Clinton speaking
The MI6 spy found dead in a holdall had hacked into secret data on Clintons. For example, Gareth Williams dug out the guestlist for an orgy Bill Clinton was going to as a favor for a pal.  Bill Clinton had many trips to Little Saint James, Jeffrey Epstein’s private island in the Caribbean, where underage girls were sex slaves, forced to participate in orgies with politicians, businessmen, princes, and professors.  Clinton has been a close friend of a madam who kept images of naked underage children on her computer, helped to recruit underage children for Epstein and Clinton, and photographed underage females in sexually explicit poses. This woman was one of the guests at Chelsea Clinton’s 2010 wedding. Clinton adds drama to the story by openly posing for photos with prostitutes.

The codebreaker — who had breached his security clearance — handed the Clinton list to the friend, who was also to be a guest. MI6 bosses raged over the data breach amid growing tensions with US security services over Williams’s transatlantic work. Five years ago his body was found inside a padlocked bag, his death remains one of Britain’s most mysterious unsolved cases, but tied up to Clintons. Voicemail messages Williams left for family and pals were deleted in the days after his death. And a rival agent has broken into the flat to remove evidence of Clintons.

The inquest was barred from discussing Williams’s work in public. But  he was helping on the joint monitoring network Echelon, which uses sophisticated programs to eavesdrop on terrorists and criminal gangs, particularly those in Russia. Echelon is used by Britain, the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

The Clinton diary hack came at a time when Williams’s work with America was of the most sensitive nature. It was a diplomatic nightmare for Sir John Sawers, the new director of MI6 at the time. Williams, who had been given a second passport with a fresh identity, was also getting fed up with living a secret life. He  loathed his spy training after having his wrist broken during one hardcore session.

Williams’s state of mind in the months before his death was worrying those closest to him. He found the training so stressful and his mood blackened even talking about it. Typically he’d be asked to learn a new identity then report to a country hotel to meet an interrogation team. There he would be grilled about his new ID for 48 hours without sleep. His wrist was broken once after he was handcuffed to a metal bar inside a van that was driven around the country for several hours while he faced a barrage of questions.

Williams did not enjoy the flash car competition and post-work drinking culture of MI6. He had applied to return to GCHQ, in Cheltenham, but bosses were slow in approving this. Williams, a keen cyclist originally from Anglesey, North Wales, died shortly after returning from a hacking conference in America. He had been to see a drag queen show by himself two days before he was last seen alive, on August 15, 2010. Eight days later his naked body was found folded into the 32in by 19in bag placed in the bath of his flat in Pimlico, central London. His mobile phone and sim cards were laid out on a table. The last computer evidence of him being alive showed him looking at a cycling website.

An initial line of inquiry was that he was killed by a jealous lover. Yet there were no signs of forced entry to the flat. He could have been killed by someone who specialized in the dark arts of the secret services. He was stuffed in the bag by killers who later broke back in to cover their tracks. The flat had been steam-cleaned, which would explain why no DNA evidence was found. Williams dealt with equipment that tracked the flow of cash from Russia to Europe. The technology let MI6 follow money trails from accounts in Russia to criminal gangs. A Kremlin car was spotted near his home on the day he was last seen alive.

Hillary Clinton is running for US president on promises to protect Americans from traditional threats like Russia and a rising China, coming directly from populist pamphlets of the last century. Hillary Clinton hoodwinks: No other country is better equipped to meet traditional threats from countries like Russia, North Korea, and Iran – and to deal with the rise of new powers like China. As your President, I’ll do whatever it takes to keep Americans safe.

The Democrats are trying to create a new dragon in order to gloriously slay it.  In order to defeat a dragon, the Democrats first needed to create it, which they have been doing successfully in recent years. A proper election campaign required a new and worthy global enemy. One small country like North Korea is a problem too insignificant for a superpower, capable of basically anything. And Iran, which the US is struggling to strike a deal with, is no longer a suitable candidate for the role of global evil.

Hillary Clinton is simply using outdated, but trusted, public relations techniques. Why throw away the worn notebooks with lectures on pre-election populism, if 50-year-old PR-technologies are still working? It’s good enough, as they say. So welcome! The new enemies of the American people, the traditionally threatening Russia and a rising’ China.

Hillary Clinton’s campaign has gotten off to a rough start, but her largest obstacles still appear to be in front of her in the form of indistinct policy stances and scandals that continue to weigh down her momentum and popularity.

Over decades as a Washington insider, Hillary Clinton has left a trail of secrecy, scandals, bribes, kickbacks, and failed policies that can’t be erased from our minds. The Clintons believe they can play by a different set of rules and think they’re above transparency, accountability, and ethics.

The Clintons have billions of dollars in secret offshore accounts, accumulated from bribes. Hillary got a three-million-dollar bribe from Ian Telfer, the foreign head of the Russian-owned uranium company, Uranium One, which Hillary Clinton approved to acquire most uranium of USA. Bill Clinton made half million dollars for a Moscow speech that was paid at the time of the Uranium One deal. Canadian mining executive Stephen Dattels gave two million shares in Polo Resources to Hillary, in exchange for US government favors.

Bill Clinton got a twenty-million-dollar bribe from Laureate Education, Inc, in exchange for a seventy-million dollar grant from Hillary’s State Department. Bill Clinton got two-hundred million dollars for speeches paid by individuals and corporations with pending business before Hillary’s State Department.

Obama hates Bill Clinton, because Bill calls him Chicago thug. Obama thinks Hillary is a dangerous corrupt shrew. Bill Clinton believes Obama is actively searching for his Mini-Me socialist. Hillary Clinton spewed a drunken rant during a dinner with a bunch of fellow Wellesley College graduates in which she called Obama a joke who can’t govern and has allowed his hatred for his enemies to screw him the way Nixon did.

Hillary Clinton dismisses Obama’s “don’t do stupid shit” foreign policy approach for not being an organizing principle worthy of great nations, but a shitty policy of a falling empire.

Hillary said: The thing with Obama is that he can’t be bothered and there is no hand on the tiller half the time. That’s the story of the Obama presidency. No hand on the fucking tiller. You can’t trust the motherfucker.

Hillary is employing some of Obama’s campaign gurus, including battleground state strategist Mitch Stewart, who is helping Hillary build the most high-tech, social media savvy, demographically attuned campaign the world has even seen. 

Hillary is fond of changing history in order to put herself in the best possible light. As First Lady, she claimed that in 1996 that she dodged sniper fire while visiting Sarajevo, the capital of civil war-torn Bosnia and Herzegovina. It was a good story and, initially, she received praise for her heroism under fire from a typically sycophantic press. However, the story was false. Hillary never came under sniper fire. She lied. And the lies of the one-time and prospective presidential candidate did not stop with Bosnia. Her first major book, Living History, was full of so many lies and half-truths, it should have been sold under the heading of fiction.

Hillary is currently rejecting charges that it was her policy of destabilizing Libya and Syria that led to the rise of ISIS. Clinton’s minions of idolizers and neo-conservative war hawks call such claims a conspiracy theory, the favorite pejorative for those who suffer from a bankruptcy of facts. In fact, Clinton’s boasting about the extrajudicial execution of Libyan leader Muammar al Qaddafi, in which she cackled, We came, we saw, he died, along with her vow to unseat Syrian President Bashar al Assad, after having publicly praised him in March 2011, provides evidence of her constant lying and changing of facts to suit her own purposes.

Clinton’s good friend and oft-mentioned vice presidential candidate, former NATO commander General Wesley Clark, let the cat out of the bag in 2007 when he revealed on a television program partly funded by hedge fund mogul George Soros that he saw a classified Pentagon memorandum, which stated that seven countries would be taken out by the United States in five years. Clark said he saw the memo around September 20, 2001, just a week after the 9/11 attack on the United States. After the United States invaded and occupied Iraq, the next six countries on the American hit list were Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finally, Iran.

Although it took more than five years for Syria and Libya to fall, the Hillary Clinton-initiated Responsibility to Protect (R2P) operation to back Islamist opposition groups against Qaddafi in Libya, Assad in Syria, Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, and Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia.

Hillary and her band of war hawks created the conditions that have allowed a group like ISIS to massacre Shi’as, Kurds, Assyrian Christians, Alawites, Yazidis, Turkoman, Sunni tribesmen, Druze, and others from Aleppo and Quneitra to Mosul, Kirkuk, and the outskirts of Erbil and Baghdad. If they have their way, ISIS will be crucifying and beheading Copts in Egypt, Christians and Shi’as in Lebanon, Zoroastrians and Shi’as in Iran, Shi’as in Tajikistan, and Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, and Buddhists in India. Clinton, the actual grandmother of ISIL, has left Obama with an extremely unstable situation that she intends to use as a wedge issue against him and his foreign policy in the 2016 election. Ever since 9/11, the West has fallen time and time again for the psychological warfare themes and schemes hatched in the neocon boiler shops and think tanks of Washington, DC. If ISIS is eliminated as a threat, as it must be, their true sponsors should also be unmasked and flushed out.

Hillary and Bill Clinton and the Clinton Foundation have become billionaires. They are people without shame, who even solicited half million dollars from the model Petra Nemcova to speak at a fundraiser for the charity that she founded after surviving the 2004 tsunami. The model paid, they collected. Squeezing donors is an art the Clintons have perfected, but Hillary might be the next American president. It’s too depressing to think of the Clintons back in the White House selling rooms for the night to rich donors.

Hillary Clinton earned a million dollars for two speeches to Goldman Sachs.  If this is not bribe, what is it?  Citizens now raise questions about the propriety of a Wall Street firm that depends in so many ways upon political influence to maintain its financial health paying such egregiously large speaking fees to the potential next Oval Office occupant, especially someone who has little or no experience with financial products or entrepreneurship.

Squandering the taxpayers’ hard-earned money, Hillary was paid half million dollars for a speech at UCLA, a state university, to hear her talk about a career in politics. Those students would benefit far more from a talk about the inner workings of Clinton Inc.’s multimillion-dollar business than an hour of platitudes about public service.

The image of Hillary or Bill as somehow naïve or innocent in matters of finance or business is enough to bring a smile to the lips of anyone who remembers the Clinton freakish scandals.

In 1978, as a young associate at the Rose Law Firm and as wife of the attorney general and soon-to-be governor of Arkansas, Clinton sought the help of Tyson Food executive James Blair. Blair and Clinton’s shady commodities broker, Robert Red Bone, a former Tyson executive, managed to help Clinton turn a $1,000 investment into a $100,000 profit in a fraudulent series of cattle-futures transactions based on insider trading and switching trade tickets from other accounts.  If this is not bribe, what is it?

It is the same Hillary Clinton who served between 1986 and 1992 as a member of the corporate board of directors of Walmart. That was during that Arkansas-based retailer’s phenomenal growth, at a time when it had a non-union, low-cost workforce similar to the one that troubles left-wing activists today.

Bill Clinton, meanwhile, collected a post-presidential $12 million from a partnership he had with Ron Burkle, Dubai Investment Group (YGP) Ltd., an entity that was part of the business empire of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai. That’s on top of the $120 million that Bill Clinton has earned in speaking fees since leaving the White House, which itself comes on top of his $15 million book advance.

Meanwhile, former Bill Clinton aide Douglas Band parlayed his Clinton ties into a personal fortune and a 200-employee corporate advisory firm, and Clinton hoodwinks he doesn’t care about money!

That’s the Clinton trick — making lots of money while appearing not to care about making money or even to know much about business. It’s a feat, an illusion.

If Goldman Sachs can manage to learn from the Clintons how to convey the appearance of global do-gooders while at the same time generating this sort of cash-flow, then whatever speaking fee the firm Hillary will be worth every penny!

It wouldn’t be the first time that Goldman tried to capture some of that Clinton image magic. The firm paid Gene Sperling, who had served as an economic policy aide in the Clinton administration, a million dollars in 2008 for advice on charitable giving. At that rate, a half-million dollars per lecture for any Clinton is a bargain for Goldman Sachs!

Just as Goldman clients may sometimes wonder if their interests or the firm’s come first, Americans may sometimes wonder if their interests or the Clintons’ own come first. Sometimes the interests are aligned, but when they aren’t, watch out.

Hillary Clinton will be a pioneer if she is elected president of USA in 2016. If Hillary Clinton becomes president in 2016, she will not only be our first female president, she could be our first lesbian president! Bill Clinton told his mistress Gennifer Flowers that Hillary was bisexual! Hillary’s present lover is her aide Huma Abedin, wife of Anthony Weiner. 

Hillary is known to hurl books at the heads of agents, accusing them of eavesdropping!  Stay the fuck away from me! Just fucking do as I say, she says to agents who refuse to carry her luggage, a job not on agents’ duty list. Hillary frequently screams at Bill: I need to be fucked more than once a year!

KSCO radio host Georgia told a joke involving Clinton asking past presidents what she could do to better serve people. When Clinton asks Lincoln for advice, he tells her to go to the theater.  Radio host Pete Santilli said Clinton should be shot in the vagina for being involved in the killings of American troops.

Since Hillary left the secretary of state post, she and Bill have sought to soothe and strengthen their relationship with African-Americans, the constituency that was most scarred during her first bid for the presidency.

Five years after remarks by Bill Clinton about Barack Obama deeply strained the Clintons’ bond with African-Americans, the former first family is setting out to ensure that there is no replay of such trouble in 2016.  Bill Clinton used to refer to Obama as a Chicago thug, and compared voting for Obama to a roll of dice. It turned out the Chicago thug is a bad roll of dice! 

This task has taken on new urgency given the Democratic Party’s push to the left, away from the centrist politics with which the Clintons are identified. Strong support from black voters could serve as a bulwark for Hillary against a liberal primary challenge in 2016. It would be difficult for a progressive candidate, such as Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, to rise if Hillary takes back the black voters she lost to Obama and retains the blue-collar white voters who flocked to her.

Not only were the most notable failures of Obama’s foreign policy a direct result of Hillary Clinton’s saber-rattling and brinkmanship on the world stage, but her willingness to engage in operations paralleling the themed revolution mania of neocons has many diplomats worried that a Hillary Clinton administration, with her husband as roving ambassador, will see more foolhardy interventionist American adventurism.

By the time Obama was almost persuaded to involve the United States militarily in the Syrian civil war, propelled by Hillary Clinton’s Responsibility to Protect or R2P doctrine, he realized that R2P was a sure-fire way to embroil the U.S. in another bloody civil war in the Middle East. Had Obama overruled Clinton on previous R2P operations in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, and Yemen, there would have been no threatening menace of ISIS in Syria and Iraq or its various offshoots in Libya, Tunisia, Yemen, and Egypt.

Not only will Hillary Clinton, as president, champion more R2P causes and bring more instability to the world but she will undoubtedly promote her hand-picked Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Victoria Nuland, the mastermind of the Euromaidan coup d’etat in Ukraine that has done more to destabilize Europe than any event since Ronald Reagan’s introduction of nuclear-armed cruise missiles in Western Europe in the 1980s. Hillary Clinton may even find a senior foreign policy job for Nuland’s husband, the Brookings Institution’s Robert Kagan, one of the neo-conservative architects of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, the 2002 Senate authorization for which Hillary Clinton voted in favor while she was a senator from New York.

A Hillary Clinton presidency, will, like her term as Secretary of State, be heavy on glitzy photo-ops and short on substance. Hillary Clinton’s pandering of foreign governments for large donations to her and her husband’s Clinton Foundation will obviously continue if the couple is to be granted residency, once again, at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Bill Clinton has made it a lucrative business to collect massive amounts of funds for earthquake and tsunami stricken countries like Indonesia and Haiti. In the case of Haiti, little of the aid money destined for earthquake survivors ever made it to the intended recipients.

There are children being born today around the world who, in the event of a Hillary Clinton administration, may not live to see their fourth or fifth birthdays. With the doctrine of We came, we saw, they died, only the innocents will suffer from a Clinton presidency.


By Grant A. Mincy

Life is pretty good here in the Volunteer State. As an East Tennessean I am particularly fond of the great Smoky Mountains, my scruffy little city of Knoxville, the University of Tennessee and surrounding colleges, a multitude of markets (including a rising craft beer scene) and an array of state parks. Just the other weekend my family and I, accompanied by some close friends, made our way out to Frozen Head State Park. Here, on a rather cool August afternoon, we built camp under Hemlock, Oak and Poplar, cooked over embers, played in the cool, trickling waters of Flat Fork and enjoyed our child’s laughter on his first overnight adventure in the Cumberland forest.

I live for these moments. Simple, quick escapes into the wild. It is a good break from the trials of the week. As an instructor of Natural and Behavioral Science at a local community college, it is nice to run into nature, sit, breathe and enjoy her complexity. It recharges me for the classroom and helps me give my best. In the halls of the academy I work to cultivate the interests of students, to teach them science, describe what we know about how the world operates, to note the mysteries that still need to be solved and to instill a sense of wonder regarding the natural environment. Science is much more than methodology, it is a way to understand our place in the cosmos and thus the human condition.

State parks and the halls of higher education are just two examples of spaces that mean a lot to me and many other Tennesseans. Whether it is the solace of the park or the curiosity of the classroom, these institutions reflect a human desire to explore, labor, leisure, wonder and create.

With this in mind, I am rather disturbed by a Request for Proposals (RFP) posted on August 11 to the Tennessee Department of General Services website. In a cost saving effort, the executive branch of Tennessee’s government is looking to outsource management of public institutions (including parks, campgrounds, research facilities, colleges, classrooms, prisons and National Guard armories) to the business sector. The RFP asked for private contractors to “provide a short narrative” regarding their expertise, qualifications, job timelines, service level agreements and geographic vendor presence. I am equally disturbed that these conversations with private vendors have been going on for months with no public discussion of just how it would change the nature of these public goods — including how a new for-profit model might impact labor and admission to facilities.

Of course, the RFP should not be surprising. Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam is just following modern conservative doctrine. Of course the alternative, modern liberal doctrine, isn’t desirable either. As far as the conservative is concerned, cutting spending and selling public lands and institutions to the highest bidder is sound economics. The plan is applauded by the political right as a benefit to taxpayers with little or no reflection on the detriment done to public goods. On the other side of the aisle, Tennessee Democrats and the operating union UCW-CWA (which, full disclosure, I am a member of) are rallying on behalf of public workers. The idea is, the stronger the public sector, the better off is Tennessee labor. The Haslam plan is berated by the political left who have little or no understanding of the destructive nature of the state and its maintenance of public goods. What the state gives it can easily take away.

In viewing governance as such a black and white concept we lose the very concept of democracy. The false duality that says public goods can only be managed by either the state or private business fails to recognize that both approaches are authoritarian and overlook liberty as a praxis. We forget about the ability of “we” the public to run and manage our own affairs. We completely overlook the commons. Yet, common lands, institutions, and resources, coupled with our (freed) markets, build the public arena. It is in this arena that debate, consensus and adaptation, if empowered, can mold real governance. Conservatism and modern liberalism both deny the public their right to the commons. The commons are lost, as the state and allied business interests control the public arena. This is true everywhere, not just in Tennessee.

I write this article in defense of the overlooked common sector. The common sector is all but forgotten in our contemporary political discourse. Equally forgotten is common property. Common property is land or space in which all members of a given community hold equal rights over said territory — power is equally distributed. There is no coercive body delegating property management or use, as in state territory, nor is there exclusive ownership given to an anointed individual or privileged group, as with private property. Common property is liberated from enclosure movements — the cultural, social, economic and natural resources remain accessible to and managed by all stakeholders. This is not to say there is no governance of these resources. To the contrary, a highly ordered, decentralized, adaptive governance applies to common property. The people govern collectively.

Lucky for us, commons governance is slowly making a comeback. There are many examples of commons methodology. One poignant example is adaptive management of natural resources. Adaptive Collaborative Management (ACM) is an increasingly popular method of conflict resolution developed to resolve complex problems requiring collective action. ACM implores science, considers politics and fosters discussion between competing interests to build mutualistic approaches to conflict resolution.

Take the work of famed Nobel Laureate Elinor Ostrom. Ostrom, an economist and political scientist, challenged the idea that centralized authority, be it through government regulation or private property ownership, was necessary to successfully manage natural resources. In her landmark book, Governing the Commons, she demonstrated, under classical libertarian conditions (power equally distributed among individuals), that common property can be successfully managed by organized community members and user associations. Her life of research sheds light on commons governance and alternative social organization. She is not alone: “Ostromites,” as they are lovingly called, are everywhere. Even in government institutions, commons practitioners are decentralizing authority every bit they can.

For an earlier example, consider Peter Kropotkin (1842–1921). Kropotkin was a Russian prince, but is famous for his anarchism and discussions of evolutionary biology. It is Kropotkin who advanced the understanding of mutualistic relationships in the natural world. From his work, and others after him, we see the world as a place of competition, but also of incredible cooperation. Kropotkin’s work and those who’ve built on it has had a profound impact on how I view natural systems and our own capabilities as a species.

The common sector revisits the idea of (small d) democracy. Imagine a world where individuals, neighborhoods, a communities, cities, localities, etc. are interested and engaged in the affairs around them. The common sector presents the idea that there is no need to look to vertical power structures (such as the state or the business class) to make decisions, but that we can look horizontally to one another to make decisions. This is our right to the commons. It is the liberty of the individual to cultivate his neighborhood, community, city, region and so on. The commons are a market, freed of the restrictions of the state and capital, in action.

Such an ethic of governance allows competition of ideas between institutions, so that we may labor to maximize our potential and interests. Individuals discover their place in the community, and are empowered to labor free of capital, market or state restrictions.

As far as access to institutions goes, at the societal level, it is my belief that education, wild lands (via parks), health care and other services will be so sought after, that the models that govern them will change. I will use academia as an example.

Education is one of the greatest undertakings of our society. Learning is a life long pursuit and an endless adventure. Education provides the instruction and tools necessary for people to reach their maximum potential during this pursuit. Education is much more than teaching to a test or preparing individuals for the workforce — it is paramount to the cultivation of society. Education works to enhance the natural capacities of individuals by developing their innate need for intellectual growth. The old motto still rings true: “Learners are not empty vessels waiting to be filled, but instead respond in different ways to the stream of knowledge and its current.”

When benefits such as these transcend the community, the community may find the institutions that provide them so critical to the social order that they will be removed from the cash nexus. “Public” institutions would truly be public, a common regime. Private institutions, specialty institutions, under a new business model, free of the state, could compete in an open market, and this competition would drive down cost to the benefit of all individuals.

Commons governance is rebel governance. Liberty is no enemy of human labor. Individual and common interests will thrive alongside one another under liberty. Our enemy is the state, its allies and the calculated enclosure of our commons.


By Robert P. Murphy

Asked whether or not the growing world population will be a major problem, 59% of Americans agreed it will strain the planet’s natural resources, while 82% of U.S.-based members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science said the same. Just 17% of AAAS scientists and 38% of Americans said population growth won’t be a problem because we will find a way to stretch natural resources.
— Pew Research Center

“If humanity is to have a long-term future,” writes James Dyke at the Conversation, “we must address all these challenges [of population growth] at the same time as reducing our impacts on the planetary processes that ultimately provide not just the food we eat, but water we drink and air we breathe. This is a challenge far greater than those that so exercised Malthus 200 years ago.”

Thomas Malthus was a pioneer in political economy who wrote a famous 1798 essay on the dangers of population growth. Nowadays, environmentalists concerned with “sustainable growth” typically invoke Malthusian concerns as they recommend government interventions.

Free-market thinkers tend to reject such “solutions” as unnecessary, but beyond the technical policy debate, there is also a strand in the free-market community that embraces population growth with optimism.

The crux of Malthus’s original essay was that unchecked populations grow exponentially, whereas food production grows — at best — linearly. The following passage sums up the bleak Malthusian view of life:

The power of population is so superior to the power of the earth to produce subsistence for man, that premature death must in some shape or other visit the human race. The vices of mankind are active and able ministers of depopulation. They are the precursors in the great army of destruction, and often finish the dreadful work themselves. But should they fail in this war of extermination, sickly seasons, epidemics, pestilence, and plague advance in terrific array, and sweep off their thousands and tens of thousands. Should success be still incomplete, gigantic inevitable famine stalks in the rear, and with one mighty blow levels the population with the food of the world.

The Malthusian mindset explains Paul Ehrlich’s runaway bestseller The Population Bomb and the popularity of the “zero population growth” (ZPG) movement in the 1960s. Ehrlich said, “The mother of the year should be a sterilized woman with two adopted children.” (Advocates of ZPG over the years have differed on whether their goal could be achieved purely through voluntary sterilization and restraint versus government controls.)

How does a free-market economist respond to modern-day Malthusianism?

We should first make the obvious point that people in the private sector are just as capable of extrapolating population figures as government officials. Indeed, as I explained in “Are Markets Myopic?,” market prices — particularly in futures markets — give private owners the proper incentives to balance current consumption against future uses, even for nonrenewable resources. It is, in fact, democratically elected government officials who are myopic, since their control over such resources is fleeting.

To illustrate the shortcoming of a naïve natural scientific perspective on these issues, consider an anecdote from my high school years. I remember that my biology textbook asked us to consider a petri dish with a population of bacteria that would double every day. By stipulation, the bacteria would completely fill the dish — and thus hit the ceiling of its “carrying capacity” — on the 30th day. The textbook then delivered the stunning observation that on the day before this crisis, the dish would only be half full. The textbook’s point, of course, was to warn that trends in biology were not linear, and that crises could develop rapidly out of apparent tranquility and abundance.

If my classmates and I learned this principle in high school biology, then presumably at least some traders in the Chicago agricultural commodities markets have thought about it, too. If Earth’s population will grow more rapidly than food production over the next decade, then the spot prices of wheat, soybeans, and beef will eventually skyrocket as the crunch sets in. If the crisis of population growth is “obvious” to academics the world over, then this growth would be factored into market prices and food prices would already be high in anticipation of the future disaster.

Although there are sophisticated arguments involving the “negative externalities” of climate change, generally speaking, the possible dangers of excessive population growth would manifest themselves in the form of higher prices for raising children. Couples would voluntarily reduce their (biological) family size as real estate prices, tuition, health care, and food prices rose faster than wages to reflect the impending crunch. There is nothing for government officials to do in this area except to get out of the way and let market prices do their job, as opposed to subsidizing population growth through poorly designed welfare systems, “free” government schooling, and similar programs. People in the market make horrible forecasting decisions all the time, but government policies typically reinforce those flaws in human nature rather than counteract them.

As with any serious thinker, Malthus’s real work was imbued with nuance. Rather than making him a hero of progressive interventionists, one could hold up Malthus as a pioneer in understanding the importance of market institutions in encouraging responsible decision making when it comes to family size. However, if we focus on the narrow empirical prediction that exponential population growth must outstrip food production, then Malthus was simply wrong, or at least he has been so far. The “green revolution” is the shining example in the more general history of human ingenuity overcoming obstacles, especially in the context of relatively free markets. Julian Simon famously won a bet with Ehrlich predicting that the prices of key commodities — which he let Ehrlich and his colleagues choose — would fall during the 1980s.

In his own work, Simon stressed human creativity and adaptation as the “ultimate resource.” When typical Malthusians look at humanity, they see billions of bellies that must be filled. Instead, Simon saw billions of brains that could produce a new strain of crop, discover a cure for cancer, or develop a new technique for locating oil deposits.

One of Simon’s most compelling arguments is to point out that human labor is the one resource that has consistently become relatively more scarce over the centuries. Specifically, the amount of labor time that the typical worker needs to spend in order to earn the wages for buying other resources has dropped dramatically. (Robert Bradley provides some compelling graphics on the topic.) If the Malthusians had been right, then labor would have become relatively abundant and superfluous, with commodity and energy prices rising far more than wage rates.

As the population grows, two competing forces affect living standards. On the one hand, higher population allows for a greater division of labor, as well as more inventions that can be easily scaled. (The work of J.K. Rowling and Steve Jobs would not have been nearly as valuable on a tropical island with 100 people.) On the other hand, there are finite limits on certain resources — such as standing room on Earth, for the foreseeable future — and thus at some point further population growth drives down average wages.

Nonetheless, the market contains the proper incentives to allow individuals to make informed choices about procreation. Furthermore, experience to date has definitely come down on the side of the optimists. So far, free societies have proven “the more, the merrier” to be true. Wherever population growth appears to fall into a Malthusian trap, we find excessive statism, not free markets and private property rights.


 By Richard M. Ebeling

With the seventieth anniversary this year of the end of the Second World War, a number of commentators have focused on the presumed “unity” of America seven decades ago to “win the war” against global tyranny and international aggression by Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. Individuals put aside their individual personal and petty interests to support and fight for a “greater collective cause.”

The contrast is made between “then” and “now.” Today, it is said, America is divided against itself on domestic policy issues, international and foreign affairs, racial antagonisms, and cultural conflicts, to just name a few.

What America needs, it is said, is a shared set of common values and goals that can provide a unifying sense of public purposes. This is the path back to a restored American greatness at home and abroad, proponents say.

Such a view is often heard among both modern liberals on “the left” and conservatives on “the right.” They may differ on the values to be shared and the public policy purposes people are to unify behind, but the emphasis on a higher collective calling is common to both.

“National Purpose” and Economic Controls

The call to a common cause or national purpose is often appealing to people. When I was a boy, my mother, who worked as a civilian secretary in the U. S. Department of the Navy in Washington, D.C. during the Second World War, would recall that wartime sentiment of a “national purpose,” and did so with a degree of romantic nostalgia.

Among the “bad people” on the home front during the war were those who attempted to place their own interests ahead of the “national interest” during that time of “crisis.” One manifestation of it was black markets in almost everything, from hamburger meat and automobile tires and gasoline to a new suit or a pair of shoes.

You see, “the nation united” to achieve the common collective goal of winning the war required the government to superimpose a single, overarching hierarchy or scale of values over the entire country, to which and within which every American was confined and was expected to conform.

Resources are scarce, labor manpower is limited, and real savings can only be stretched so far to undertake and sustain desired investments in different directions. To assure that all that was considered essential for the war effort was given first and highest priority, the U.S. government imposed wage and price controls throughout the economy; production regulations and central planning over all industry and agriculture dictated what was to be produced, by whom, where, and for what purpose.

Since competition between buyers and sellers could not longer set prices and determine who produced what and for which consumers, the government imposed a vast rationing system on American society. Ration books were assigned to every household throughout the United States that determined, for example, how much milk, meat, bread, eggs, potatoes, salt and virtually anything else, to which anyone could have access out of the “collective” store of national production.

Did your household have children, and if so how many? Were members of your household working in war-related production or priority industry? Was your need for gasoline for your automobile connected with “winning the war” tasks crucial to the nation? The answers to such questions, and multitudes of others, determined how much of each of these goods, for instance, you would be allowed to purchase each month at the government mandated prices imposed on retailers throughout the market.

You needed special certificates, for which you had to apply, for a new suit of clothes or pair of shoes, a new set of tires for your car, or materials to make repairs around your home. To be approved you needed to submit the requisite paperwork arguing why you “really needed” such items when the resources to support “our boys” overseas had to always be considered priority number one so we could win the war.

“National Unity” and the Intrusive State

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, as well as local law enforcement, was diverted from the pursuit of ordinary criminals – murderers, thieves, and defrauders – to detect, interdict and apprehend the networks of black marketeers: those who wished to privately buy and sell at agreed-upon prices that the government insisted could only be done on their mandated terms with their official approval and oversight.

A vast propaganda campaign was also undertaken during the war years to indoctrinate and intimidate people into acceptance of and obedience to the government’s imposed “unity of purpose” upon the nation.

National unity required the criminalization and potential legal prosecution of many aspects of everyday life that before America’s entry into the Second World War in December 1941 the citizens of the country viewed as essential elements of personal freedom. In other words, the price of collective purpose and a national common goal was the loss of individual liberty at home in the name of fighting tyranny abroad.

Police informers, undercover entrapments, invasions of people’s privacy and property through government surveillance enveloped the United States in the name of capturing the black marketeers, whose actions, it was said, weakened the national purpose of winning the war.

Black market gang violence, corruption of the law enforcement and legal system, and behavioral hypocrisy in people’s public acceptance of wartime central planning commands versus their private evasions and avoidance of its impact on their own lives were all elements of the pursuit of a unifying national purpose.

(The United States had experienced a similar episode of lost liberty and wide government intrusions into daily life between 1920 and 1933 during the period of alcohol prohibition, with all the inescapable negative side effects. But after 1941, war hysteria and fears had caused collective amnesia and a willingness to allow government to, once again, dictate personal conduct and permitted trade, only during the war years it was far more comprehensive than during the earlier “war on booze.”)

“National Purposes” versus Individual Diversity

It may be argued that very few, if anyone, are proposing for such comprehensive central planning in the name of a national purpose or a common cause in contemporary America. It is merely being suggested that there are or should be some goals or purposes that all Americans can or should be united behind, and through which there can be an awakening and reinforcement of our common identity and social cohesion as a political community.

But whether comprehensive or piecemeal, all such pursuits through government involve one essential and inescapable element: coercion, that is, the threat or the use of governmental force to make everyone act within the parameters of the national goal or goals. Why is this inescapable?

The more the complex and developed any society, the more it is inevitable that there will be an increasing diversity of values, beliefs and desires among its members.

Life and family experiences; differences in selected specializations of work to earn a living; a growing material prosperity that makes possible the multiplication of options and opportunities to do things, want things, and achieve things that earlier generations could not even imagine because of a greater scarcity of means and methods that limited what could be done or wanted – all these aspects of modern market life makes possible a plethora of visions, values and dreams for individual happiness and meanings for living that works against reducing everyone to a single scale or hierarchy of shared values, purposes, and desires.

Just walk down the aisle of any supermarket and observe the differences in what people put in each of their respective shopping carts. In a time of internet streaming notice the diversity of tastes and preferences in music, movies, sports, and other forms of entertainment, learning, and enjoyment, as well as online shopping.

People spend their incomes in ways that represent and reflect their values, beliefs and desires. Some of us overlap in these matters, and when we do we form clubs, associations, organizations, and connections to enjoy and advance shared beliefs, values and purposes with kindred spirits.

Some donate to cancer research; some give to halfway houses for battered women or children; others support the fine arts to preserve an appreciation of classical music or to house the works of great painters in museums; others give to advance social, political or economic ideas; and still others spend their money on going to Star Trek fan conventions or to buy season sports tickets to watch their favorite teams play in a stadium in the company of similar enthusiasts. The list, obviously, is endless.

Just think of how you furnish your own house or apartment compared to the homes of friends or acquaintances you have visited. Notice how you dress – styles, designs, fashions, and fads – in relation to many others. What do you like to read, what do you like to eat, where do you like to go for vacations or a frequent night out? Again, the list is endless.

There are few who propose that we all should dress or live alike to assure a deeper sense of shared social or national purpose. But there are plenty of people who wish to tell you how and what to eat or drink; what your social attitudes and beliefs should be, and therefore, with whom you should interact, and in what settings and comportments of behavior and speech.

There are many who think we should all have the same values about the environment, attitudes about human relationships, and causes worth financially supporting for the advancement of which they desire government to tax the citizenry, and then to spend the money in the politically selected “right” or “fair” way.

Competing “Common Causes” and Government Control

Rather than one overarching “national purpose” or “common cause” as during the Second World War, today we have a patchwork of different advocated national purposes and common causes for which special interest groups lobby and pressure those in political power to initiate and impose on the whole of society.

The “competition,” in this case, is to marshal the necessary and needed political influence and clout to collectively and coercively impose one’s own valued “common purpose” on everyone in society. The net affect is a spider’s web of interlocking systems of politically imposed values and beliefs that are valued by some, but which end up being forced on all.

The real and meaningful diversity, in which each and every individual is at liberty to guide, direct and give meaning and value to their own lives through the peaceful and voluntary associations of market exchange and civil society, is replaced with the narrowing of that diversity to what those with political influence and power are able to obtain in political competition with others also attempting to use the authority of the State for their own purposes.

Here is the true source of the perceived disunity, antagonisms, and conflicts in American society. Individuals and groups are fighting over the political power to make others conform to their own preferred scale of values, ideals and desires.

When political coercion through government regulations, controls, restrictions, prohibitions, and redistributions become a leading method to pursue and achieve your goals, values, and beliefs through their imposition on others, then the achievement of one person’s desires in these matters is by definition a potential threat or hindrance to other’s choices in these areas of life.

Conflict is inevitable, whether it be about the curriculum in government schools, or being taxed to cover other people’s medical expenses, or whom you have to make a wedding cake for in your bakery shop, or whether you can offer taxis services only with a government license.

Individual Purposes is the “Common Cause” of Liberty

In the free market economy, each makes their own decisions concerning these matters, and virtually all others, through voluntary associations and peaceful trade. The competition among people to pursue their values and dreams is not over access and use of government compulsion, but the non-violent rivalry of offering others attractive terms in the market place for them to supply you with the means of following the goals and purposes that matter to you.

But what about a sense of “national purposes” or “common causes”? What binds members of a free society together is not any detailed agreement concerning the ends that people should pursue, but rather a belief about the moral and just means to be used by anyone in trying to attain their individual goals.

The highest common value held by members of a free society is belief in the ethics of human liberty. Each person should be considered an end in himself, and not a means to other people’s ends through the use of force or its threat. He is not sacrificial animal to be made to conform, work, and obey others who claim to know what is “right,” “good,” or “just” for everyone in almost every aspect of life.

The legal rules of a free society are “procedural,” and not “substantive.” Procedural rules specify the process by which and through which any individual may go about the pursuit of a particular goal or purpose, but it does not specify the goal or end the individual has to pursue.

Substantive rules specify what goals or purposes the individual must follow, and often dictates the end or result that is considered desirable for the attainment of which the actions of individuals are commanded.

Freedom’s “Rules of the Road”

For instance, the “rules of the road” are procedural or “end-independent.” That is, the rules of the road when driving a car specify that you must stop at a red light and only go on a green light; that you have to pull over and stop when an emergency vehicle in speeding by; or that it requires everyone to abide by the indicated speed limit.

But they do not dictate or command when, why or where you must go when driving on the road. You may be going to work, driving to the supermarket, taking you child for a dental appointment, or simply driving around for the pleasure of it. Each individual makes their own decision where he or she may want to go and for what reason while using the roads. All the individual is required to do is follow the lawful procedures when on the roads.

Substantive, or “end-dependent” rules are directly commanding people how and for the achievement of what particular ends or goals individuals are to be required to undertake any activities. This would be more like being told by the government not only to drive your car on the roads, but being told where you had to go, for what purpose, and when you need to be there.

With procedural, or end-independent, rules individuals merely must follow the “rules of the road,” with preferred common courtesy, and are then free to go their own way in life. Under substantive, or end-dependent, rules, where you go, for what, and when all depends on who has the political power and authority in impose their plans and purposes upon you.

We should also not forget that nations do not have “purposes,” “values,” “goals,” or “desires,” because nations are not living, willing entities separate from the individuals who live within a geographical area designated on a map as the boundaries of a “nation-state.”

Human Dignity and Diversity is Freedom’s Purpose

What bind the people of a truly free society together are a vision and an overriding value on the right of the individual to his life, liberty and honestly acquired property. The “common cause” of free men in a society of liberty is one in which any of the specific forms of the “ties that bind” between people occurs through voluntary association and freedom of trade.

For the friend of freedom, the common “social purpose” that all men of good will should share, value, and strive to establish and maintain is a world in which no one person or group of people can make others go places and do things through the use of government regulation, control or command that they do not consider peacefully best for themselves.

That is an idea of individual human dignity and diversity that is morally far superior to the imposition of “national purposes” and collectivist goals through the use of the policeman and the threat of the jailer and the hangman.


By Martin Feldstein

Robert Gordon of Northwestern University has launched a lively and important debate about the future rate of economic growth in the United States. Although his book The Rise and Fall of American Growth will not be published until January 2016, his thesis has already garnered coverage in the Economist and Foreign Affairs. Clearly, Gordon’s gloomy assessment of America’s growth prospects deserves to be taken seriously. But is it right?

Gordon argues that the major technological changes that raised the standard of living in the past are much more important than anything that can happen in the future. He points to examples such as indoor plumbing, automobiles, electricity, telephones, and central heating, and argues that all of them were much more important for living standards than recent innovations like the internet and mobile phones.

I agree with Gordon that I would rather give up my mobile phone and even the Internet than go without indoor plumbing and electricity. But that just means that we are lucky to be living now rather than a century ago (and even luckier to be living now than two centuries ago or in the middle ages). The fact that these major innovations happened in the past is not a reason to be pessimistic about the future.

Gordon also points to the recent slowdown in real (inflation-adjusted) GDP growth. According to official US statistics, real GDP per worker grew at an average annual rate of 2.3% from 1891 to 1972, but by only 1.5% since then.

But the official statistics on GDP growth fail to capture most of the gains in our standard of living that come from new and improved goods and services. That means that the official growth rate does not reflect the rise in real incomes that came with air conditioning, anti-cancer drugs, new surgical procedures, and the many more mundane innovations. Moreover, because the US government does not count anything in GDP unless it is sold in the market, the vast expansion of television entertainment and the introduction of services like Google and Facebook have been completely excluded from the national account.

This means that the true rise in real incomes was actually faster than the official statistics imply – possibly much faster. That is true of the data for the first half of the twentieth century, and it continues to be true today. It is not clear whether the measurement problem was bigger in the more distant past than it has been recently; but it is irrelevant when we think about the future. Whether growth in per capita income that is officially estimated at 1.5% is in reality more like 3%, we are enjoying the higher level of real incomes inherited from the past. So will future generations.

Indeed, there is simply no reason for the view, often expressed in surveys and appearing in Gordon’s book, that the children of today’s generation will not enjoy a standard of living as high as their parents’. That may be true for some people, especially those with relatively high incomes, but it is definitely not true for most people.

Think about a 30-year-old new parent at the middle of the income distribution. Thirty years from now, the child will be as old as her median-income parent is now. If real incomes grow at just 1.5% a year, the median income 30 years from now will be nearly 60% higher than the income of today’s median-income individual.

Even if the child earns 30% less than the median at that time, her income would still be higher than today’s median income. And if product innovations and improvements imply that per capita real incomes grow at 3% a year, the median income of someone 30 years from now would be more than twice today’s median income.

So Americans are lucky that they have inherited the innovations of the past, and that real incomes will continue to grow in the future.

But that is not a reason for complacency. The US can increase its future growth rate by improving its education system, raising its rates of saving and investment to where they were in the past, and fixing the features of its tax and transfer systems that reduce employment and earnings.

Gordon focuses on the effect of technological innovation on Americans’ real incomes. But an important limitation of his argument is that it gives short shrift to policy innovation. America’s economy – and those of many other countries – could grow faster in the future if policymakers adopt the appropriate reforms.


whooper swans in flight

Swans and geese are the envy of aeronautical engineers. Even plump geese can perform remarkable aerial acrobatics – twisting their body and flapping their powerful wings while keeping their head completely still.

Now, Stanford engineers have used high-speed video footage and computer models to reveal that whooper swans stabilize their head with a complex neck that’s tuned like a car suspension. The study has influenced the researchers’ design of a camera suspension system that could allow drones to record steadier video.

All birds have built-in vision stabilization to compensate for the up and down body motion caused by flapping their wings in flight. Scientists have studied the neck morphology and head motions of walking or stationary birds, but measuring the mechanism in flight has not been successful until now.

David Lentink, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Stanford, and his colleagues devised a method for comparing high-speed video data of a whooper swan flying over a lake with a computer model that approximated the springy damping effects of the bird’s neck that allow it to stabilize the vertical disturbances.

They found that the neck functions much like how a car’s suspension system provides a smooth ride over a bumpy road. The neck vertebrae and muscles respond with just the right stiffness and flexibility to passively keep the head steady during flapping flight, and even in mild gusts.

“This simple mechanism is a remarkable finding considering the daunting complexity of avian neck morphology with about 20 vertebrae and more than 200 muscles on each side,” said Lentink, the senior author on the study.

Lentink credits much of the work to a former master’s student, Ashley Pete, who graduated this past spring and is first author on the study. She developed the idea and methodology for the study in Lentink’s class, ME 303: Biomechanics of Flight.

“The paper she wrote for this class was so good that we expanded it together and submitted it to Interface, where it got published,” Lentink said. “This really shows students can make remarkable discoveries in the classroom, going beyond textbooks, based on their creativity and enthusiasm.”

The focus of Lentink’s lab group spans biology and engineering, with goals of improving drone design and performance by understanding and adopting key characteristics from flying birds. The current work has provided guidelines for a prototype swan-inspired passive camera suspension system, developed by Marina Dimitrov, one of Lentink’s undergraduate students, that could allow drones with flapping wings to record better video.


By Richard A. Epstein

The National Labor Relations Act of 1935 (NLRA) introduced a major revolution in labor law in the United States. Its reverberations are still acutely felt today, especially after the recent, ill-thought-out decision in the matter of Browning Ferris. There, the three Democratic members of the National Labor Relations Board overturned well-established law over the fierce dissent of its two Republican members. If allowed to stand, this decision could reshape the face of American labor law for the worse by the simple expedient of giving a broad definition to the statutory term “employer.”

Right now, that term covers firms that hire their own workers, and the NLRB subjects those firms to the collective bargaining obligations under the NLRA. Under its new definition of employer, the NLRB majority expands that term to cover any firm that outsources the hiring and management of employees to a second firm, over which it retains some oversight function. In its decision, the NLRB refers to such firms and those to whom they outsource the hiring as “joint employers.”

Just that happened when a Browning Ferris subsidiary contracted out some of its recycling work to an independent business, Leadpoint. Under traditional labor law, Browning Ferris would not be considered the “employer” of Leadpoint’s employees—but the Board’s decision overturns that traditional definition. No longer, its majority says, must the employer’s control be exercised “directly and immediately.” Now “control exercised indirectly—such as through an intermediary—may establish joint-employer status.”

By this one move, the Board ensures that unions will now have multiple targets for their organizing efforts. A union can sue the usual employer who hires and fires, and it may well be able to sue one or more independent firms who have outsourced some of their work to that firm. The exact standards by which this is done are not easy to determine in the abstract. Instead, the new rules depend on some case-by-base assessment of the role that the second firm has in setting the parameters for hiring workers, determining their compensation, and supervising their work.

There is a quiet irony in this ill-considered transformation. The Democratic majority protests that it is only applying “common law,” i.e. judge made definitions of employers and employees to shape out the structure of the NLRA, which explicitly repudiates every key move in the common law of labor relations.

The analysis of the term “joint employer” starts with the NLRA’s definition of an employer, which reads: “The term ‘employer’ includes any person acting as an agent of an employer, directly or indirectly,” and then tacks on a list of exclusions including the United States and various state governments. The complementary definition of an “employee” under NLRA section 2(3), which, with largely irrelevant qualifications, states none too helpfully: “The term ‘employee’ shall include any employee. . . .”

The NLRA makes no effort to define joint employers of a single employee. Nor does it contain any indication that this category should occupy a large space in the overall analysis, even though Browning Ferris opens up the possibility that a very large fraction of the labor force has multiple employers.

To reach this conclusion the Democratic majority notes that the common law definition of an employee is the benchmark for its statutory choice. Yet the common law approach to labor relations was historically the antithesis of the creaky administrative machinery mandated by the NLRA. Under the common law rules, there were no limitations as to the bargain that could be struck between the employer and the worker. All contractual provisions relating to wages and the conditions of work were left for the parties to decide, as was the case with respect to the duration of the arrangement. In general, most employment contracts were at will, which meant that the employer could fire the employee for a good reason, a bad reason, or no reason at all, just as all employees could quit for a good reason, a bad reason, or no reason at all.

To the naïve, this system of contractual freedom often looks as though it is an open invitation for labor market instability, but in fact it has proved exactly the opposite. The flexibility over contractual duration and terms keeps both sides in line, and thus adds immeasurably to the overall productivity of human capital.

The NLRA, passed 80 years ago, has posed a serious threat to the productivity of labor markets from day one. Its basic structure imposes a duty on each employer to bargain collectively with a union that has been selected by a majority of workers within a statutorily defined bargaining unit. That bargaining system blocks the constant short-term adjustments always needed in response to changing conditions in either labor or product markets by imposing a rigid set of restrictions on any unilateral contract changes offered to workers on a take-it-or-leave-it basis. These proposed contract changes are deemed unfair labor practices and prohibited.

The NLRA’s top-heavy labor agreements impose onerous work rules on once free businesses that hurt workers as well as employers in an actively moving marketplace, and these agreements leave unionized firms at a serious competitive disadvantage with their more nimble competitors. Over the last 60 years, even with little or no change in the substantive law, the level of unionization in the private sector has declined rapidly, from a peak of about 35 percent in 1954, to under 7 percent today. Time has only exposed the defects of a statute flawed from its creation at the height of the New Deal.

The efforts of the NLRB majority to cover “joint employers” is clearly an effort to breathe life into a moribund labor movement, by making hash out of the common law rules on which it purports to rely. From the beginning, the labor law had to ask which individual workers were employees of the firm, subject to unionization, and which were independent contractors who were not.

In the 1944 case of NLRB v. Hearst, the Supreme Court held that individual “newsboys” who sold Hearst papers were to be treated as employees for the purposes of the labor statute, even though their contracts with Hearst had designated them as independent contractors. The majority of the current Board relies on Hearst for its willingness to apply the statutory definitions “broadly . . . by underlying economic facts.” But that majority conspicuously neglects to mention that Hearst was in fact repudiated in the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947, which excluded (most imperfectly) “any individual having the status of an independent contractor,” without giving a workable definition of who those individuals are.

Nonetheless, the Hearst case did have one critical feature that the NLRB’s majority ignored. In Hearst, the only question was whether ordinary workers should be treated as an employee or an independent contractor. There was, however, no third party involved, and hence no issue of whether two or more firms should be treated as joint employers of any individual worker. Exactly the same point holds in the 1968 decision in NLRB v. United Insurance Co. of America, relied on by the majority, where the Supreme Court held that individual “debit agents” of the defendant insurance company were in fact its employees.

It should be evident why United Insurance Co. of America might well be correct. The whole point of the NLRA is to protect the right of employees to unionize. If an employer could redescribe individual employees as independent contractors, the basic protections of the NLRA (however ill-advised in principle) could be circumvented by a simple labeling exercise, without making a difference in the day-to-day operation of the overall business.

The Democratic majority also relied heavily on Section 220 of the Restatement of Agency that deals with the classification of certain independent workers as independent contractors or employees. In dealing with this issue, the NLRB majority discusses the ten factors that the Restatement invokes to answer this question, without noting two gaps in its argument. The first is that each factor is directed toward individual workers and a single employer, without reference to any joint employee situation. How else to explain the one factor that observes “(e) whether the employer or the workman supplies the instrumentalities, tools, and the place of work for the person doing the work; . . .?” The Restatement also asks about the distinct nature of the worker’s occupation, the duration of the relationship, and the kind of day to day supervision, none of which are relevant to the joint employer question.

Second, this lengthy inquiry arose when the at-will rule at common law let the parties cut whatever deal they saw fit. What the NLRB majority forgot to do was to look at the material that immediately preceded section 220 in Chapter 7 that begins: LIABILITY OF PRINCIPAL TO THIRD PERSONS TORTS. Section 219 is then headed; When Master Is Liable for Torts of His Servants.” At this point, the punch line should be clear. The independent contractor question did not govern their relationship, but arose to make sure that the common law employer did not escape liability for the torts committed by his servants against strangers by labeling them as independent contractors. But as between the parties, the question of categories doesn’t matter—at least in the absence of regulation.

Today of course, the argument is that the law has to look over this arrangement to see that other statutory obligations imposed on employers are not breached. It was for that reason that the California Commission in Berwick v. Uber Technologies reverted to the common law definition of an independent contractor to tackle the question in the most inappropriate way possible while determining case-by-case which Uber drivers were employees and which were independent contractors. The same issue arises when employers try to classify part-time individual workers as independent contractors to avoid various statutory obligations on family leave, sick pay, overtime, and the like.

None of those issues is relevant here, where the correct inquiry asks whether the joint employer rules will disrupt the settled historical pattern of collective bargaining. The NLRB majority made a passing effort to justify its decision by quoting some government statistic that indicated an increase in the number of “contingent” and “temporary” employees as of 2005 to about 4.1 percent of employment, or 5 million workers. But that factoid reveals nothing about the efficiency of the proposed modifications to the collective bargaining system.

On that question, the new joint employer rules will likely batter today’s already grim labor market, as they will not only disrupt the traditional workplace but will completely wreck the well established franchise model for restaurants and hotels. As the majority conceded, the so-called joint employer does not even know so much as the social security number of its ostensible employees. It has no direct control over the way in which the current employer treats its workers, and yet could be hauled into court for its alleged unfair labor practices. That second firm knows little or nothing about the conditions on the ground in the many businesses with which it has forged these alliances, which eases the operations for both. Those advantages will be lost if the joint employer rule holds up in court. At the very least, the majority’s decision would require each and every one of these contracts and business relationships to be reworked to handle the huge new burden that will come as a matter of course, leaving everyone but the union worse off than before.

It would be one thing, perhaps, if the majority saw the light at the end of the tunnel. But over and over again it disclaims any grand pronouncements, making the legal question of who counts as an employer a work in progress that will be finished no time soon. Against this background it is irresponsible to undo the current relationships by a party-line vote. That point should also be clear to the courts and to Congress. The quicker this unfortunate decision is scrubbed from the law books, the better.