The Reason These Pens Have A Hole In The Cap Will Boggle Your Imagination

Parents are routinely encouraged to place locks on cabinet doors, use baby gates to keep kids from going upstairs, and place covers over electrical outlets to protect babies, toddlers, and children. But even with all the precautions some parents take, unintentional deaths of children can be caused by seemingly benign household items, even something as small and seemingly harmless as the common writing pen.

According to the National Safety Council, choking is the fourth leading cause of unintentional deaths in America.

Pens are often found all over the house, and pen caps are easily lost and may make their way to the floor, within reach of a baby, toddler or curious child. The company named Bic understands the risk of a choking-related unintentional death, and they have designed their pens to minimize such a risk. The pen cap is typically intended to regulate pressure within the pen, and to keep ink from leaking out of it.

But some time ago, Bic changed the design of their pen tops to include a hole at the end of each one. On their frequently asked questions page, Bic gives the reason why: “In addition to help prevent the pen from leaking, all our BIC® caps comply with international safety standards that attempt to minimize the risk of children accidentally inhaling pen caps. Some of these vented caps, like that used for the BIC® Cristal®, has a little hole in the top to comply with the existing safety standards.”

That little hole has the potential of saving a person’s life in the event the pen cap is inhaled. As IJReview reported:

The manufacturer’s intent was to ensure that, in the event that a pen cap became lodged in a person’s throat, the hole would allow for the passage of air until help could arrive.

Rambo, Liberal Dems Hate Middle Class Independence: First You Must Kiss Their…Rings

I was in a Chicago suburb last week, heading into our radio station, WCGO (1590 on your radio dial. How’s that for a shameless plug?), when I heard on a competitor that Rahm Emanuel (“never let a serious crisis go to waste…”) had declared war on Airbnb.

If you don’t travel a lot, Airbnb is a web site which matches travelers with people who want to rent rooms in their houses–or their whole house.

It’s a lot like Uber in that it pairs willing buyers with willing sellers and facilitates the transactions.

As luck would have it, I was staying in an Airbnb rental in Evanston because I had a sackful of a certain high-priced hotel with two trees in the logo in a nearby suburb and have no problem staying with a willing host for one third the price.

Rambo doesn’t like the idea of anybody making some money without his taxes and regulations in the middle. Or, to quote Ronald Wilson Reagan:

“Government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.”

He said that at a White House conference on, get this, small business, almost 30 years ago.

Rambo and his ilk…read: Barack, Hillary and every other liberal member of the Democrat party who has ever pushed a government to the bring of bankruptcy…have no clue how regular people think because their American Express bills are paid by us, the taxpayers. WE are THEIR ATM.

But let some little guy try and make a few bucks with his or her hard-won real estate, and he wants more regulations and more money from them for the same reason a dog can lick his genitals…because he can.

While Rambo was doing this, he was also dealing with the fact that the Chicago Public School system is so broke that the State of Illinois—which is just as broke—is considering a hostile takeover, and the words “Chapter 9 bankruptcy” are being whispered in some quarters. He’s also busy dealing with the recently uncovered emails showing that it was his administration which played a large part in covering up the existence of a pretty damning video of a policeman murdering a teen in the street.

But, by God, he’s got time to go after some folks who want to make a little extra money renting out their properties to short-term visitors and taking the attendant risks involved in being in business.

It’s not enough that these folks pay real estate taxes.

It’s not enough that Airbnb clearly says on its own web site:

Guests who book Airbnb listings that are located in the State of Illinois will pay the following taxes as part of their reservation:

Illinois Hotel Operators Occupation Tax: 5.98-6.17% of the listing price including any cleaning fee for reservations 29 nights and shorter. For detailed information, visit

Guests who book Airbnb listings that are located in Chicago, IL will pay the following taxes as part of their reservation:

Chicago Hotel Accommodation Tax: 4.5% of the listing price including any cleaning fee for reservations 29 nights and shorter. For detailed information,

Other Taxes administered by the State of Illinois: 5.73% of the listing price including any cleaning fee for reservations 29 nights and shorter. For detailed information, visit

No, you must first kiss Rambo’s ring or his butt, whichever you see first.

Why do you suppose that is?

Well, perhaps it would be wise for the United States Attorney in Chicago to ask about what might have motivated the city to invest $55-million of taxpayers’ resources in a new Marriott as part of the new DePaul University basketball arena complex. And how one of his top campaign donors, Kenneth Griffin, knew to have his hedge fund, Citadel Advisors, buy lots of Marriott stock in the year leading up to that decision.

It’s possible, of course, that is all purely a coincidence.

It’s also possible that winged pigs will be flying a shuttle between O’Hare airport and Reagan National in Washington. But not likely. Especially in view of the fact that a former top Citadel executive is now Chicago’s comptroller by Rambo’s grace.

No, this is clearly a shot over the bow of any competition for the hotel business in Chicago with which Rambo has a very cozy relationship.

It won’t work.

First of all, Richard J. Daley is no longer with us–and Rambo is no Richard J. Daley.

Secondly, trying to stop companies like Ebay, Uber, Airbnb and other market disrupters is the equivalent of trying to stop a locomotive by standing in front of it.

If those companies don’t run over him, the voters will.

Ask Donald Trump. Trump is where he is because the voters have had enough of the Rambos of the world.

Why I Am An Anarcho-Capitalist

A great many people – more than ever, probably – describe themselves as supporters of the free market today, in spite of the unrelenting propaganda against it. And that’s great. Those statements of support, however, are followed by the inevitable but: but we need government to provide physical security and dispute resolution, the most critical services of all.

Almost without a thought, people who otherwise support the market want to assign to government the production of the most important goods and services. Many favor a government or government-delegated monopoly on the production of money, and all support a government monopoly on the production of law and protection services.

This isn’t to say these folks are stupid or doltish. Nearly all of us passed through a limited-government – or “minarchist” – period, and it simply never occurred to us to examine our premises closely.

To begin with, a few basic economic principles ought to give us pause before we assume government activity is advisable:

  • Monopolies (of which government itself is a prime example) lead to higher prices and poorer service over time.
  • The free market’s price system is constantly directing resources into such a pattern that the desires of the consumers are served in a least-cost way in terms of opportunities foregone.
  • Government, by contrast, cannot be “run like a business,” as Ludwig von Mises explained in Bureaucracy. Without the profit-and-loss test, by which society ratifies allocation decisions, a government agency has no idea what to produce, in what quantities, in what location, using what methods. Their every decision is arbitrary, in a way directly analogous to the problem facing the socialist planning board (as Mises also discussed, this time in his famous essay “Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth”).

In other words, when it comes to government provision of anything, we have good reason to expect poor quality, high prices, and arbitrary and wasteful resource allocation.

There are plenty of other reasons that the market, the arena of voluntary interactions between individuals, deserves the benefit of the doubt over the state, and why we ought not assume the state is indispensable without first seriously investigating to what degree human ingenuity and the economic harmonies of the market can get by without it. For instance:

  • The state acquires its revenue by aggressing against peaceful individuals.
  • The state encourages the public to believe there are two sets of moral rules: one set that we learn as children, involving the abstention from violence and theft, and another set that applies only to government, which alone may aggress against peaceful individuals in all kinds of ways.
  • The educational system, which governments invariably come to dominate, encourages the people to consider the state’s predation morally legitimate, and the world of voluntary exchange morally suspect.
  • The government sector is dominated by concentrated interests that ( I don’t think “interests” would be taken as meaning people) lobby for special benefits at the expense of the general public, while success in the private sector comes only by pleasing the general public.
  • The desire to please organized pressure groups nearly always outweighs the desire to please people who would like to see government spending reduced (and most of those people, it turns out, want it reduced only marginally anyway).
  • In the United States, the government judiciary has been churning out preposterous decisions, with little to no connection to “original intent,” for more than two centuries.
  • Governments teach their subjects to wave flags and sing songs in their honor, thereby contributing to the idea that resisting its expropriations and enormities is treason.

This list could go on indefinitely.

It’s understandable, to be sure, that people may not understand how law, which they assume must be provided in top-down fashion, could emerge absent the state, although there is plenty of good historical work demonstrating precisely this. But if government had historically monopolized the production of any good or service, we would hear panicked objections to the privatization of that good or service. Had government monopolized light bulb production, for example, we’d be told that the private sector couldn’t possibly produce light bulbs. The private sector won’t produce the size or wattage people want, critics would insist. The private sector won’t produce specialty bulbs with only a limited market, since there would be little profit in that. The private sector will produce dangerous, exploding bulbs. And so on.

Since we have lived with private light bulbs all along, these objections seem laughable to us. No one would want any of the scenarios these hypothetical critics warn about, so the private sector obviously wouldn’t produce them.

The fact is, competing sources of law have been far from uncommon in the history of Western civilization. When the king began to monopolize the legal function, he did so not out of some abstract desire to establish order, which already existed, but because he collected fees whenever cases were heard in the royal courts. Naïve public-interest theories of government, which no sensible person believes in any other context, do not suddenly become persuasive here.

Murray N. Rothbard was fond of citing Franz Oppenheimer, who identified two ways of acquiring wealth. The economic means to wealth involves enriching oneself by voluntary exchange: creating some good or service for which other people willingly pay. The political means, said Oppenheimer, involves “the unrequited appropriation of the labor of others.”

How do we in the Rothbardian camp view the state? Not as the indispensable provider of law and order, or security, or other so-called “public goods.” (The whole theory of public goods is shot through with fallacies anyway.) The state, rather, is a parasitic institution that lives off the wealth of its subjects, concealing its anti-social, predatory nature beneath a public-interest veneer. It is, as Oppenheimer said, the organization of the political means to wealth. “The State,” wrote Rothbard,

is that organization in society which attempts to maintain a monopoly of the use of force and violence in a given territorial area; in particular, it is the only organization in society that obtains its revenue not by voluntary contribution or payment for services rendered but by coercion. While other individuals or institutions obtain their income by production of goods and services and by the peaceful and voluntary sale of these goods and services to others, the State obtains its revenue by the use of compulsion; that is, by the use and the threat of the jailhouse and the bayonet. Having used force and violence to obtain itsrevenue, the State generally goes on to regulate and dictate the other actions of its individual subjects…. The State provides a legal, orderly, systematic channel for the predation of private property; it renders certain, secure, and relatively “peaceful” the lifeline of the parasitic caste in society. Since production must always precede predation, the free market is anterior to the State. The State has never been created by a “social contract”; it has always been born in conquest and exploitation.

Now if this description of the state is true, and I think we have good reason to believe it is, is merely limiting it possible or even desirable? Before dismissing the possibility outright, ought we at least to consider whether we might be able to live without it altogether? Might the free market, the arena of voluntary cooperation, really be the great engine of civilization we otherwise know it to be?

Let’s get back to the Constitution and the Founding Fathers, people say. That would be an improvement, no doubt, but experience has taught us that “limited government” is an unstable equilibrium. Governments have no interest in staying limited, when they can expand their power and wealth by instead increasing their power.

The next time you find yourself insisting that we need to keep government limited, ask yourself why it never, ever stays that way. Might you be chasing a unicorn?

What about “the people”? Can’t they be trusted to keep government limited? The answer to that question is all around you.

Unlike minarchism, anarcho-capitalism makes no unreasonable expectations of the public. The minarchist has to figure out how to persuade the public that even though the state has the raw power to redistribute wealth and fund cute projects everyone likes, it really shouldn’t. The minarchist has to explain, one at a time, the problems with each and every conceivable state intervention, while in the meantime the intellectual class, the universities, the media, and the political class combine against him to convey the very opposite message.

Instead of requiring the fruitless task of teaching everyone what’s wrong with farm subsidies, what’s wrong with Federal Reserve bailouts, what’s wrong with the military-industrial complex, what’s wrong with price controls – in other words, instead of trying to teach all Americans the equivalent of three graduate courses in economics, history, and political philosophy – the anarcho-capitalist society demands of the public only that it acknowledge the basic moral ideas common to just about everyone: do not harm innocent people, and do not steal. Everything we believe follows from these simple principles.

There is a huge literature dealing with the most frequent and obvious objections – e.g., Wouldn’t society descend into violent strife as armed bands fought for turf? How would disputes be resolved if my neighbor chose one arbitrator and I chose another? A short essay can’t answer all objections, so I refer you to LRC’s anarcho-capitalism bibliography, assembled by Hans-Hermann Hoppe.

There’s a joke that’s been going around over the past few years: what’s the difference between a minarchist and an anarchist? Answer: six months.

If you value principle, consistency, and justice, and oppose violence, parasitism, and monopoly, it may not take you even that long. Start reading, and see where these ideas take you.

Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr. [send him mail], former editorial assistant to Ludwig von Mises and congressional chief of staff to Ron Paul, is founder and chairman of the Mises Institute, executor for the estate of Murray N. Rothbard, and editor of His most recent book is Against the State: an Anarcho-Capitalist Manifesto. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

This commentary originally appeared at and is reprinted here under a Creative Commons license

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by

Pope Francis Contradicts Himself On Religious Liberty And Capitalism

While visiting the White House on his first day in the United States this year, Pope Francis made a strong plea on behalf of religious liberty, which he pointedly directed at President Obama. This came shortly before he made an unscheduled visit with the Little Sisters of the Poor, who are suing the Obama administration over their own right not to include artificial contraception as part of their health insurance plan, which is mandated by Obamacare regulations. Catholic teaching views the use of artificial contraception as sinful. The connection between his comments to the president and his visit with the Little Sisters was apparent.

This laudable and welcome stance comes from a Pope who has, out of a concern for the poor, famously made several misguided statements that are quite critical of capitalism. Combined, these two positions, while seemingly unrelated, represent a profound contradiction in the Pope’s thinking.

In reality, the only socio-economic arrangement that guarantees the rights of all people to exercise their religious beliefs freely is free market capitalism, which emphasizes the rights of people to own and use property as they wish and to contract freely with others on any mutually agreeable terms.

It is a system that is based strictly on voluntary cooperation and that de-legitimizes the use of force and fraud. (As an aside, I personally think that, for this reason, it is the system most consistent with Christianity.) Under such institutional arrangements, there would be no need for specific legal or constitutional protections for religious liberty. These liberties are inherent in the system itself.

Consider, for example, the contraception mandate that is being challenged by the Little Sisters of the Poor. This directly conflicts with one of the most basic rights under capitalism: the right to trade and make contracts freely with others.

Under laissez-faire, or, as some are calling it, “unfettered” capitalism, what is covered by any health insurance policy purchased by the Little Sisters of the Poor would be a private matter among the Little Sisters, their insurance company, and possibly any employees who would also be covered under the plan.

If the health insurance plan that was being offered by the insurance company was unacceptable to the Little Sisters, for whatever reason, they would be free to walk away from it or negotiate different coverage with the insurance company. And if the health insurance offered by the Little Sisters to any of their employees was an unacceptable part of their compensation package, they too would be free to walk away and find employment elsewhere or forgo the employer-provided insurance and purchase a separate plan of their own choosing. This might occur as part of an exchange with the Little Sisters, their employers, for a higher wage. All of this would happen without a need for any specific discussion about religious liberty. The Little Sisters’ religious freedom and their freedom to make mutually agreeable contracts are one in the same.

Beyond this, the right to worship as one chooses would be pretty hollow without the right to own or contract for the rental of physical property. The right to worship implies the right of a religious organization to have physical space to assemble and to worship in that space as they see fit. Without this fundamental property right, which is only guaranteed without question under capitalism, the right to worship freely as one chooses is tentative at best and nonexistent at worst.

The right to deny religious liberties stems from the power of government to deny the right to use property freely. When the USSR wanted to shut down the Catholic Church in Ukraine, it confiscated its property, i.e., the churches. The Soviets understood quite well that the right to freely worship was the right to freely own.

This does not end with religious liberties. Indeed, property rights and free exchange are at the heart of one’s ability to exercise civil liberties more generally. The right to freedom of speech and press and the rights to freely assemble, protest, boycott, etc., are all automatically guaranteed under capitalism.

This is because capitalism guarantees our right to disagree with one another, which is really what is being protected when all of these liberties are recognized. In this regard, it would be useful for Pope Francis to pay attention to the words of a rather famous atheist, Ayn Rand, who noted that:

The right to agree with others is not a problem in any society; it is the right to disagree that is crucial. It is the institution of private property that protects and implements the right to disagree.

Holy Father, religious liberty is nothing more than the right to disagree.

This commentary originally appeared at and is reprinted here under a Creative Commons license

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by

The Campaign Needs A Radical, But Sanders Isn’t It

We could use a radical in the presidential race — someone who really challenges the status quo — but Bernie Sanders isn’t it. Sanders of course calls himself a democratic socialist, but that tell us almost nothing. One gets the impression the socialist label was pinned on him and, after resisting it, decided socialist sounded romantic and embraced it.

Nevertheless, whether you like socialism or not, Sanders is not a socialist: he calls neither for nationalizing the means of production nor for replacing the market economy with central planning. Yet that is what socialism came to mean in the mid-20th century. Democratic socialism meant that socialism would be achieved through the ballot box.

It is worth noting that in late 19th- and early 20th-century America, socialism was an umbrella term that was also used by radical free-market, or individualist, anarchists like Benjamin R. Tucker and Francis Dashwood Tandy, who called his 1896 book Voluntary Socialism. A socialist then was anyone who objected that workers were cheated out of their full reward and that prices of goods were fixed above the cost of production; in contrast to state socialists, free-market socialists attributed these evils to “capitalism,” by which they meant the system of government privileges for well-connected owners of capital.

What Sanders favors is an expanded welfare/regulatory state, i.e., more of what we have. When asked about socialism, he praises Medicare. Medicare, however, is not socialism, nor would single-payer for all be socialism. Under state-socialized medicine, government would own and operate the hospitals, and doctors and nurses would be government employees — like the post office without competition. Under single-payer, government would pay the bills for private-sector medical care and impose controls that powerful interests would inevitably manipulate to their advantage. Sound familiar?

The welfare state was established by western ruling classes to tamp down discontent among the powerless that had the potential to turn revolutionary. The father of the modern welfare state, Otto von Bismarck, intended government-administered social insurance to keep the Prussian working class loyal to the regime and out of the Marxist and liberal (libertarian) camps. In England, workers initially resisted the welfare state because it was seen as a move by the aristocracy to co-opt the labor movement, which sought to redress its grievances directly.

Sometimes Sanders says that being a socialist means merely that he’s neither a Democrat or a Republican. That’s not terribly informative. At other times, he says it signifies concern about gross income disparities, the high cost of college, and the lack of access to medical care. Again, this doesn’t tell us much since radical libertarians share those concerns. What matters are the solutions. Two people can look at the same social problem and argue over whether the best approach is more government, less government, or no government at all. Sanders’s preference, more government, would mean expanded bureaucratic control and special-interest “capture,” i.e., more of what already ails us.

In 1986, Sanders said, “All that socialism means to me, to be very frank with you, is democracy with a small ‘d.’ I believe in democracy, and by democracy I mean that, to as great an extent as possible, human beings have the right to control their own lives.” Considering that Sanders’s program would empower bureaucrats rather than people, one could consistently endorse Sanders’s objective while opposing his proposals. (See my “Free-Market Socialism.”)

He also said, “What being a socialist means is … that you hold out … a vision of society where poverty is absolutely unnecessary, where international relations are not based on greed … but on cooperation … where human beings can own the means of production and work together rather than having to work as semi-slaves to other people who can hire and fire.”

Again, these are objectives that any radical free-market libertarian could embrace. Where Sanders goes wrong is in aiming to empower bureaucrats and politicians.

Sanders cannot or will not see that expanding the welfare/regulatory bureaucracy would not help those outside the ruling elite. Beefing up the state won’t liberate us. Despite his intentions, Sanders is an unwitting defender of the status quo.

Where is the radical who will make the case for individual liberation and purely voluntary social cooperation through freed markets?

Sheldon Richman keeps the blog Free Association and is a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society. Become a patron today!

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by