French Twist

By Ryan H. Sager

If you thought the French were strange for liking Jerry Lewis, get a load of this: The French government is cracking down on people who work too much.Employees trying to work more than the legal limit of 39 hours a week can expect to be harassed by the government, reports The Washington Post. Labor inspectors have been found counting cars after hours in parking lots, checking office entry-and-departure records, and grilling people about their work schedules. Several companies have been fined for allowing employees, including managers, to work longer than is legally allowed. As a researcher at the Center for the Study of Labor in Paris told the Post, "Even a top manager does not have the right to work more than [they're legally allowed to]. It has to do with security and public order."

Of course, maintaining "security and public order" threatens to disrupt France's way of life in another way that's not entirely lost on Frenchmen. "We are in world-wide competition. If we lose one point of productivity, we lose orders," Henri Thierry, an executive at Thomson-CSF Communications, told the Post. Thomson-CSF was fined the equivalent of $2 million for 2,000 overtime law violations in three months. Thierry is even less pleased with a proposal favored by the Socialist government to shorten the legal work week to 35 hours. "If we're obligated to go to 35 hours, it would be like requiring French athletes to run the 100 meters wearing flippers," he said. They wouldn't have much chance of winning a medal."

Home-Invasion Ruling

By Mariel Garza

Christmas came early last year to the home-schooling families of Lynn, Massachusetts. In December, the commonwealth's top court ruled that a law giving public school officials expansive rights to visit home-school households was unconstitutional.The decision in Michael Brunelle, et al. v. Lynn Public Schools ended seven years of legal battles. The court ruled that the school district's policy–which essentially allowed officials to enter a home-schooler's residence at willviolated federal and commonwealth protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.

"This is a big victory for home schooling not just in Massachusetts but across the country," said Michael Farris, president of the Virginia-based Home School Legal Defense Association, which served as the plaintiffs' counsel. The association's main fear was that a decision in favor of the school district would have given a green light to similar policies in other parts of the country. By Farris' count, school districts in about a dozen states were likely to adopt similar requirements if the Lynn school district prevailed. Indeed, other states, including Rhode Island, New York, and South Dakota, have already tried to pass similar laws.

"We've picked them off one by one, normally through legislative means," Farris said. "We've used the legal system successfully at times, but other times it's been the predicate for legislative action."

Steven Pustell, whose family was one of the two represented in the lawsuit, was thrilled with the outcome. "It reaffirms the independence of home-schooling parents to raise their children the way they [see fit], without unwarranted government intrusion," he said.

Books Galore

By Charles Paul Freund

Not enough books to choose among? Could be. Book superstores such as Borders may have 150,000 titles and online sources such as claim to offer a million in-print books. But nearly all these titles share one limiting factor: They're in print from American publishers. Readers in search of books published overseas have a hard time getting them, and their usual solutions (like asking globe-trotting friends to bring books back for them) haven't changed much since Guten-berg.The Internet, however, is upgrading that tradition. Barnes & Noble has teamed up with Bertelsmann A.G., the German book conglomerate; they plan to offer books in a variety of languages via A spokes-man for the venture told The New York Times that customers eventually would be able to order almost "any book on the planet." Bertels-mann also plans its own Europe-based multilingual book site.

In the meantime, has already established two comprehensive sites offering hundreds of thousands of titles: for British works and, on Bertelsmann's turf, for German books (Klicken Sie Hier!). Of course, the Internet has long been teeming with specialized foreign book sites, from a site selling New Zealand's 619 local books in print to one run by an association of Dutch second-hand dealers.

These developments are of significance well beyond the polyglot bookworm community. Old-line gatekeepers may be bemoaning a purported wilting in book culture, as major publishers and critics from Manhattan to Milan lose their prestige and power. Meanwhile, a largely unremarked revolution in cultural opportunity continues. Technology, far from supplanting reading culture, is reinvigorating it: Authors and publishers are able to reach ever more diverse markets, while the choice available to readers grows ever larger. Now it's global, and available to them with a single click.

Pork Chap

By Michael W. Lynch

Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana is on a mission. He wants the federal government to spend more on pork."The current pork market condition presents a good opportunity for the Bureau of Prisons to increase purchases of pork," wrote the failed Republican presidential candidate to Attorney General Janet Reno on December 4, 1998. His pitch to Agriculture Secretary Dan Glick-man was even more direct: "I am writing to urge you to consider purchasing additional pork products."

Lugar also touted the benefits of the other white meat in recent missives to Defense Secretary William Cohen and Veterans Affairs Secretary Togo West Jr. In a letter to President Clin-ton, Lugar underscored two key points, telling the beleaguered chief executive that "White House leadership and direction can be crucial in these matters," and that "pork is a bargain."

Secretary Glickman has been responsive, pledging to create a "pork crisis" task force, increasing agency purchases of pork, and echoing Lugar's calls for other cabinet-level action. On January 8, Vice President Al Gore announced a $130 million pork package in Iowa.

What accounts for Lugar's swinish devotion? The Hoosier is chairman of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee, which historically has represented the interests of producers. For the pork industry, falling prices for pig—a boon to consumers in the form of cheaper bacon, ribs, and chops–is indeed a crisis. And for politicians like Lugar, Glick-man, and Gore, it's a call to action.

Magazine Mounties

By Jason Brooks

Freeze! Drop that Sports Illustrated and put your hands in the air." Canada is in the process of passing a law that will protect Canadians from the terrifying menace ofAmerican-based magazines. Such publications, says the government, threaten "Canadian culture," an expansive notion that's nonetheless incapable of including People, News-week, or U.S. News & World Report. The government wants to make it a criminal offense for foreign publications directed at the Canadian market to sell advertising space to Canadians. The fine will be CDN$250,000.The goal is to avoid "split-runs"–Canadian editions of American magazines with little Canadian editorial content but lots of Canadian ads. Since Canadians already read so many American magazines, Canadian advertisers, if given the choice to advertise in split-runs, would leap at the chance. That would crush the Canadian magazine industry and, by extension, Canadian culture, government officials say. Until last year, when the World Trade Organization ruled such protectionist practices unfair, Canada prevented split-runs with huge excise taxes on American periodicals.

The proposed criminal statute is an attempt to get around the WTO ruling. Although Canada is quicker to censor than the United States, the statute may well run afoul of Canada's Constitution, as it violates freedom of speech. Certainly, it will restrict magazine choices for Canadians by making it less profitable for foreign publishers to compete in the Canadian market. Such protectionism may not even benefit Canadian culture overall: An independent study commissioned by the government reported that protectionism has seriously stunted Cana-da's advertising business and has cost jobs by restricting the magazine advertising space available to Canadian companies.

The U.S. government will challenge the law as an unfair trading practice.

Cheating Teachers

By Michael W. Lynch

Few people doubt that good teachers are in short supply and that upping pay may be one way to boost the quality and quantity of the labor pool. Indeed, in most industries, when there's a shortage of good workers, firms increase wages both to retain the best people they've got and to attract new employees. But public education is not like most industries.Indeed, it is dedicated to confounding basic economic principles, such as the notions that pay should be linked to performance and that increased competition can improve quality. So it isn't all that surprising that, as education researcher Mike Antonucci notes in The Education Intelligence Agency Communi-qué, teacher unions in three cities recently opposed raising educators' pay.

In Washington, D.C., where schools are among the worst in the industrialized world, Superintendent Arlene Ackerman wanted to give new teachers an 11 percent boost in pay. That would have made the entry salary $30,000–not bad in a city where similarly educated twenty-somethings head to Capitol Hill to work in jobs in the low $20,000s. But the Washington Teachers' Union killed the proposal on the grounds that the raise was unfair to existing teachers, who started for less.

A similar front-end boost in pay was nixed in Richmond, Virginia, where a plan would have given new teachers a $5,000 signing bonus. No good, said union boss Robert Gray, who complained to The Richmond Times Dispatch that such a policy "sends a signal that inexperienced teachers are more valuable than [experienced] teachers."

And then there's San Francisco, where the Edison Charter Academy started paying its teachers $2,800 to $3,600 a year more than their public school counterparts. The United Educators of San Francisco, the union representing most of the city's teachers, filed a grievance with the school district, which oversees the charter school. Beyond the raw dollar amounts, the union was disturbed by another disparity: Edison's teachers put in eight hours a day and work a 190-day school year. That compares to a seven-hour day and 181-day year for San Francisco's other public school teachers.

More pay for more work. Where might that sort of precedent lead?

D.C. United

By Brian Doherty

Lord Acton didn't know from term limits, but he articulated an enduring truth about government with his oft-quoted maxim that "power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." A new study from the Cato Institute suggests that this tendency is a function of time.Since the GOP sells itself as the party of smaller government, author Aaron Steelman reviewed only the voting records of Republicans. He compared newer members of Congress–those who would still be eligible for office if the Contract with America's term limit provisions (three terms in the House, two terms in the Senate) had become law–to their longer-serving elders.

On 27 of the 31 tax, spending, and regulatory votes examined, the junior statesmen were more likely to opt for government restraint. For example, 61 percent of the junior GOP senators voted against hiking the minimum wage, while only 22 percent of senior solons did so. On a House vote to reduce funding for the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, a welfare handout for big corporations doing business abroad, 61 percent of the younger representatives saw fit to cut; only 40 percent of their elders followed suit.

Since writing term limits into the 1994 Contract with America and engineering a lackluster losing vote on the matter shortly after gaining a congressional majority, the Republicans have largely kept mum on the issue. Perhaps that's because, as the party in power, they now see term limits as a nuisance rather than a necessity. Steelman's analysis gives further evidence that for lawmakers, being in Washington eventually means being for Washington.

Where's Pa?

By Charles Paul Freund

Politics in the shadow of the Clinton presidency is turning a good trick: With the sex-war "meltdown" of Washington, political discourse has become as scabrous as it was in the 19th century. Then, mostly false tales of the private lives of public men spewed even from the nation's pulpits, and many newspapers were filled with salacious rumors and outright lies.The case of Bill Clinton's purported "love child" is entirely typical; you could fill an orphanage with all the rumored presidential illegitimacies. Indeed, many presidents have themselves been rumored to have been the offspring of disreputable couplings. Even that's said of Clinton: Conspiracists claim that he's a son of Winthrop Rockefeller, thus the nephew of David, and thus an heir to the New World Order.

The Clinton love-child story surfaced in the tabloids in 1992, when a Little Rock prostitute claimed to be the mother of the governor's 7-year-old son. This rumor was kept alive in the anti-Clinton underground, where it was believed that mother and son had been hustled off to Australia. But a tabloid's recent effort to prove the story by using published Clinton DNA data was the story's undoing. Even as would-be mom Bobby Ann Williams was giving TV interviews, the results came back negative.

It's rare that such rumors are ever fully squelched. In 1927–the pre-DNA era–Nan Britton proclaimed herself to be the mother of Warren Harding's illegitimate child, and it is still unclear if her claim was true. The President's Daughter, Brit-ton's self-published account of a claimed six-year affair with Harding (including trysts in an Oval Office closet), became a best-seller even though leading bookstores wouldn't handle it. It was made into the 1928 film Children of No Importance.

Grover Cleveland publicly acknowledged an out-of-wedlock son by Maria Crofts Halpin in response to lurid charges in the appalling 1880 campaign. But neither Cleveland nor Halpin really knew who the boy's father was; Cleveland, who was unmarried when the child was born, may have acted out of honor, protecting the reputation of a late friend and sparing the delicate Victorian feelings of that friend's widow.

Of course, the most persistent such charges have involved Thomas Jefferson and the children of his slave, Sally Hemings. Last year, DNA tests indicated that Jefferson could indeed have been the father of Eston Hemings. But critics have countered that Thomas's brother Randolph might also have been the father, and the matter is unlikely ever to be settled completely.

In the meantime, Clinton is thought by some to be under even this bed: Questioning the report's timing, con-spiracists have dismissed it as intentionally exculpatory. Thus would the 19th century exonerate the 20th. But both centuries' presidential children have usually turned out to be changelings, and their accusatory cries so much political noise.

Invisible Man

By Michael W. Lynch

If an employer refuses to hire or to contract with someone because he's black, it's called discrimination. Unless, of course, it happens because of government regulations ostensibly designed to protect minorities. Then it's called affirmative action.Confused? Consider the case of John Goode, the owner of Mr. Bones BBQ in Austin, Texas. From 1989 through 1996, through sub- contracts with concession vendors, Goode's Mr. Bones served patrons of special events at several city-owned venues, including Austin's convention center, the Palmer Auditorium, and the City Coliseum.

Goode's problems started in 1996, after an official investigation found discrimination in the city's contracting practices despite an existing affirmative action program. In response, Austin redoubled efforts to boost contracts with minority-and woman-owned businesses, setting quotas ranging from 10percent to 32perent for these firms. To spur cooperation in the business community, the city also instituted tough penalties for companies that didn't measure up to the new standards, including a five-year bar from city contracts and monetary fines.

Although African American, Goode felt he didn't need any help securing contracts. After all, he already had concession deals through Fine Host Corporation. So he refused to register with the city as officially black. But Fine Host Corporation was under pressure to meet the city's quota. In an August 2, 1996, letter ending their business arrangement, the company suggested that it was less interested in the quality of Goode's barbecue and more interested in the color of his skin. "Due to the lack of proof [of your minority status], we cannot continue this business relationship," wrote Fine Host management. "Our commitment to the City of Austin is to do our best to maintain a 25 percent concession with certified minority/women owned business enterprises."

Goode, who subsequently lost his business and house, filed suit against both the City of Austin and Fine Host for wrongful termination. In December 1998, a federal district judge dismissed the case on summary judgment, claiming Goode had no standing to sue, since the affirmative action program is designed to benefit him. The judge even assessed Goode an extra-special benefit: $6,850 in court costs incurred by the city and Fine Host.

Artifact: Stamp Act

History, that great ironist, is up to its old tricks. The United States Postal Service is issuing a stamp commemorating Ayn Rand, an arch foe of precisely the sort of government-supported monopoly that is now paying her homage. And oh what company she'll keep–1999's other honorees include Daffy Duck, Prostate Cancer, Insects and Spiders, Victorian Love, Xtreme Sports, and James Cagney.

Just as the recent Elvis stamp portrayed the slim, young Elvis, Rand's stamp offers a slim, young, glamorized Ayn, setting her portrait in an art deco context dominated by a stepped architectural skyline. Indeed, if the stamp seems to evoke The Fountainhead, it's no accident: The stamp's artist is Nicholas Gaetano, who has done several covers for recent Rand editions.

Give the USPS this much: It esteems Rand's work in a way that the literary establishment does not. "Rand believed that a productive society is the result of individual freedom and effort," reads the official announcement. "Her philosophy influenced all her books and made her a controversial but respected author."

Soundbite: Exorcising Demon Rum

In Battling Demon Rum: The Struggle for a Dry America, 1800-1933 (Ivan R. Dee), Thomas R. Pegram has written a concise, accessible history of liquor prohibition in the United States. He provocatively argues that "the image of prohibition remains a powerful, if often unstated, political presence. Prohibition stands asa reminder of governmental limitations and policy failures. To wary politicians, prohibition has become a shorthand reference for the pitfalls of divisive moral legislation which should be avoided at all costs. On the other hand, opponents of narcotics laws and strict governmental regulation of tobacco, to use two recent examples, attack these government controls as 'prohibition,' using that loaded term to summon up memories of foolish, unenforceable, vindictive laws that sparked massive popular resistance and a loss of faith in government itself."

Pegram, an associate professor of history at Baltimore's Loyola College, spoke with Senior Editor Nick Gillespie by phone in January.Q: Why did prohibition happen?

A: It happened twice. Both times, there was a confluence of factors. The democratic makeup of the United States allows groups to turn their behavioral viewpoints into legislation. In the 1850s, when the first state-level laws were passed, there was a breakdown of the two-party system. In the period of the national prohibition in the early 20th century, it was the slight decline in power of political parties during the Progressive Era and the patriotic lockstep associated with the American entry into World War I.

Q: Why was the 18th Amendment repealed?

A: It hadn't worked on its own terms. Institutionally, it wasn't adequately supported–there was a great deal of evasion of the law. Among those who believed in the rule of law, there was a real fear that the flouting of any law would undermine all laws. The crisis of the Great Depression also helped. And there was an organized anti-Prohibition movement that tapped into growing public dissatisfaction. Still, many opponents assumed it would never be repealed.

Q: What are the lessons to learn from prohibition?

A: One is that interest groups can influence laws, but they can't actually govern. Another is that divisive social issues–precisely because they are divisive–make it very hard for one side to triumph fully over the other.

Q: How does your analysis apply to current wars on drugs and tobacco?

A: Drugs have been illegal for so long that there's still a large cultural adherence to the notion that these are "illicit" substances. So there's little public support for repeal of laws–we're going to continue having drug prohibition. With tobacco and alcohol, however, there are legal producers and lawful consumers. The history of prohibition has taken the possibility of a total ban off the table, even for cigarettes. Instead, you'll see more of what we're seeing now: a public health offensive combined with increased taxes and manufacturer liability.