Free Minds & Free Markets

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Federal Labor Board Reverses Bad Decision that Made Corporations Responsible for Franchise Decisions

Union influence (and the pursuit of deep pockets) temporarily overruled economic literacy and common sense.

McDonald'sTea / DreamstimeSome good news from the National Labor Relations Board: They've reversed a ruling that could have held large chains responsible for the labor practices of its franchises.

Prior to 2015, big corporations (like McDonald's, in this case) would be held responsible as employers during labor disputes or for labor law violations involving franchised locations, but only to the extent that they exercised corporate control over the decisions. If an individual franchise operator was violating labor law on his or her own—by paying less than the local minimum wage, for example—he or she would be the one held accountable, not corporate HQ.

A 2015 decision altered these terms, holding McDonald's potentially responsible for labor complaints filed by employees at individual franchises. McDonald's insisted that it played no corporate role in the hiring and pay decisions that had prompted the complaints.

In a party-line vote yesterday, the board overturned that decision and restored the previous understanding of the relationship between corporations and franchises or contractors.

Overturning this decision doesn't mean that franchised businesses cannot be held accountable for labor violations. It merely means that the punishment for misconduct falls where the misconduct happens.

When the ruling was originally announced in 2015, I speculated that this change was being pushed partly because business franchises tend to operate on fairly thin profit margins and there was a limit to how much money could be wrung out of an individual restaurant or convenience store. A big corporation offered a bigger payday, even if that corporation wasn't responsible for these violations.

Some labor observers also suggested that this was meant to make it easier for unions to organize workers. Why go through the effort of all these piecemeal franchise fights when you can consolidate it all in one big go at the corporation? And again, much more could be demanded of McDonald's, the corporation, than some guy who owns five individual restaurants in Iowa.

I wondered in 2015 whether the decision could lead to greater automation of the fast food industry. McDonald's is indeed introducing more self-service kiosks in stores to serve customers, but I suspect the 2015 ruling probably played less of a role than recent hikes in the minimum wage.

Nevertheless, the 2015 ruling was a bad one—a blatantly political move that violated the logic of both economics and legal liability. Tossing it out was the right thing to do.

Lack of Net Neutrality Can't Stop the FCC's 'Harlem Shake' Video, But Copyright Law Might!

Onerous IP laws threaten a free and open internet in a way deregulation never can.

Daily Caller/FCCDaily Caller/FCCAs part of his campaign to roll back the net neutrality rules imposed in 2015, Federal Communications Commission Chair Ajit Pai released a short parody video listing some things you'll still be able to do online after the vote. (The quick version: pretty much everything.) Toward the end of the video, Pai does the Harlem Shake, a dance that became a meme back in 2013.

Pai has attracted the ire of many an ill-informed opponent of the rollback. One of them, apparently, is Baauer, the producer behind the Harlem Shake. Baauer has announced he's taking legal action against the video.

Opponents of the rollback claim it threatens a "free and open" internet, but onerous intellectual property laws pose a far greater threat to a free and open internet than Pai's mild deregulation. It is copyright, after all, that Baauer is using to suppress a video whose message he doesn't like.

The Federal Communications Commission appears to have pulled the video off its YouTube channel (although it still appears on the Daily Caller website). That's unfortunate but not unsurprising. Baauer doesn't have a case: The use of the song pretty clearly falls under fair use as a parody (it appears in a portion of the video about driving memes to the ground). But copyright laws make bullying like this easy, and they've had an undeniable chilling effect on free expression online. Most content creators don't have the resources to fight even a specious takedown order, and so they often back down when facing a legal threat instead of trying to fight for their rights.

If you supporting Baauer's tactic, you don't actually support a free and open internet. Or at the very least, you don't have a good grasp of what a free and open internet entails.

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The Original Rock 'n' Roll Guitar God Was Actually a Goddess

Friday A/V Club: All hail Sister Rosetta Tharpe

Rock 'n' roll was born and baptized in a smoky nightclub somewhere, but the baby was conceived in a church. Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Little Richard were all raised Pentecostal, and their sounds were shaped by the raucous gospel music they grew up with. And Chuck Berry cribbed his duckwalk from a gospel singer called Sister Rosetta Tharpe, whose guitar style helped lay the groundwork for rock.

Tharpe was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame this week, alongside such worthies as Nina Simone and the Cars. If you find yourself doubting that this honor should be bestowed on a woman who was already in her forties when "Jailhouse Rock" hit the charts, watch this old clip from the NBC show TV Gospel Time, originally broadcast in 1962. For about a minute and 20 seconds, it may seem like an ordinary gospel performance. And then Sister Tharpe starts soloing:

A century ago, the early Pentecostals' multiracial revivals and ecstatic forms of worship sparked a moral panic. In the 1950s, rock 'n' roll provoked a similar reaction. Watching Tharpe play, you may start to see the outlines of more than one hidden continuity.

Just about all the founding fathers of rock 'n' roll—Elvis, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash—were Rosetta Tharpe fans. Gayle Wald's Tharpe bio Shout, Sister, Shout! quotes Jerry Lee Lewis falling over with praise for the woman: "I mean, she's singing religious music, but she is singing rock 'n' roll. She's...shakin', man....She jumps it. She's hitting that guitar, playing that guitar and she is singing. I said, 'Whoooo.' Sister Rosetta Tharpe." They say the Devil has all the best tunes, but he had to learn them somewhere.

(For past editions of the Friday A/V Club, go here.)

Roy Moore's Trumpian Conspiracy Theorizing About Voter Fraud

The president wants the Alabama loser to concede. But using Trump's own (fake) voter-fraud math, he shouldn't.

Moore Moore Moore ||| Roy MooreRoy MooreYesterday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders lamented that the concession speech from losing Alabama Republican senate candidate Roy Moore "should have already taken place." This morning, President Donald Trump said that "I think he should" concede. This makes obvious sense, in light of the 1.44-percentage-point lead that Democrat Doug Jones has in the unofficial results, well over the 0.5-point difference that triggers a recount according to Alabama law. Ever since Tuesday night, Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill—a Moore supporter—has emphasized that it's "highly unlikely" the ballots will be counted again.

But Moore's "the battle rages on" intransigence makes all the sense in the world when judged by the example set by Trump himself.

Trump, you'll recall, made the baseless charge three weeks after the 2016 presidential election that "millions of people voted...illegally." In January, he narrowed that figure down to between three million and five million illegal votes. If true—and it isn't—that would mean that between 2.2 percent and 3.7 percent of all votes cast were fraudulent (and monolithically in favor of the Democrat).

What happens if you run those same numbers on the Alabama Senate race? Why, Roy Moore has a case! The margin between the top two finishers was 20,715 votes; an illegal voting rate of 2.2 to 3.7 percent would amount to between 29,615 and 49,807 fraudulent ballots cast. Stand tall, Roy!

Sadly, Trump's flippant conspiracy theorizing about polling integrity has more than just a cultural influence on the right. The president has made it the basis for his Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, a garbage fire of an advisory board whose vice chair, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, is the leading voter-fraud fabulist in the country. Kobach, who is currently running for governor with the support of the president's son, has had ample opportunity to act upon his startling contention that "the illegal registration of alien voters has become pervasive" in his state. And yet, according to Mother Jones,

in 2015 he became the only secretary of state in the country with the power to personally prosecute voter fraud cases. Since then, Kobach's office has convicted just nine people for illegal voting, out of 1.8 million registered voters in the state. Only one of them was a non-citizen. The other eight were citizens who voted in two different states, and most of them were over 60 years old, owned property in both places, and were confused about voting requirements.

Among Kobach's bad ideas for the country is a massive federal database of voters (what could go wrong?). The commission is being riddled by lawsuits, including, remarkably, by one of its own members, Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap (read Dunlap's Washington Post explainer for a snapshot of Trumpian amateurishness).

So yes, Roy Moore and his supporters are making fools of themselves spreading hoaxes and indulging in dark fantasies about voter fraud. But such pathologies have a seat in the same White House urging him to concede, and still threaten to convert conspiracy theory into federal election law.

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But What Does Star Wars *MEAN*?

All culture is participatory culture, and none more so than Star Wars. A debate hotter than the twin suns of Tatooine.

Going to see the new Star Wars flick this weekend (read Kurt Loder's review here)? Or do you hate the Star Wars universe and can't figure out what the hell is wrong with all those people?

Either way, you'll want to watch this debate about the cultural meaning of Stars Wars and featuring Reason's Peter Suderman, Washington Free Beacon's Sonny Bunch, and The Washington Post's Alyssa Rosenberg. It dates from December 2015 and took place as Rogue One debuted. "All culture is participatory culture," I note at the outset in my role as moderator, and Star Wars has created the very template by which consumers create individualized meaning in their lives out of mass-produced media.

For more Reason coverage of Star Wars over the years, go here.

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Why Cards Against Humanity Won't Stop the Border Wall: New at Reason

Chris PirilloChris PirilloA games company won't be able to stop the border wall.

Steven Greenhut writes:

What did you bring back from Mexico? There are no wrong answers, but "a zesty breakfast burrito," "an endless stream of diarrhea" or "a cooler full of organs" might help you win a round of Cards Against Humanity. It's a game where each player puts down a black card with a question—and the other players toss in a white card with the funniest or crudest answer. It's best played while downing tequila shooters.

It's not my cup of tea (or shot of reposado), but the makers of the game also are known for making edgy political points. Last year, a super PAC formed by the company's creators rented a billboard near Chicago that asks this question: "If Trump is so rich, how come he didn't buy this billboard?"

More recently, the company announced that it bought some land on the U.S.-Mexican frontier to help stop the border wall by making "it as time-consuming and expensive as possible for the wall to get built." The goal is to tie up land acquisitions in legal proceedings. It's a clever idea but couldn't possibly work for several reasons.

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Justices Alito and Gorsuch Clash Over Cell Phones, Privacy, and Property Rights

Oral arguments in Carpenter v. U.S. reveal a division between two conservative justices.

Fred Schilling, Collection of the Supreme Court of the United StatesFred Schilling, Collection of the Supreme Court of the United StatesIt's common to think of the U.S. Supreme Court in terms of liberal vs. conservative decisions, liberal vs. conservative doctrines, and liberal vs. conservative justices. But in the recent oral arguments in Carpenter v. United States, one of the biggest disagreements occurred between two of the Court's conservative members, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch.

At issue in Carpenter v. U.S. is whether federal law enforcement officials violated the Fourth Amendment by acquiring the cell phone records of a suspected armed robber, Timothy Carpenter, without first obtaining a search warrant for those records. Thanks to the information they obtained, federal investigators were able to trace back Carpenter's whereabouts during the time periods when several of his alleged crimes were committed, placing him in the vicinity of those crimes. That information was used against Carpenter in court.

The government insists that this warrantless search did not violate Carpenter's Fourth Amendment rights because, in the words of the Supreme Court's 1979 ruling in Smith v. Maryland, "a person has no legitimate expectation of privacy in information he voluntarily turns over to third parties." In other words, Carpenter has no Fourth Amendment right to privacy in his cell phone records because he voluntarily used his cell phone, thus voluntarily disclosing his location to the various cell phone towers that handled his calls.

Throughout the November 29 oral arguments, Justice Alito was perhaps the most supportive of the government's position and the most critical of Carpenter's arguments. Justice Gorsuch, on the other hand, seemed extremely skeptical of the government's stance. Gorsuch even suggested at one point that the government's position was at odds with the "original understanding of the Constitution"—not exactly a compliment, since Gorsuch is a self-professed originalist.

But the real clash occurred after Gorsuch asked Deputy Solicitor General Michael Dreeben to set aside the "third party" aspect of the debate and focus instead on whether the Fourth Amendment's protection against unreasonable searches of a person's "papers and effects" should apply to the sort of digital information at issue here.

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Philly Votes to Regulate Bulletproof Glass in Corner Stores

A ban could be in effect by 2021.

Raymond Clarke Images/flickrRaymond Clarke Images/flickrThe Philadelphia City Council's Public Health and Human Services Committee passed a bill yesterday to regulate the use of bulletproof glass at food establishments. The original bill would have banned bulletproof glass outright, but that was changed following backlash from store owners, who said the glass was needed for their protection.

Democratic Councilwoman Cindy Bass, a primary sponsor of the bill, insisted these delis were the cause, not an effect, of trouble in her district.

"We want to make sure that there isn't this sort of indignity, in my opinion, to serving food through a Plexiglas only in certain neighborhoods," Bass said.

Speaking from personal experience as a resident of Philadelphia, the presence of bulletproof glass correlates well with the places where the city already deploys more police officers and mobile units. Banning the glass won't improve safety; it'll just make shopkeepers less safe. The bill scapegoats small businesses that the council's constituents patronize.

Republican Councilman David Oh pointed out that if store owners were forced to remove the bulletproof glass, they would have an incentive to bring firearms to work instead.

"They're not changing their business model, they're not moving," Oh said, identifying a likely ulterior motive in hassling the businesses. "What they will do is purchase firearms. I think that is a worse situation than what we have today."

As passed, the bill leaves the option open for city bureaucrats to ban bulletproof glass later. In the meantime, it imposes new regulations on stores that sell food and beer. It calls on the Department of Licenses and Inspections to promulgate new rules on the "use or removal of physical barriers" by January 1, 2021. It also requires the establishments to maintain a public bathroom that is accessible without walking through a food preparation or otherwise restricted area. (One complaint about "beer delis" is public urination outside, so this measure is intended to curtail that.)

The bill also creates a distinction between "large establishments" (with 30 or more seats) and "small establishments," creating new licenses for the latter. Supporters of the bill complained that the smaller establishments claim to be restaurants but only offer packaged foods and have fewer than the 30 seats they were up to now mandated to have.

It's not clear from the text of the ordinance when the rules will be begin to be enforced. The 2021 date applies only to regulations on physical barriers.

A bill in the state legislature would counteract the city ordinance: State Rep. Todd Stevens (R–Montgomery County) is pushing legislation that would prohibit municipalities from making certain "workplace safety" decisions. Bass has responded by saying if Stephens liked the stores so much, he should bring them to his constituents.

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State Lawmakers Dump Consumer-Friendly Booze Reforms for Liquor Store Protectionism

Michigan and Indiana lawmakers cave to liquor store owners' protectionist demands.

RICHARD B. LEVINE/NewscomRICHARD B. LEVINE/NewscomState lawmakers in Michigan and Indiana have fumbled opportunities to loosen longstanding laws limiting alcohol sales, leaving consumers with lukewarm brews and longer booze runs.

In other words, liquor store owners got exactly what they wanted.

Indiana lawmakers killed a proposal to abandon the state's bizarre "warm beer law," which says only liquor stores are allowed to see "cold or iced" brews. Other retailers—grocery stores, convenience stores, pharmacies, and the like—can only sell room-temperature beer. It is the only state in the country to regulate the sale of beer based on temperature.

A proposal to do away with that nonsensical restriction died in committee last week, The Indianapolis Star reports.

Like many weird state laws about alcohol sales, Indiana's warm beer law is a remnant of Prohibition. After the federal ban on selling alcohol was lifted in 1933, Indiana created different types of licenses for selling booze, and those licenses have evolved over time so that the same bottle of beer can be sold cold in one location but has to be warm in the store next door.

In Michigan, meanwhile, you won't find two next-door stores selling the same liquor at any temperature. Under the so-called "half mile rule," Michigan liquor stores must be located at least 2,640 feet from one another. The Michigan Liquor Control Commission struck down that protectionist rule earlier this year, but state lawmakers moved to resurrect it at the behest of liquor store owners, The Detroit News reports.

"You have families that have invested their life savings in a store, now suddenly they can have a store right across the street, right next to them?" state Sen. Rick Jones (R–Grand Ledge) told the newspaper.

If you think Jones' argument makes sense, try putting it in any other context. It would be ridiculous to suggest that McDonald's can stop Burger King from opening a new location "right across the street," no matter how much the existing franchisee might have invested. There's nothing inherently different about liquor stores, except that they sell booze instead of burgers.

The same is true of Indiana's warm beer rule. Imagine if Starbucks pushed through a law saying that Dunkin' Donuts could only sell lukewarm coffee. Everyone would recognize that as a ridiculous abuse of government power. Doing the same with beer has nothing to do with protecting consumers; it's just a special benefit bestowed on one business at the expense of the others.

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Political Journalists Have Themselves to Blame for Sinking Credibility: New at Reason

White HouseWhite HouseIt's been a bad week for political journalists.

David Harsanyi writes:

"Our record as journalists in covering this Trump story and the Russian story is pretty good," legendary reporter Carl Bernstein recently claimed. Pretty good? If there's a major news story over the past 70 years that the American media has botched more often because of bias and wishful thinking, I'd love to hear about it.

Four big scoops recently run by major news organizations—written by top reporters and, presumably, churned through layers of scrupulous editing—turned out to be completely wrong. Reuters, Bloomberg, The Wall Street Journal and others reported that special counsel Robert Mueller's office had subpoenaed President Donald Trump's records from Deutsche Bank. Trump's attorney says it hadn't. ABC reported that candidate Trump had directed Michael Flynn to make contact with Russian officials before the election. He didn't (as far as we know). The New York Times ran a story claiming that K.T. McFarland, a former member of the Trump transition team, had acknowledged collusion. She hadn't. Then, CNN topped off the week by falsely reporting that the Trump campaign had been offered access to hacked Democratic National Committee emails before they were published. It wasn't.

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There Will Be No Viking Longboats Cruising the Mississippi, Thanks to Hard-Headed U.S. Protectionism

An old federal law demolishes the development of some domestic tourism markets.

Viking Cruises longboatViking CruisesThere are 2,000 ports across the world where cruise ships dock for passengers to embark on fabulous getaways. Only 30 of them are in North America.

The market won't likely be calling for more docks in the United States anytime soon. Switzerland-based Viking Cruises, which wanted to build and send small cruise ships up the Mississippi River, leaving new tourism dollars for river towns in its wake, is backing off its plan.

Viking announced a couple of years ago a plan to bring its luxe longboats to the Mississippi River, but last week the city manager from one those little communities got word Viking had terminated its plans, WQAD in the Quad Cities reports. The cruise ships Viking had been wanting to build and operate would have ended up costing double what they had planned, according to the report.

"As the details were being refined, it became the economics did not meet Viking's goals," a company statement read.

No new tourists. No new tourist revenue. No new tourism jobs.

Our own federal laws are to blame. More specifically, President Grover Cleveland's Passenger Vessel Services Act (PVSA). The 1886 law requires that in order to ferry passengers between ports in the United States, the ship must have been built in the United States and be owned and operated by Americans.

If the absurd contours of this law sound suspiciously familiar, it's because these restrictions are just like the Jones Act, the terrible protectionist law that uses similar rules and ultimately drives up the costs of shipping goods to U.S. islands and territories. The law received a lot of attention and criticism in the fall because it's going to make it much more expensive for Puerto Rico to recover from Hurricane Maria.

The Jones Act is for shipping. The PVSA is for ferrying passengers and for cruises. The intention of the PVSA was obviously to protect and foster domestic shipbuilding and shelter them from foreign competition.

Ships built and owned by foreign companies can depart and return from the same U.S. port, and they can go to distant foreign ports (outside of North America) and return back to a port in a different city. They cannot travel from port to port visiting locations within the United States. There are a very small number of exceptions, like Alaska.

As the decades sailed past, the law has ended up punishing only us. America doesn't make cruise ships anymore. An attempt to do so in 2001 (subsidized by the government, no less) failed miserably. Because cruise companies are not logistically able to meet the requirements of the PVSA, America doesn't really have a domestic cruise industry. (Clarification: To be clear, there are indeed domestic river cruise companies. But the market is not nearly as robust as it could be.)

The law doesn't protect American jobs from foreigners; it has prevented new jobs from being created in the United States. Victoria and Todd Buchholz (Todd is a former economic policy director under President George W. Bush) noted the consequences of this terrible law in a Los Angeles Times op-ed in August:

Without the PVSA, dozens more cruises would depart daily from U.S. cities such as New York and Seattle, and the hundreds of millions of dollars generated from those voyages would stay within the U.S. economy, providing thousands of portside jobs — for longshoremen loading cargo, bellhops, tour guides, taxi drivers and local farmers supplying fruits and vegetables for those all-you-can-eat buffets. And of course, each stop would generate revenue for U.S. cities in port fees as well as local and state taxes.

Who does the PVSA protect? Not Americans. Instead, Canada and Mexico should send thanks to that Congress of 1886, "attn. Grover Cleveland." The cruise docks of San Diego sit vacant 90% of the year. Meanwhile, 80 miles south, Ensenada receives more than three times as many passengers as San Diego, and many more than New York, New Orleans and Boston. Vancouver hosts three times as many sailings as Seattle. Since cruising generates an estimated $3.2 billion for Canada's ports, it's no surprise that the Canadian government lobbies to preserve the PVSA.

The existence of the PVSA is particularly absurd because about half of all cruise ship passengers are American. No other country comes close. We are net exporters of cruisers. American tourists spend money overseas and the PVSA makes it impossible to reduce our "cruise tourism deficit."

We don't even know what this protectionism is costing us. Would we see a dramatic increase in foreign tourism to cities people would never have chosen as destinations, but would be happy to visit along the way on a cruise?

We almost had a chance to find out. But for now, absurdly obsolete American protectionism wins and Americans lose.

This post has been updated to clarify that there is a modest domestic cruise market.

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A.M. Links: Trump to Speak at FBI Graduation, Rubio ‘No’ Vote Casts Doubt on Fate of GOP Tax Bill, ABC Fires Mario Batali Over Sexual Misconduct Allegations

  • Gage Skidmore / Flickr.comGage Skidmore / Flickr.comPresident Donald Trump will speak to the graduating class at the FBI's National Academy today.
  • Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fl.) says he will vote "no" on the GOP tax bill. A Senate vote on the bill could come as early as Monday.
  • Massive wildfires continue to wreak havoc in southern California.
  • The Russian Parliament has set March 18, 2018, as the date for that country's presidential election.
  • ABC has fired celebrity chef Mario Batali over allegations of sexual misconduct.
  • The NYPD is reportedly investigating multiple sexual misconduct allegations, including rape, made against hip hop mogul Russell Simmons.

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, and don't forget to sign up for Reason's daily updates for more content.

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Los Angeles Wants to Make Housing Affordable by Making it More Expensive

The city's new Linkage Fee law piles millions in new costs onto developers.

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti A general rule of thumb is that you shouldn't tax something if you desperately need more of it. This common sense wisdom has eluded the Los Angeles City Council.

The council Wednesday voted to impose a linkage fee—so named because of a supposed link between the construction of new housing and the increasing costs of housing—as a solution to its housing and homelessness problems.

"When we see luxury condominiums going up," said Mayor Eric Garcetti, a major proponent of the new fees, "we can make sure that there is money paid in to build housing for the rest of us."

Michael Manville, assistant professor of Urban Planning at UCLA, says this is precisely the wrong approach because it treats housing construction as the source, not solution, to the city's housing problems. The new linkage fee law does little to create additional new housing units, he says.

"We keep passing laws that suggest that housing is a huge source of our problems," Manville tells Reason, when the real source of Los Angeles' woes is that "we don't build enough housing."

There is a very real chance the new linkage fees will raise the costs of housing, or reduce the number of housing units built. The fee for new residential developments would range from $8 to $15 a square foot depending on which area of the city they are built. Given that the average size of a one-bedroom apartment in Los Angeles is 702 square feet, the city's new linkage fee would add between $5,616 and $10,530 to constructing a unit that size.

A report prepared by Los Angeles city staff was dismissive of the idea that adding thousands of dollars to the final costs of new housing units would raise rents or home prices. Developers, they reason, will instead pay less for the land they buy or accept less profit.

Manville says that logic makes sense for some developments where parcels of land are interchangeable, but doesn't stack up in most of Los Angeles where most of the land is already developed.

"If I want to buy an existing apartment building and just operate it, as opposed to buying an existing apartment building, tear it down and build 30 percent more units, one of those comes with a linkage fee and one doesn't," he tells Reason. The developer is always at a disadvantage, he says.

Developers themselves have been pretty explicit that at least some of the new linkage fee costs will be passed onto renters. The Los Angeles Times quotes developer L.A. Michael Heslov, who says that he would likely raise rents on future projects because of the fee. "It's like anything else. If the cost of avocados goes up, it gets passed on to consumers."

The fee is expected to generate $100 million a year, which is supposed to pay for new affordable housing developments.

It currently costs an average of $448,500 to build a single new affordable housing unit in the city of Los Angeles. At that rate, linkage fee revenue would pay for about 225 new units per year. The city estimates by leveraging additional affordable housing funds the city can bring that number closer to 1,500 units.

The city actually needs 32,862 affordable housing units by 2021, according to a 2014 Regional Housing Needs Assessment. Los Angeles County—which includes the city of Los Angeles and surrounding communities—had, as of January 2017, an unsheltered homeless population of 42,828.

Manville suggests that other funding mechanisms, like a fee on real estate transactions, would provide more money for affordable housing without punishing new developments.

Libertarians would reject the notion that government needs to spend any money on affordable housing. But people of all political stripes should appreciate that piling costs onto something you desperately need more of is just wrong.

"You don't have to like developers," Manville says, "to understand that the product they produce is actually really important."

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Movie Review: Star Wars: The Last Jedi: New at Reason

One more time.

Things are once again fraught in that galaxy far, far away—but have they ever been otherwise? As in the last Star Wars movie, they're fraught in a familiar way. Like the Rebel Alliance of 40 years ago, the new good-guys collective called The Resistance, led by General Leia Organa (onetime princess Carrie Fisher), is being heavily oppressed by the First Order, a league of space barbarians in no way unlike the Galactic Empire of old, apart from being commanded by a desiccated potato head called Supreme Leader Snoke (a mo-capped Andy Serkis). Can the rebels disrupt the Order's evil scheme of, you know, conquering the entire galaxy? It's not much of a question, but let's say, Who knows?

Writer-director Rian Johnson, new to the Star Wars factory, kicks things up more than a notch from J.J. Abrams's welcome-back series reboot, The Force Awakens. Abrams's movie was essentially a reprise—and a pretty good one—of Star Wars' greatest hits. Director Johnson is a more irreverent guy (see his 2012 time-travel movie Looper), and his sequel—"Episode VIII," for those keeping count—is quite a bit wittier. We get a lot of the series' trademark swoosh-boom space action, but it doesn't feel like a haphazard CGI dump—now it has some structure, and for the most part it's smartly staged. There are also a few beautiful scenes—on a remote water planet, in Snoke's gleaming black-and-crimson lair. And Johnson has worked up some amusing dialogue as well (a commodity on which Star Wars creator George Lucas was famously short). He gets a couple of out-loud laughs—especially at the expense of Domhnall Gleeson's operatically snotty Snoke subordinate General Hux—but he's careful about it: no one wants to turn the Star Wars franchise into a joke, least of all its Disney overlords, writes Kurt Loder in his latest review for Reason.

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Brickbat: Locked Up

British policeStuart Miles / DreamstimePatience Tagarira went to the Luton, England, police station to talk to an officer about an incident in which a bicyclist fell and became wedged beneath her car. Instead, she was left in the reception area for 30 minutes without seeing an officer. Then, the station was closed and locked with her still inside it. Another two hours passed before an officer reopened the station and let her out.


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