randomly into the music. For instance, you may be listening to Eminem when suddenly Charlton Heston begins reading a public interest message opposing song theft…  “We’re looking at the big picture here. Intellectual property is intellectual freedom,” says Michael Robinson, the band’s leader, a freelance writer and a marketing consultant. “The U.S. Constitution and the Internet are on a collision course. We don’t want our rights ripped off,” he adds. The Tabloids seek government regulation of technologies like Napster’s.  (From Digital Music Weekly,

You could probably get this funded as an Internet business model. Get permission from bands to use their songs, and thirty seconds in start mixing in voiceovers of interviews with the band, etc. Then create all kinds of bogus music servers and spam the hell out of Napster, Gnutella, etc. with the fake mp3s. (Actually, I hear the Nettwerk label just did this with the new Barenaked Ladies single.) 

The band gets advertising and fights theft, you make a little money selling the ads, and the Net gets clogged with so much music spam that it gets difficult and costly to find intact pirated tracks. If Napster raises technical barriers, you have a financial incentive to overcome them. And the pirates can’t very well call on the law to protect them, can they? 

Personally, I find something deliciously satisfying in the image of some young thug, smugly expecting to marinate his brain in the latest Eminem tirade he’s swiped off the net, getting an earful of Charlton Heston.

How to Achieve Real Campaign Finance Reform

By Edwin A. Locke

The U. S. House of Representative is again debating campaign finance reform legislation. The proximate cause of this debate being brought to the floor now is the Enron scandal, including the fact that the company gave large amounts of money to politicians from both major parties. The deeper cause is the increasing disgust the American people have come to feel about the unprincipled manner in which our legislative process is conducted. The process, in essence, is that swarms of lobbyists descend like locusts on Washington, demanding special favors in return for campaign contributions. It is claimed that the ultimate culprit in this mess is money (“wealthy special-interest groups”). This claim is false. “Moneyed interests” are only a symptom of a deeper cause. The corruption is caused not by material wealth but by spiritual poverty. It is caused by a bankrupt philosophical premise: the concept of the “public interest.”

Let us see how this premise operates in practice. Imagine that you are an honest, idealistic congressman just elected to office. On your first day, you are accosted by four lobbyists. The first demands a tariff increase on certain imports to “protect” his group’s industry–which, he claims, serves the public. The second lobbyist asserts that it will benefit the public if his group gets a subsidy to help its members survive in a “brutally competitive” market. The third insists that it will help the public if members of his group are given license to be the exclusive providers of a certain service. The fourth says the public will be better off if unions are made illegal in his industry. The next day, a new group of lobbyists asks you for favors. These requests often conflict with those demanded by the first group, but are just as fervently presented as being in the “public interest.”

How then do you decide what to do? If an auto-industry spokesman argues for import tariffs on cars to protect the jobs of hundreds of thousands of workers, and an auto-dealer association argues for no tariffs in order to give hundreds of thousands of buyers lower prices, which group, in this case, is the “public”? Both and neither. You realize that “the public” is not an actual entity but only a collection of individuals. So which individuals, in any given case, should get what they want and at whose expense? There is no way to tell–anyone can claim to be the public on any issue. In dismay you recognize that “the public interest” has no objective meaning. It is empty rhetoric.

Politics abhors a vacuum, and when there are no coherent moral principles to guide action, the void is filled by pressure-group warfare. The winner of any given battle is decided by such arbitrary factors as which group is bigger, richer, better connected (e.g., to the White House), or more attuned to the latest media hype or political tide. In practice, the principle of the “public interest” leads to a political war of all against all in which some individuals are sacrificed for the benefit of others. This mess is known as the “mixed” economy. (There are, of course, some principled lobbyists who seek, not special privileges, but simply the right to be left alone–but their pleas fall on unprincipled ears.)

All this leads to widespread cynicism and demands for “campaign finance reform”–but it cannot work. To think that you can eliminate the cause–philosophical bankruptcy–by limiting its effects–the buying and selling of favors–is to think that you can eradicate mental illness by limiting the number of beds in mental hospitals. Real campaign finance reform requires philosophical reform. We must discard the notion of the “public interest” and replace it with the proper principle: individual rights, which means the freedom of each individual to pursue his own interests as long as he does not coerce or defraud others. This means: replace the mixed economy with real capitalism–no tariffs, no subsidies, no protection from competition, no favors.

How would such a system work in practice? Consider the recent hoopla over steel imports. It is reported that Bush is being pressured by some 50 different groups to either pass or not pass legislation that would put tariffs on steel imports or to ban some imports altogether. Which side will win? No one knows; probably the side that makes the most noise or has the most votes. But all this begging of favors could be eliminated on the spot if Bush simply articulated one simple principle: what buyers and sellers of steel do is none of the government’s business and I will take no part in interfering with the free market. End of lobbying; end of favor-seeking. No lobbyists would bother to show up at the White House or in Congress because no one would have anything to sell.

Only when politicians have no power to offer other men’s property–and their own souls–for sale in the name of the “public interest” will we have true “campaign finance” reform.

Edwin A. Locke, Dean’s Professor Emeritus of Leadership and Motivation at the University of Maryland at College Park, is a senior writer for the Ayn Rand Institute. The Institute promotes the philosophy of Ayn Rand, author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead.