Super 8

I’m going to have a full post up on Super 8 when I have the time. For now, let me just say: please see this movie. If you liked The Goonies or E.T. or Alien you will like this film. Instant classic as far as I’m concerned. Exactly what I want in a movie.

A brief update

So, I may be writing about education around these parts a good deal more in coming weeks. This is because I have decided to change my beat at Forbes to an issue that, I admit, sits nearer and dearer to my heart: the War on Drugs and the militarization of our police.

Education is something I do care about a great deal, but it’s not something I can blog about on a daily basis. No-knock raids and the policies surrounding the drug war, on the other hand, are not only extremely important but also something I can write about with more regularity, and with a clearer sense of what is right and what is wrong.

The limits of campaign finance reform

Matt Yglesias makes a number of good points about campaign finance reform, money, and free speech:

My starting point is that the “money isn’t speech” mantra clearly has some real problems with it. It’s true that a law saying “Noam Chomsky can’t publish anymore books” isn’t the exact same thing as a law saying “Nobody can pay money to buy a Noam Chomsky book or donate money to non-profit institutions that employ Noam Chomsky.” But that’s still an effort to censor Noam Chomsky. Right? Money isn’t speech, but we’re talking about enacting regulations whose purpose is to limit people’s ability to disseminate Noam Chomsky’s ideas. Shifting the law to make it less Chomsky-focued makes it less unfair. We could have an even-handed rule prohibited the sale or financing of foreign policy commentary in general. But making the rule fair and agent-blind in that case also means it’s a more draconian censorship regime.


I will say is that even though you can’t just waive away free speech objections by saying that “money isn’t speech” you can certainly restrict the permitted activities of certain kinds of corporate forms. Least controversially (for now) a non-profit organization that wants to be eligible for tax-exempt status can’t be primarily engaged in political activities. That’s fine by me. Publicly traded corporations are already required to engage in lots of different kinds of financial disclosure, and beefing up disclosure requirements about political spending would be a very reasonable extension of that.

It’s important to note that money will find a way into politics one way or another. Citizens United didn’t open the floodgates for unlimited corporate cash. Those gates were largely open to begin with – if you could afford to jump through a few legal hoops. A lot of small players couldn’t, and Citizens United in many ways actually leveled the playing field.

The real problem with all of this is lack of transparency. I see no reason why anonymity should be protected. Speech, sure, but if Target is donating large sums of money to a group that wants to quash gay marriage, don’t you think Target should have to disclose that? We’re talking about public policy, and while I think speech should be fully protected when it comes to politics – including speech that comes at a financial cost – I don’t think it should all be done in secret.

We need a transparent political process both before and after elections.

Deregulatory Capture

Here’s Tim Lee:

Once a “private” company becomes deeply intertwined with the state, it can be difficult to ever fully separate them. Formally repealing state privileges may not fully undo the damage if the incumbent continues to enjoy the fruits of past favoritism. And incumbents can leverage their intimate knowledge of the regulatory process—and decades of political capital accumulated from past interaction with regulators—to twist facially neutral regulations into weapons against their competitors.

This means that deregulated incumbents like AT&T and Verizon may never become fully private entities. And so a truly free-market agenda requires more than just reflexively opposing all government interventions in the telecommunications market. The government is not monolithic. Sometimes (as with the AT&T breakup and theComputer Inquiries) one part of the government works to check the harmful policies of another.

This principle is complicated, and reasonable people are going to disagree about how best to apply it. But one of the most obvious ways to check the power of incumbents is by making sure they have plenty of competitors. Competitive markets make regulators’ jobs easier because they force companies to serve consumers well even when regulators aren’t watching. So if regulators see a nice, clean opportunity to preserve or expand competition, they should probably take advantage of it.

I’ve written about my concerns over “deregulatory capture” before, but I think Tim’s post sums those up much better. Read the whole thing.

I think this might also be a good case for breaking up the big banks. The political and financial capital they have accrued over the years makes them too impervious to both regulation and deregulation. Breaking them up would be a remedial step. The tough part is letting the competition flourish once it’s taken hold, and not succumbing to political pressure to implement new favoritism down the road.

What’s a Liberaltarian?

That’s the latest question asked of Reason’s Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch, the authors of the new libertarian manifesto, Declaration of Independents. They have an ongoing Youtube Q & A going on at Hit & Run.

They were also kind of enough to send me a review copy. It’s good so far, too! I’ll have more to say on it when I’m finished.

I think liberaltarianism is still the most likely political coalition going forward, or at least I hope so, as social conservatism fades, and free markets and technology continue to change the world for the better.

The Star Wars Extended Universe

Unlike Alyssa, I have not delved into the Star Wars expanded universe. Should I?

Also, did anyone watch the new Clone Wars animated series?

P.S. This is the extra-expanded Star Wars universe:

I never had any Star Wars Legos. Thankfully I have children who will someday have Star Wars Legos so that I can play with them.