Last week, a team of researchers under the auspices of theNuffield Department of Population Health(NDPH) at Oxford University published anarticlein the online journalPublic Library of Science ONE. The article purports to calculate “economically optimal tax levels for 149 world regions that would account for (internalize) the health costs associated with ill-health from red and processed meat consumption.” The article estimates “the taxes on red and processed meats necessary to offset the health care costs of consuming such products.” NPDH, by the way, is a highly politicized academic department that was created in 2013 and lobbied for asugar tax for Great Britainin 2016, which was imposed on the hapless British public this past April.
Manipulating Citizens' Diets
The authors of the article argue that processed and red meats are “carcinogenic” and “probably carcinogenic,” respectively, because they have been classified as such by the World Health Organization. In addition, consumption of red meat is “associated” with other conditions such as increased rates of coronary heart disease, stroke, and Type 2 diabetes. In the case of Great Britain, for example, meat consumption accounts for more than 60,000 deaths per year.
At these rates, taxes would almost double the price of a package of sausages from £2.50 to £4.47 and drive up the price of a fillet of steak from £5.50 to £6.27.
Deriving statistical estimates of the elasticities of demand for red and processed meats, the article calculates the optimal tax rate, defined as the rate that would raise the price for one serving of red and processed meat to the level that “reflects the health costs associated with one additional serving of red and processed meat.” Anarticle in a British newspaper summarizing the researchreports that, for Great Britain, “optimal” tax rates are estimated as 14 percent and 79 percent for red meat and processed meat, respectively. At these rates, taxes would almost double the price of a package of sausages from £2.50 to £4.47 and drive up the price of a fillet of steak from £5.50 to £6.27. The implementation of these taxes, it is predicted, “would prevent the deaths of nearly 6,000 people each year and save the NHS [National Health Service] nearly £1 billion annually.”
Let us grant the dubious quantification of the deleterious health effects of red and processed meats. And let us accept the even more dubious statistical estimates based onpastdata of the unpredictable and ever-changingfutureelasticity of demand for meat, which supposedly measures the sensitivity of consumer purchases to a change in the price of meat. The authors still face a huge problem in making their case for a tax, for the tax on meat is rightly seen by most people as a naked attempt by government to restrict and manipulate their citizens’ diets. In fact, this is recognized by the lead researcher in the study, Dr. Marco Springmann, who concedes “Nobody wants governments to tell people what they can and can’t eat.” However, in an egregious example of Orwellian doublespeak, Springmann portrays government tyrannizing over and curtailing consumer choice as really facilitating and expanding choice:
I hope that governments will consider introducing a health levy on red and processed meat as part of a range of measuresto make healthy and sustainable decision-making easier for consumers. A health levy on red and processed meatwould not limit choices, but send a powerful signal to consumers and take pressure off our healthcare systems.” [Emphasis added]
The Chair of theNational Obesity Forum, Tam Fry, uses the same rhetorical trickery, redefining “real choice” as consumers submissively permitting their behavior to be molded by intellectual and political elites whose goals and preferences are enforced by coercive tax levies:
When the sugar levy was first announced people sucked their teeth and argued it was an infringement of their human rights. But as the noise died down people began to realise that they had areal choiceand that switching to something more healthy was a good thing. I see no reason why if sensibly introduced the same thing can’t work with meat. [Emphasis added]
Mises Predicted Prohibitionism
In his great bookLiberalism, originally published in German over 90 years ago, Ludwig von Mises foresaw that once the principle was accepted that it is a proper function of government to protect individuals from the harmful effects of their own choices, there would be no area of consumption that would be off limits to government interference. As Mises argued, the assumptions underlying the case for restricting narcotic drugs imply that governmental control of individual consumption knows no natural limit. For Mises (p. 52), unbridled prohibitionism is simply the other side of the coin of submitting to politicians as the judges and guardians of individual welfare:
[N]early everywhere some restrictions are imposed on the sale of opium, cocaine, and similar narcotics. It is universally deemed one of the tasks of legislation and government to protect the individual from himself. . . . Indeed, so general is the acceptance of this kind of interference by the authorities in the life of the individual that those who, are opposed to liberalism on principle are prone to base their argument on the ostensibly undisputed acknowledgment of the necessity of such prohibitions and to draw from it the conclusion that complete freedom is an evil and that some measure of restriction must be imposed upon the freedom of the individual by the governmental authorities in their capacity as guardians of his welfare. The question cannot be whether the authorities ought to impose restrictions upon the freedom of the individual, but only how far they ought to go in this respect.
Mises (pp. 52-53) was amazingly prescient in insisting that prohibition would not stop short at drugs and would inevitably engross all aspects of the individual’s consumption, including his diet:
No words need be wasted over the fact that all these narcotics are harmful. The question whether even a small quantity of alcohol is harmful or whether the harm results only from the abuse of alcoholic beverages is not at issue here. It is an established fact that alcoholism, cocainism, and morphinism are deadly enemies of life, of health, and of the capacity for work and enjoyment. . . . But this is far from demonstrating that the authorities must interpose to suppress these vices by commercial prohibitions. . . . Whoever is convinced that indulgence or excessive indulgence in these poisons is pernicious is not hindered from living abstemiously or temperately. This question cannot be treated exclusively in reference to alcoholism, morphinism, cocainism, etc., which all reasonable men acknowledge to be evils. For if the majority of citizens is, in principle, conceded the right to impose its way of life upon a minority, it is impossible to stop at prohibitions against indulgence in alcohol, morphine, cocaine, and similar poisons. Why should not what is valid for these poisons be valid also for nicotine, caffeine, and the like?Why should not the state generally prescribe which foods may be indulged in and which must be avoided because they are injurious?[Emphasis added]
Mises saw that the same principle that requires government to protect the individuals’ corporeal welfare from the evil consequences of voluntarily ingesting poisonoussubstancesalso requires that the government prohibit individuals from absorbing evildoctrinesthat may impair their spiritual welfare. This means controlling what the individual sees, hears, reads, speaks, learns, and teaches. Mises (pp. 53-54) recognized that prohibitionism taken to its logical conclusion thus gives government the power to mold the very thoughts that people think and to eventually stamp out the human spirit:
More harmful still than all these [harmful] pleasures, many will say, is the reading of evil literature. Should a press pandering to the lowest instincts of man be allowed to corrupt the soul? Should not the exhibition of pornographic pictures, of obscene plays, in short, of all allurements to immorality, be prohibited? And is not the dissemination of false sociological doctrines just as injurious to men and nations? Should men be permitted to incite others to civil war and to wars against foreign countries? And should scurrilous lampoons and blasphemous diatribes be allowed to undermine respect for God and the Church? We see that as soon as we surrender the principle that the state should not interfere in any questions touching on the individual's mode of life, we end by regulating and restricting the latter down to the smallest detail. The personal freedom of the individual is abrogated. He becomes a slave of the community, bound to obey the dictates of the majority. It is hardly necessary to expatiate on the ways in which such powers could be abused by malevolent persons in authority. The wielding, of powers of this kind even by men imbued with the best of intentions must needs reduce the world to a graveyard of the spirit. . . . Let no one object that the struggle against morphinism and the struggle against "evil" literature are two quite different things. The only difference between them is that some of the same people who favor the prohibition of the former will not agree to the prohibition of the latter.
In this passage, Mises displayed amazing insight into the insidious and relentless development of the program of prohibitionism and the lengths to which it would extend. Currently, in several so-called “liberal democracies,” there are laws against speech, literature, and private commercial practices that express “hatred” for various groups, espouse revisionist views of history, or promote and describe therapeutic methods that do not accord with those of the medical establishment. Every day, the number and reach of laws aimed at suppressing “hateful” and “dangerous” speech and expression grow. But the situation is not beyond hope. Very recently, the prohibitionist movement appears to have overreached and elicited a serious backlash from proponents of free speech and personal freedom. But it will be a long and arduous task to roll back the tide of prohibitionism. Mises (p. 55) realized this even in 1927, when he wrote:
It will require many long years of self-education until the subject can turn himself into the citizen. A free man must be able to endure it when his fellow men act and live otherwise than he considers proper. He must free himself from the habit, just as soon as something does not please him, of calling for the police.
Since their invention more than 100 years ago, airplanes have been moved through the air by the spinning surfaces of propellers or turbines. But watching science fiction movies like the Star Wars, Star Trek, and Back to the Futureseries, I imagined that the propulsion systems of the future would be silent and still—maybe with some kind of blue glow and “whoosh” noise, but no moving parts, and no stream of pollution pouring out the back.
The plane weighed about five pounds (2.45 kilograms) and had a wingspan of 15 feet (5 meters), and traveled about 180 feet (60 meters), so it’s a long way from efficiently carrying cargo or people long distances. But we have proved that it is possible to fly a heavier-than-air vehicle using ionic winds. It even has a glow you can see in the dark. A plane powered by ionic wind takes flight.
Revisiting Discarded Research
The process our plane uses, formally called electroaerodynamic propulsion, was investigated as far back as the 1920s by an eccentric scientist who thought he had discovered anti-gravity—which was, of course, not the case. In the 1960s, aerospace engineers explored using it to power flight, but they concluded that wouldn’t be possible with the understanding of ionic winds and the technology available at the time.
More recently, however, a huge number of hobbyists—and high school students doing science fair projects—have built small electroaerodynamic propulsion devices that suggested it could work after all. Their work was pivotal to the early days of my group’s work. We sought to improve on their work, most notably by conducting a large series of experiments to learn how to optimize the design of electroaerodynamic thrusters.
A homemade lifter using the same principle as the new MIT airplane.
Moving the Air, Not the Plane Parts
The underlying physics of electroaerodynamic propulsion is relatively straightforward to explain and implement, although some of the underlying physics is complex.
We use a thin filament or wire that is charged to +20,000 volts using a lightweight power converter, which in turn gets its power from a lithium-polymer battery. The thin filaments are called emitters, and are nearer the front of the plane. Around these emitters the electric field is so strong that the air gets ionized—neutral nitrogen molecules lose an electron and become positively charged nitrogen ions.
Farther back on the plane we place an airfoil—like a small wing—whose leading edge is electrically conductive and charged to -20,000 volts by the same power converter. This is called the collector. The collector attracts the positive ions toward it. As the ions stream from the emitter to the collector, they collide with uncharged air molecules, causing what is termed an ionic wind that flows between the emitters and collectors, propelling the plane forward.
How MIT’s airplane works.
This ionic wind replaces the flow of air that a jet engine or propeller would create.
I have led research that has explored how this type of propulsion actually works, developing detailed knowledge of how efficient and powerful it can be.
My team and I have also worked with electrical engineers to develop the electronics necessary to convert batteries’ output to the tens of thousands of volts needed to create an ionic wind. The team was able to produce a power converter far lighter than any previously available. That device was small enough to be practical in an aircraft design, which we were ultimately able to build and fly.
Steven Barrett speaks in a ‘Nature’ mini-documentary about the first flight of an ionic-wind-driven plane.
Our first flight is, of course, a very long way from flying people. We’re already working on making this type of propulsion more efficient and capable of carrying larger loads. The first commercial applications, assuming it gets that far, could be in making silent fixed-wing drones, including for environmental monitoring and communication platforms.
Looking farther into the future, we hope that it could be used in larger aircraft to reduce noise and even allow an aircraft’s exterior skin to help produce thrust, either in place of engines or to augment their power. It’s also possible that electroaerodynamic equipment could be miniaturized, enabling a new variety of nano-drones. Many might believe these possibilities are unlikely or even impossible. But that’s what the engineers of the 1960s thought about what we’re already doing today.
If it moves, tax it.” That’s government’s eternal motto, as Ronald Reagan quipped. To this, the city government of Chicago has added, “If it amuses, tax it.”
A few weeks ago, PlayStation 4 users in Chicago were shocked when they turned on their consoles and saw a message from Sony. The message informed users that as of November 14, 2018, they would be required to pay a 9 percent “amusement tax” for PlayStation subscriptions such as PlayStation Now, PlayStation Plus, PlayStation Music, and others.
The tax is specifically related to streaming services, so the PlayStation games themselves will not be subject to the 9 percent tax. But in today’s subscription-heavy economy, many users purchase these consoles as a medium to stream videos and music rather than using them solely to play games. Not to mention, the tax will still include subscription services that allow Playstation users to connect and play with other users around the globe. So if you own a PlayStation in Chicago, it is unlikely that you will be able to fully avoid this tax.
PlayStation users, however, are not the only victims of this absurd tax.
Chicago’s Amusement Tax
Chicago is one of the most heavily taxed cities in the country. In addition to holding the title for the highest sales tax nationwide, the city also levies additional taxes on bottled water and cell phones.
The amusement tax was actually passed several years ago and included almost all forms of entertainment. Whether residents are looking to spend an evening at the theater, see a concert, cheer on their favorite sports team, go to a nightclub, or even catch a movie, they are on the hook for an additional 5 percent tax.
The city has had to get creative when it comes to extorting money from its residents.
In 2015, the amusement tax was expanded as city officials realized they could bring in additional revenue with the creation of a “cloud tax.” Capitalizing on the popularity of streaming services, the city began instituting a 9 percent tax for using platforms like Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, and others. And thanks to the inclusion of the streaming services, the amusement tax now brings in about $12 million annually. It also applies to anyone whose billing address is within city limits.
The city of Chicago is currently operating on a $400 million deficit. It’s no wonder, then, that the city has had to get creative when it comes to extorting money from its residents. The amusement tax was created as a means of decreasing the deficit and aiding the city in paying for additional expenditures, which essentially means that Chicago dwellers are once again on the hook for the government’s poor decisions.
To make matters worse, Chicago is also a city with a horrible reputation for government corruption, and especially corruption within the local police force. When Democratic Governor Rahm Emanuel approved the additional tax on streaming services, it was done so with the explicit purpose of helping to fund the $530 million increase given to Chicago’s police force. However, even with the increased funding, Chicago law enforcement has still been unable, or unwilling, to combat the city’s skyrocketing crime rates.
Sony may have just recently announced that it would be enforcing this tax, but Xbox and Nintendo users have already been dealing with it for years. In fact, Sony actually refused to enforce the tax and did not finally capitulate to the city’s wishes until mid-November, when unsuspecting users were greeted with a warning message as soon as they logged on to their PlayStation accounts.
Thanks to a bill passed during the Clinton era, Apple has a legitimate case against the city.
While it is unclear why Sony decided to begin enforcing the tax at this time, it is likely that statements from government representatives scared the company into submission. A spokesman for the city’s Law Department, Bill McCaffrey, recently said,"If a business is not collecting the tax where we believe it applies, the city takes the necessary steps and works with the company to ensure compliance with the law.”
But while some have bent to the whims of the city government, others have continued to challenge the city’s authority to tax anything and everything. Apple, for example, has held strong against the city of Chicago. The tech giant has even gone so far as to take the city to court rather than burden its users with additional fees. And thanks to a bill passed during the Clinton era, Apple has a legitimate case against the city.
Apple Strikes Back
Right after the “cloud tax” was instituted, the Liberty Justice Center came forward to challenge the city’s new policy on behalf of the taxpayers in the case known as Labell vs. The City of Chicago.
Unfortunately, the court ruled in favor of the city in May, upholding its authority to levy and collect the cloud tax. Since the amusement tax was passed prior to the inclusion of the cloud tax, the city argued that this was not a new tax and thus was merely a reinterpretation of the existing law.
Senior attorney for the Liberty Justice Center, Jeffrey Schwab, commented on the court’s decision, saying:
We plan to appeal this decision because it has far broader implications than this single attempt to tax online entertainment. Cloud-based entertainment isn’t unique to Chicago, and people take this entertainment in and out of city limits all the time. Therein lies one of the biggest problems with this tax: The city is taxing activity outside its borders because the tax applies regardless of whether a customer actually uses a service in Chicago. If today’s decision is allowed to stand, then local governments across Illinois could tax activity that occurs outside their borders. We will continue to fight for taxpayers against the city’s expansion of its taxing power.
While the Liberty Justice Center waits to appeal this decision, Apple has continued the fight against this unjust tax. Just a few months after the same court ruled in favor of the city, Apple filed a complaint in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois.
The tech company’s complaint touches on four different violations it believes the city is guilty of committing. But the primary complaint rests on Chicago’s violation of the Internet Tax Freedom Act (ITFA).
In 1998, President Bill Clinton signed the ITFA into law, protecting Americans from illegal forms of taxation. Specifically, the bill prohibited “state and local governments from taxing Internet access, or imposing multiple or discriminatory taxes on electronic commerce.”
The bill was supposed to help protect consumers against the possibility of discriminatory taxation on electronic commerce. For example, if internet users are already being taxed for their internet service, they should not be forced to then pay further taxes for using the internet to access streaming sites. By doing so, the cloud tax also discriminates against those who choose to purchase digital movies instead of physical DVDs, which are not subject to the cloud tax.
In addition to violating federal law, Apple is also asserting that the new tax is a violation of the Illinois constitution. As explained by DigitalMusicNews.com’s Daniel Sanchez:
Under Illinois law, all home-rule ordinances must fall within the limits of the unit. So, a "home-rule unit" – in this case, Chicago – "may exercise any power and perform any function pertaining to its government and affairs.
There’s just one problem. Chicago city officials have imposed the Amusement Tax on citizens streaming music when outside the "home-rule unit."
Since the cloud tax is extended to everyone with a Chicago billing address, this means it is still being levied on those who enjoy streaming services outside city limits, making it a violation of state law.
By creating an "extraterritorial effect," the company argues, the city has "subjected Apple to collection requirements even for activities that take place primarily outside" Chicago. In addition, the city has extraterritorially expanded its taxing and regulatory jurisdiction to transaction and business activities outside of Chicago.
Apple’s additional complaints involve violations of the federal commerce clause, as well as violations of the 14th Amendment right to due process. While the outcome of the case is unclear, Apple’s unwillingness to cooperate with the city’s ridiculous amusement tax is a testament to its integrity.
Chicago is proof that there is almost nothing that government entities won’t try to tax. And if you’re a Chicago resident, you might want to think twice before asking Santa for a PlayStation 4 this year, lest you have to deal with the city’s amusement tax.
If you have a few old pool noodles laying around, cut two one-foot lengths and use them as cushions to keep your ladder from scratching your gutters. Simply slit the pool noodle lengthwise and fit them over the legs of the ladder near the top where they rest against the gutter.
Kitty Litter Tool Box Hack
Believe it or not, you can use kitty litter to keep your tools rust-free. Place a scoop of silica crystal cat litter into a piece of breathable fabric. Secure the fabric closed with a zip tie, and place it into your tool box. The cat litter should absorb any excess moisture, keeping it off of your tools.
Paint Stirrer File Hack
If you need to sand in a tight space, then this hack is for you. Cut a piece of sandpaper in the grit you need to fit around a pint stirrer. Using spray adhesive, attach the sandpaper to the stirrer. If you have multiple stirrers with different sizes of grit, write the grit size on the handle with a marker.
Sandpaper Filing Hack
Keep track of the different grits of sandpaper you own by storing them in a file box. Label the tabs of the files with the grit of the sandpaper it contains. Now, you have a storage solution that allows you to pull out the exact grit of sandpaper you need.
PVC Pipe Storage
You can also use short pieces of PVC pipe as a storage solution in your work area. Simply cut multiple 3-to-4-inch-long sections of 1 1/2-inch, or larger, PVC pipe, making sure to cut one end at a 45-degree angle. Next, drill a screw through the angled end into a 2-foot by 4-foot board. Secure the board to a pegboard in your work area. Store small items in the pipes, such as paint brushes, pencils, and small tools.
DIY Drill Holder
To better organize your drills, consider installing this DIY wall-mounted drill dock. Not only does the dock give you easy access to your drills and drill attachments, you can also store batteries, drill bits, and other accessories on the shelves.
Bolt Holder Hack
You can use this hack to keep a bolt in a socket when trying to tighten it in a tight spot. Cut a rubber band into strips, and lay a strip across the end of the socket where the bolt inserts. The rubber band should help hold the bolt in place until you can get it started in the hole.
Stripped Screw Removal Hack
A common occurrence with screws is for the head where the screwdriver fits in to become stripped. If you have a screw with this problem, place a rubber band over the screw head before inserting the screwdriver. This should allow the screwdriver to get a better grip.
Nail Removal Hack
An easy way to remove a stubborn nail, especially one with little or no head, is to attach a pair of channel lock pliers to the end. Then, use a pry bar to pry the nail out. The channel locks should give the pry bar something to pry against when removing the nail.
For what seems like an eternity, it has literally been years, we’ve been reading press leaks, looking at concept photos, and talking about the upcoming release of the Gladiator. With each article we gleaned just a little bit more information about the truck, trying to piece together if it would be the Jeep of our dreams or an utter let down. Now the grueling wait is finally over. As of 9:55 PST this morning, Jeep has OFFICIALLY unveiled the Gladiator, and they absolutely nailed it.
Like we suspected based on the leak from two weeks ago, the truck will come standard with the 3.6L V6, and later with the optional 3.0 Liter EcoDiesel everyone has been begging for. Score! It will be available in four trim levels, Sport, Sport S, Overland, and Rubicon, with either a six-speed manual or an eight-speed automatic transmission. But lets talk about the trim we all want for a moment, the Rubicon.
The Rubicon will have Dana 44 axles, 4.10 gears, and an 84:1 crawl ratio giving it plenty of torque to handle any obstacles you encounter on the trail. It will of course feature a fold-down windshield, removable doors and top, and the classic boxy lines we all love, but also standard 33″ tires beneath high clearance fenders with LED lights to update the look. Steel sliders along the length of the cab and bed will protect the truck’s longer wheel-base from damage on the rocks, while a fox suspension system protects your spine from the same. If things get really hairy, electronic locking differentials and disconnecting sway-bars will make quick work of the situation, especially with the forward facing trail camera which will allow you to spot your way over the obstacle.
Now you might be thinking that most of this sounds the same as the JL Rubicon, and you’re right, but there are some big differences. Lets start with the obvious, the addition of a five-foot steel bed. It will be available with or without bed liner, and features a covered 400W 115-volt external power source and strong integrated tie-downs for securing whatever adventure gear you might want to bring along. The tailgate is damped to prevent it from slamming down when opened, and capable of stopping in three positions. It’s also lockable, so you won’t have to think twice about gear security. Another difference from the standard JL will be the Gladiator’s ability to allow its owners to engage the rear locker with the sway bars still connected. This is a first in all of Jeep’s history, and will give customers an entirely different high speed off-road experience. For those of you in the go-fast camp of driving, we’re sure you’ll put it to good use.
The other differences come with changes to weights and capacities. Tim Kuniskis made a point to mention in the unveiling that Jeep had a drive to make the Gladiator a real truck, not just style it as one. So to back this up they gave it an industry leading 7,650 pound tow rating, which is enough to tackle almost any task most of us would throw at it. Payload capacity is equally impressive at 1,600 pounds, and better than both the Colorado and Tacoma, but Ford may have something to say about FCA’s claim of being the highest payload in the industry, as the new Ranger packs a payload of up to 1,860 pounds. Still, we’ll acknowledge that it’s better than any mid-size currently sold.
Interiors will be almost identical to the JL, with an available 8.4″ touch screen, apple car play, android auto, and other luxurious options like heated seats and steering wheel. There is hidden storage under the rear row, which can fold forward with a 60/40 split or completely flat when you need extra capacity. Other fun features include an integrated bluetooth speaker in the bed, under-rail lighting for cargo area illumination, and manual rear sliding windows on all hardtop models.
Basically, this is the Jeep we’ve all been waiting for. It has the capability, payload, and looks we dreamed of, the motor we begged for, and the pedigree to ensure it will be a monster on the trail. With Tacoma, Colorado, Ranger, and now Gladiator all vying for the title of best North-American mid-size truck, we’re feeling like this segment is going to get extremely interesting over the next few years, and truthfully, we can’t wait to see where it leads.
For more information on the Gladiator, check out the Jeep website here, or watch the official release video below. Just skip to 14 minutes in where the unveil begins.