Time to rethink NC’s ABC laws

On Saturday evening, I visited the Top of the Hill Distillery in Chapel Hill.  While there are breweries and wineries popping up all over the state, there are far fewer distilleries in North Carolina, so the tour and tasting there was a bit different – and really interesting.  I learned a bit about the distilling process, saw the facilities, and tasted samples.

If you’ve ever been to a brewery or a winery, you know what comes next – the shop.  Like what you tasted?  Buy some and take it home!

Only it doesn’t work that way at a distillery.  No, North Carolina’s ABC laws prohibit distilleries from selling their spirits directly to customers.  If I want to buy any of what I tasted Saturday evening, I’ll have to go to my local ABC store and see if they carry it.  Many across the state do, but not all, so there’s no guarantee I’ll be able to get it easily.

We at the John Locke Foundation have long supported privatizing liquor sales in North Carolina.  We’re one of only 17 states that use this sort of system to control sales.  (The details of what is and isn’t under state control in those states varies widely.)  But distilleries like Top of the Hill are actually asking for something much more limited.  They’d just like to be allowed to sell one bottle per person per year to folks who visit their distillery.  One bottle.

There were maybe a couple dozen people on my tour Saturday.  I’m guessing half would have bought a bottle if the law had allowed it.  And there were two tours that day.  So we’re talking maybe 20-25 bottles they could have sold that evening.  It’s not huge volume, but it could be significant for a small business.  It’s time for North Carolina to rethink its ABC laws and loosen regulations that make business more difficult for entrepreneurs like those at Top of the Hill Distillery.

Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform

In last week’s newsletter I used the phrase “chorus of praise” to describe the media’s response to the news that Eric Holder had signed an order “prohibiting” the obnoxious practice called “equitable sharing.” (For years the DOJ has used equitable sharing to encourage state and local police to take property from people who have never been charged with or convicted of any crime through a process called “civil asset forfeiture,” and the resultant abuse has become a national disgrace.) As analysts have begun to read the fine print in the Attorney General’s order the praise has become increasingly qualified, and some commentators have even expressed doubts about whether the order will have much of substantive impact at all. It seems to me, however, that we should remain cautiously optimistic. Civil asset forfeiture abuse is a huge problem, and the fact that head of the DOJ has finally admitted that fact and is doing something, however tentative, to address it is good news. And it is especially good news for African Americans and other minority groups, who are particularly likely to be harmed. As I noted in the newsletter, “Unlike the things Eric Holder has done that were intended to deal directly with fractious relations between African Americans and the police, stopping civil asset forfeiture abuse might actually go a long way to improve matters. The order that he signed last week will not accomplish that on its own, but it is a significant step in the right direction. By all means let us give him credit for taking it, and let us hope it represents the beginning of the end for this ‘stain on American criminal justice.’”

Charters among the best high schools in NC

Niche.com recently published their ranking of the best public high schools.  Congratulations to the charter schools that made the list.

Twelve of the top 100 schools were charters, including the top high school in North Carolina, Raleigh Charter High School.

1. Raleigh Charter High School

13. Franklin Academy

16. Pine Lake Preparatory School

19. Lake Norman Charter School

26. Lincoln Charter School

27. Thomas Jefferson Classical Academy

43. Clover Garden School

44. Gray Stone Day School

57. Union Academy

65. Roxboro Community School

68. River Mill Academy

96. East Wake Academy

If I missed any, please email me so that I can update my list.

Highlighting a Southport artist’s legacy

Art Newton’s painting and photographs helped chronicle life in and around Southport in the post-World War II era.

Former state Transportation Secretary Tommy Harrelson discussed his book about Newton’s work during a presentation to the John Locke Foundation’s Shaftesbury Society. In the video clip below, Harrelson discusses Newton’s reputation at the time of his paintings and photography.

2 p.m. update: Click play below to watch the full 40:15 event.

You’ll find other John Locke Foundation video presentations here.

An amazing “defense” of the minimum wage

Those of us who oppose coercive governmental tampering with the price system (including minimum wage laws) repeatedly note that they have adverse effects, often hurting the people they’re supposed to help. Occasionally, the interventionists admit that they do harm, but breezily say that the damage is inconsequential. Read the letter below by Don Boudreaux for an amazing instance:
Editor, Wall Street Journal
1211 6th Ave.
New York, NY 10036

Dear Editor:

In his superb article “’Secular Stagnation’ and the Cheap Burger” (Jan. 24), Holman Jenkins quotes New Yorkercolumnist John Cassidy’s curious defense of minimum-wage legislation – namely, Cassidy’s observation that the negative impact of such legislation is “usually confined to teenagers and unskilled workers.”

Well duh. Is Cassidy unaware that the core of the case against the minimum wage is precisely that it prices out of jobs many teenagers and other unskilled workers? Of course the minimum wage negatively affects only workers so unskilled that they cannot produce enough value to justify their being employed at wages as high as the government-mandated minimum. No opponent of the minimum wage has ever argued otherwise.

Mr. Cassidy’s defense of the minimum wage on this ground makes no more sense than would have a defense, one hundred years ago, of Jim Crow legislation on the ground that the negative impact of Jim Crow is usually confined to ex-slaves and other blacks.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics


National School Choice Week events

January 26, 2015

·       School Choice Rally

Christian Family Academy | Jan 26, 2015 | 10:45 am–11:15 am | Conover, NC

·       National School Choice Week Charter Fair

NC Public Charter Schools Association | Jan 26, 2015 | 6:00 pm–8:00 pm | Raleigh, NC

·       Americans for Prosperity Foundation – NC Showing of “Waiting for Superman”

Americans for Prosperity Foundation – North Carolina | Jan 26, 2015 | 6:00 pm–9:00 pm | Garner, NC

·       Homeschooling: You Can Do It!

Classical Conversations, Inc. | Jan 26, 2015 | 6:00 pm–8:00 pm | Asheville, NC

·       The Piedmont School Lecture Series: CAPD and Dyspraxia Information

The Piedmont School | Jan 26, 2015 | 6:00 pm–7:00 pm | High Point, NC

·       Mallard Creek School Choice Night/Open House

Mallard Creek Elementary | Jan 26, 2015 | 6:30 pm–7:30 pm | Charlotte, NC


January 27, 2015

·       OPS National School Choice Week Business & Community Forum

Oxford Preparatory High School | Jan 27, 2015 | 8:00 am–9:30 am | Oxford, NC

·       The Piedmont School- School Tours For Prospective Parents

The Piedmont School | Jan 27, 2015–Jan 29, 2015 | 9:00 am–11:00 am | High Point, NC

·       Honoring Our City’s Servants

Classical Conversations of Rocky Mount | Jan 27, 2015 | 12:00 pm–1:00 pm | Rocky Mount, NC

·       The Homeschool Journey

Christian Home Educators of Wilmington | Jan 27, 2015 | 1:30 pm–2:30 pm | Wilmington, NC

·       Americans For Prosperity Foundation – NC Showing of “Waiting for Superman”

Americans For Prosperity Foundation – North Carolina | Jan 27, 2015 | 6:00 pm–9:00 pm | Cary, NC

·       School Choice/UCS Open House

United Community School | Jan 27, 2015 | 6:30 pm–8:00 pm | Charlotte, NC


January 28, 2015

·       The National School Choice Week 2015 The Ticket Tour Comes To Raleigh

John Locke Foundation | Jan 28, 2015 | 7:30 am–9:30 am | Raleigh, NC

·       Social Media Blitz

Christian Family Academy | Jan 28, 2015–Jan 30, 2015 | 9:00 am–9:00 pm | Conover, NC

·       Can I Really Homeschool My Children?

Classical Conversations | Jan 28, 2015 | 1:00 pm–2:00 pm | Wilmington, NC


January 29, 2015

·       You CAN Homeschool!

| Jan 29, 2015 | 7:00 am–8:00 am | Wilmington, NC

·       Classical Conversations

Classical Conversations | Jan 29, 2015 | 9:15 am–3:00 pm | Raleigh, NC

·       Classical Conversations Community Information Meeting

Classical Conversations of Statesville | Jan 29, 2015 | 6:30 pm–8:30 pm | Statesville, NC

·       National School Choice Week Charter Fair

NC Public Charter Schools Association | Jan 29, 2015 | 6:30 pm–8:30 pm | Charlotte, NC


January 30, 2015

·       “Why I Am Thankful To Be Attending Christian School”

Paw Creek Christian Academy | Jan 30, 2015 | 9:15 am–10:00 am | Charlotte, NC

·       Homeschool Fair in Charlotte, NC hosted by AFPF-NC

Americans for Prosperity Foundation North Carolina | Jan 30, 2015 | 10:00 am–2:00 pm | Charlotte, NC

·       “What School Choice Means To Me” Essay Contest

The Piedmont School | Jan 30, 2015 | 1:30 pm–2:30 pm | High Point, NC

·       Homeschooling ABCs

| Jan 30, 2015 | 2:00 pm–3:00 pm | Emerald Isle, NC

Another look at familiar texts

Ancient Israel_PBK.inddJoshua at Jericho. Samson and Delilah, David and Goliath. These familiar biblical tales undergo a thorough review in the latest installment of Berkeley professor Robert Alter’s ongoing translation of the Hebrew Bible, Ancient Israel — The Former Prophets: Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings.

Taking up fewer than 250 pages in a basic King James Version of the Bible, these six books extend beyond 850 pages in Alter’s tome. That’s due to Alter’s extensive commentary, including detailed descriptions of why he chooses a different word or phrase in particular instances from those appearing in other translations.

Among the most useful of Alter’s observations are those that explain how these books fit with a larger pattern of biblical narrative, such as the frequent use of “And it happened” to begin a chapter, and the frequent use of “formulaic” figures, such as 40 years, to denote a long time, rather than a precise measurement.

This reader particularly enjoyed Alter’s attention to the David story, which he summarizes in a reader’s note before the two books of Samuel.

The major sequence that runs, according to the conventional book and chapter divisions of later editorial traditions from 1 Samuel 1 to 1 Kings 2 is one of the most astounding pieces of narrative that has come down to us from the ancient world. The story of David is probably the greatest single narrative representation in antiquity of a human life evolving by stages through time, shaped and altered by the pressures of political life, public institutions, family, the impulses of body and spirit, the eventual sad decay of the flesh. It also provides the most unflinching insight into the cruel processes of history and into human behavior warped by the pursuit of power. And nowhere is the Bible’s astringent narrative economy, its ability to define characters and etch revelatory dialogue in a few telling strokes, more brilliantly deployed.

If this paragraph piques your interest, you’ll find much more to ponder as you wade through old stories made new with the help of a thoughtful guide in Alter.

Barron’s D.C. man assesses political prospects of Obama’s capital-gains tax plan

Jim McTague devotes his latest “D.C. Current” column in Barron’s to an examination of President Obama’s capital-gains tax proposal.

There he goes again! President Obama wants to hike the capital gains and dividend taxes paid by the top one percent to 28% — the same rate in the 1986 tax-reform bill signed into law by President Ronald Reagan, the patron saint of fiscal conservatives. Obama has been agitating for a hike since 2009. He again raised the issue before last week’s State of the Union address. Administration officials said that Obama’s fiscal 2016 budget will call for the higher rate. Obama’s goal is $320 billion in added tax revenue over 10 years to pay for some new social programs.

Congressional Republicans — you know, the “no new taxes” guys — held their noses in 2013 and let the capital-gains rate for the rich rise from 15% to 23.8%, as part of a budget deal with Obama to avert an impasse that would have left the U.S. unable to meet its debt obligations. The Bush tax cuts, which outdid Reagan’s, were expiring. The deal enshrined the Bush rates on income, dividends, and capital gains for the middle class, but let them revert to the higher, Clinton-era levels for the jet set. If other deductions lost by wealthy taxpayers in that compromise are included, their capital-gains rate actually rose to 25%. The same deal let the tax bite jump to 39.6%, from 35%, on ordinary income for individuals making more than $400,000 and families making more than $450,000. …

… The low-capital-gains-tax crowd argues that a higher rate imperils economic growth by damping business fixed investment — i.e., outlays for machinery and buildings — because the returns on these become lower on an after-tax basis. This, in turn, damps hiring. Higher rates on investment “do not make America the best place in the world to invest, start a business, and create jobs,” Larry Lindsey, a former Bush economic advisor, said at the same hearing.

In 2011, before the Obama hike, only the United Kingdom, Denmark, and France had integrated capital gains and dividend taxes exceeding those in the U.S. High rates also steer corporations away from stock markets to debt markets, because interest paid on bonds is deductible. The increase in corporate debt elevates a corporation’s credit risk. A 2010 paper by economist Allen Sinai for the American Council for Capital Formation argued that a 28% tax would cause an annual loss of 602,000 jobs. As for the argument that 28% was good enough for Reagan…the world has moved on. Our trading partners have slashed corporate rates to lure investments away from the U.S.

Now that the GOP controls both the House and the Senate, it’s unlikely to accede to another capital-gains boost. Maybe it will counter by proposing a cut.