Author: Thomas Calabro

What Really Motivates the Media?

Thomas Calabro | United States

The media is probably one of the most politically powerful entities in the US. This unique group can reveal dark secrets, spin stories for deceptive purposes, or blatantly lie to create emotional backlash against an event. Their social status puts them in a position where they are not only respected, but their claims are immediately revered as truths. This special status distorts any skepticism of the press as threats against the media as well as our very own democracy. Any person who wishes to challenge the media is automatically a tyrant, who wishes to keep their operations a secret from the public.

This is not a support for taking away the rights of the press, nor is it supporting strong central figure to destroy the media for exposing bad policies, unnecessary military conflicts, and his/her lies to the people. The media does play a role in preventing authoritarians from using fear-mongering tactics to suppress liberty, to engage in war, and to obtain more influence. Without a free press we would not we might not know of our atrocious policies, military conflicts, and much more. But one can support the media while also having some skepticism towards this institution’s claims.

This leaves me with the question: What is the motivation inside the media? Is it a desire to provide information to all, and truly stop tyrants? Is it an evil inclination to deceive the pubic to fall in line with their own personal biases? What drives those with such power to go out and write stories about the world, or engage in a hilarious confrontation with the president?

Personal Biases

We all have some sort of bias in our minds and our hearts. From how we were raised, to what we’ve experienced, and even what morals we follow, we can look at the world and see it differently from others. These biases can be so strong that it is obvious where the writer/pundit is trying to lead the audience. Someone who has a political agenda, such as those from past administrations, or supporters for the opposition party, can find the spin that can make a story support their own beliefs.

However these biases can also be very minute, as well as difficult to spot. The biased person may not even notice their bias, but can find themselves following these deep-seeded inclinations. This could be exposure to some phenomenon, or the acceptance of some beliefs as factual, instead of arguable. It could be poor experiences with authority that may not seem significant at first glance but can still impact how one looks at any kind of established authority.

Historical Preservation

With a media as powerful as today’s, many argue that such a force has the ability to take down powerful figures, especially the President. This in turn gives media figures a special place in history as fighting corruption, removing a President, or preserving democracy. The obvious example is the Watergate scandal, which both uplifts and destroys the media’s role in the impeachment/resignation of President Richard Nixon. While we generally see the media as essential in uncovering Watergate, and Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein as important for their work, many argue, as well as Woodward himself, that we should not “overemphasize” the press’ power.

To say that the press brought down Nixon, that’s horseshit,” he says. “The press always plays a role, whether by being passive or by being aggressive, but it’s a mistake to overemphasize (the role of the media)” – Robert Woodward

Of course, without Woodward and Bernstein, the Watergate story would’ve either been hidden forever, or lost public interest as it developed. It is possible that many may wish to become the next Bob Woodward, exposing corruption, creating buzz, and creating a name that will last throughout history. Even if Woodward is right about the media’s actual role, sociologist Michael Schudson thinks it doesn’t matter, that the myth of the media’s role makes the media far more powerful and respected.

A mythology of the press in Watergate developed into a significant national myth, a story that independently carries on a memory of Watergate even as details about what Nixon did or did not do fade away. At its broadest, the myth of journalism in Watergate asserts that two young Washington Post reporters brought down the president of the United States. This is a myth of David and Goliath, of powerless individuals overturning an institution of overwhelming might. It is high noon in Washington, with two white-hatted young reporters at one end of the street and the black-hatted president at the other, protected by his minions. And the good guys win. The press, truth its only weapon, saves the day.” – Michael Schudson Watergate in American Memory

Regardless, the media’s past is one of a powerful entity, one that can also preserve our names if we expose dictators and make significant changes in political climates.

Pandering Press

Every ideology has their own group that supports their stances, and worships their heroes for defending their cause. They also have their super villains to fight against. This creates a demand for stories, data, and opinions that promote their views and beliefs by telling the story they want to hear. A great example is the left-leaning sites that claim Senator Sanders influenced Jeff Bezos’ wage hike. The audience wants their hero to defeat, or even outsmart their villain, will rejoice anyone who panders to them.

The Truth Seekers

Obviously, even if you have a negative view of the mainstream media, there are some out there who truly want to spread information and make a difference. They can expose problematic policies, sad stories, and horrific tales, as well as uplifting stories about the good in the world. They will rely on facts, listen to the reality we live in, and let the people know what goes on in our world.

Regardless of the media’s specific motivation, we find ourselves struggling to grasp on to truth and knowledge without getting caught up in the hysterics. The best approach to look at the news is to have a certain skepticism until enough research can support claims made. This will not only create a sense of responsibility, but can help one look objectively at the world around them, and focus on the facts, not the deceptions.


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Envy is Evil, not the Desire for Wealth

Thomas Calabro | United States

The desire for money is often viewed with disdain by those who believe in a more altruistic approach. They believe themselves to be noble in their morals, and while that may be so, they usually believe in using more government controls to enforce their altruism. They intend to enforce desired actions to reach certain end goals, either with tighter controls of small fines, regulations on how something is made, or with the complete seizure of the means of production. These end goals usually look to end or reduce inequality of income and distribution of resources, and their morals are seen as enough reason for action.

When talking about capitalism, one must see how greediness for money energizes most of the system in an efficient way. The greedy strive for profits push businesses to create and distribute products where it is demanded by their customers. While there are some organizations whose main goals are to give back rather than making money, the desire for wealth ultimately allows scarce resources to be allocated appropriately with very little to no waste. This approach, while rooted in individual self-interest proves far better at not only distributing the resources where necessary but helps create jobs, raise wages and increase the standard of living.

But why is such a system of economic freedom and prosperity, as well as it’s drive to make profits seen as horrific to one group, but not the other? Perhaps it is that many libertarians, anarcho-capitalists, and objectivists do not see the desire for money as the issue. Rather they see the desire for someone else’s earnings as the true face of evil: envy.

Before we begin talking about envy, we must first define what envy is, as well as any misconceptions that may create confusion. Envy can be defined as the “painful or resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another joined with a desire to possess the same advantage. However, many in the libertarian camp see this approach as an issue when the government is used as a force to obtain the fruits of other’s labor.

One could make the argument that envy is what drives entrepreneurs to maximize profits in a free market system, those who use voluntary exchange are not only supplying market demand but also working hard to create wealth.

While we may consider ourselves in a free market where hard work can create profits, we have many controls in our government that stifle economic growth for many people. The most prevalent of which is the war on drugs, which perpetuates a cycle of poverty towards the victims of those policies of mass incarceration. Any government controls that prevent profitable innovations should be removed.

A paper from the Cato Institute’s Brink Lindsey recognizes 4 areas of interest: copyright and patents, occupational licensing, land use restrictions, and restrictions on immigration, as being subjected to “regressive regulations” and government controls that hinder income equality, as well as the free market. These deregulations can help the US to continue to be a melting pot of ideas and innovations that create jobs, raise wages, increase the standard of living, but also reduce inequality and combat the envious urges to take from hard-working Americans.


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The Liberty-minded Solution to the Scallop War

By Thomas Calabro | United States

Perhaps the Scallop War is not the worst “war” we’ve seen, especially compared to our history of violent conflicts in the past decades. It is still, however, an intriguing conflict based on poor economic policies. The failed negotiations may increase tensions between the UK and France. But after looking at this so-called “war” between the two European allies, I saw the opportunity to discuss the best approach that promotes liberty and eases tensions, while protecting the stock of scallops.

What is the Scallop War?

The Scallop War is the hostile dispute over the fishing rights of scallops in the English Channel, specifically the Baie de Seine area off of Normandy. Both countries border the English Channel, but the UK has a longer scallop season than the French do. The fear of depletion from the British has pushed French boats to ward off their British counterparts by throwing “smoke bombs and rocks” at them.

This situation is not new. It has occurred before both historically as well as academically. The issue at hand is another example of the Tragedy of the Commons. Basically, this arises when parties consume common resources, those that are non-excludable and rival, at an unsustainable rate.

The increase in scarcity means that both parties cannot have all they desire. These common resources are goods that are not privately owned, and therefore non-excludable, but are also rival, in that consuming one unit of a good means everyone else has one unit less to use. In this case, the nations catch scallops in international water for economic gain. So, both parties have an incentive to catch as many as possible while they last.

Alex Tabarrok, a professor of economics at George Mason University, explains the Tragedy of the Commons while also outlining three main approaches to combat the issue. The approaches include Commanding and Controlling the actions of the perpetrators, using Cultural Norms to assure better practices of gathering resources, as well as simply Creating Property Rights on these Common Resources to incentivize good behavior.

Command and Control

France understood the issue at hand but went about it in the wrong way. They are legislating their own fleets from dredging those waters in the summer months. They intend to restrict fishing for scallops from May 15th to September 30th. But, this only puts France at a disadvantage, as British fishermen in vessels can still dredge for scallops. The attempt to control the collection of common resources only incentivizes people to find other ways to continue the harmful practice.

Cultural Norms

The second approach relies on slowly ushering in the cultural norm of exercising the preferred practice. The agreement that the two countries approved put this practice to the test. Basically, British fishermen were supposed to willingly give up their advantage in the scallop market and hold their fleets to the same policies as the French.

However, the deal fell apart a few days later when British fleets desired compensation for damages. This deal, though, was destined for failure from the start, as it relied heavily on the good faith of Britain to respect and follow France’s closure period. Even though the UK and France are close allies, it is tough to expect such cooperation without efficient incentives.

Property Rights

The third approach, on the other hand, is the most powerful policy. Creating property rights on the scallops themselves incentivizes the practice of restraint. Prof. Tabarrok mentions that New Zealand is an excellent example, having implemented property rights on fish with the use of Individual Transferable Quotas (ITQ). Citizens can purchase the right to a certain amount of a common resource, such as scallops, that will sustain the population without hindering profits. Fishermen, therefore, have an incentive to increase profits by reducing the cost of collecting resources, rather than increasing the supply of that good.

By giving citizens private ownership over the scallops, therefore making it excludable, the State essentially changes the way people use the goods in question. It replaces the short-term concept of collecting as much as possible now with the idea of collecting a small amount now and leaving more to catch later in the long run.

This economic lesson does not resolve the issue of reparations, although one could argue that British fishermen deserve reimbursements for damages to their own private property.  That may be the only issue between the two countries if they seek this path of establishing property rights on scallops. Perhaps if States understand the effectiveness of incentives over controls, we could develop more policies that promote the ideas of property rights, free markets, and free people.

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The Best Way to Stop Crime Before it Happens

Thomas Calabro | United States

Perhaps one of the most polarizing debates in our political environment is how to prevent crime from happening. This is a legitimate issue to debate as we desire security from threats against us. But the fear of crime usually leads us to the inclination of sacrificing our constitutional freedoms for “security”. For most of these cases, the inclination is utilized by politicians who harp on these emotions to instill a greater requirement to implement their policies. They wish to be the heroes that stopped crime and saved our society violence by providing more tools for the local and federal governments, and seizing our rights to privacy, to bear arms, and to live peacefully.

There are those who oppose these policies and call for protecting our constitutional rights, these so called “heroes” rebuke by delegitimize the rights and liberties being violated. Those rights are portrayed as a risk for flourishing more crime, and are not even protected by the constitution. If this tactic of disparaging their opponents argument fails their next move is to simplify the argument to this context to either preserving liberty or obtaining security. But rather than using more direct approaches that sacrifices our rights, we should focus on the indirect approach of not creating the crime in the first place.

We should not support policies that create instability in the world, and lead to insurgency groups retaliating against us for creating chaos. It is easier to understand why radical groups rise up to attack an intruding country when you think in terms of China invading the US. This is a point that many view as equating the US to terrorists, but should be seen as an acknowledgment that many will react to situations in similar ways. Viewing those in the Middle East as different from us detracts the ability to fully understand their actions as very similar to what ours would have been if we were in that same scenario. We would not end terrorism by detracting from our current interventionist foreign policy, as that would likely not be the case. However, reducing instability in the world would prevent more groups from rising from power vacuums, especially those that are provided arms by the US, that will be used later against our troops.

We should start asking “Why” a perpetrator would commit a heinous crime rather than “How.” Looking at the psychological, social, and cultural issues of a group, and understanding why people from this group commit violent crimes, is a reasonable way to notice a pattern that ultimately leads to violence. Yet many refuse to look in this way and instead focus on the tools used in the process. The idea of prohibiting the use of this item from some, or even all, and hoping to stop a plotted attempt has grown popular in todays society, providing a “quick fix” that will supposedly save the day. But this not only threatens the individual liberty of each law abiding American, it also may have unintended consequences, simply leading some to find other ways to obtain these goods and perpetrate acts of evil. By looking at the causes of acts of violence, we may find a more disturbing fact in our society that drives people to take the lives of others, and create new strategies to fix this permanently.

Finally we should question whether the crime is really harmful. We should be a country  with citizens that abide to the laws, but the laws that we follow must be reasonable and follow the very principles of our country. We must understand that not all laws truly follow the principles of this country, and to keep them around is to approve of their purpose in our country.  If we are to uphold the principles of our Country to make the US a symbol of liberty, we should look at our past mistakes of infringing on American’s freedoms to make sure they are corrected in our present and will never happen again in our future.


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The Government is the Worst Kind of Micromanager

By Thomas Calabro | United States

Many of us have worked for someone who was very particular about how work was operated and needed to constantly monitor and manage workers so that they may arrive at the preferred outcome with the specific method. In a way, the Government is the same as any micromanager: a controlling figure of authority who seeks to regulate the aspects of a job rather than delegate these powers to others. In this case, we can see how an intrusive government wishes to become the biggest (and worst) micromanager of all, one that monitors and controls the means of production.

We constantly see states that wish to exhibit the attitudes of the typical micromanager. The state has a lack of faith in how a job gets done (in this case providing goods and services to the people). So it seeks to monitor how businesses conduct themselves, what materials to use, what wages to pay employees, what products can even be sold, and what prices they are sold at, if you are even allowed to. Any issues in these realms are a call for the state to gain influence over these aspects for its intended purposes of increasing the nation’s economic strength, of distribution of wealth, and even of creating “healthy” lifestyles.

While a free market has proven to be an effective way at distributing goods and services to a greater amount of people, many grow resentful of this amount of free will in the hands of certain individuals, choosing to harm the environment, or an individual’s own body because of the products they demand. The idea of one consuming a big gulp with a plastic straw, while smoking a blunt inside of a car manufactured in another country, does not instigate the thought of a people whose economic system provides goods demanded to a large population that through voluntary interaction. Rather it shows the need of creating a social/cultural atmosphere of implementing policies for the good of a collective (the State, Americans, the lower class, etc) rather than the individual. It isn’t the distribution of goods and services of our desires, but the distribution of goods and services of our needs.

The result of the attempt to control the economy and the economic decisions of individuals and businesses become similar to the effects of a micromanager. Creative innovators are suppressed, as a result of the lack of incentive to grow due to red tape, and other hurdles that are required to contribute “effectively” into the economy and ultimately pushing away talented and hardworking employees/workers that may effectively contribute, either to the economy or a business. There is no way to effectively see where what society needs without pricing mechanisms or freedoms to use certain products that cost less and are demanded more. Rather it is reliant upon those who set rules and regulations to either set standards that are needed to be met to meet the demand or to downright seize the powers of supply, effectively taking control from the producers (who really are controlled by the demands of the consumers) so that those very same people feel that the economic decisions are in suitable control.

This micromanagement shows a lack of faith in the economic system that truly puts the consumers in control, has increased wages, decreased poverty, and gotten us to a world where food and other necessities are less of a scarcity. It is time that those who feel we must control the economy realize that by placing our trust into the economic system that relies on individual demand, we truly are in control, and should cherish that freedom that many in the world don’t have.


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