All posts by Joel Schlosberg

Where Do You Want to Take a Free Mouse Today?

Doo Lee illustrating the contention of a 1998 unsigned New York Times editorial that “when a work enters the public domain it means the public can afford to use it freely, to give it new currency.” Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.

As 2024 begins, Mickey Mouse no longer remains under the full legal control of the Walt Disney Company. Meanwhile, their archenemy vies with an ex-President, who has pictured himself as a slacker cartoon frog, for the Republican nomination.

Ron DeSantis’s thin cloak of anti-corporate rhetoric covers a conventional GOP suit. Donald Trump is known more from hosting network TV than for inspiring dank web memes. But while this year beggars belief from the viewpoint of this year, it would have been unimaginable a quarter-century ago.

The House of Representatives passed the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act on October 7, 1998, forestalling the copyright expirations of Mickey cartoons that would have started in 2004.  Less than two months since the introductions of Rotten Tomatoes and Google, Florida Representative Bill McCollum argued that copyright effectively “promotes the creation of educational materials, widens the dissemination of information and provides countless hours of entertainment.” It hadn’t become apparent how networked creation and dissemination would mushroom past guaranteed returns on investment; a week later, FanFiction.Net provided a venue for “countless hours of entertainment” from amateur writers.

Meanwhile, New York Representative Jerry Nadler cautioned that “government should intervene in the free market when there is a real public policy purpose only … when the free market is not working right” to question, not lengthy copyrights, but the partial exemption of restaurants from music licensing fees, despite them being government-granted monopolies in the first place and their retroactive extension a handout to owners of existing works.

Archivists and activists were heeded even less than restaurateurs, but the next month, A Bug’s Life anticipated their potential power. “You let one ant stand up to us, then they all might stand up. Those puny little ants outnumber us a hundred to one. And if they ever figure that out, there goes our way of life!”

By 2011, the web-linked hive mind derailed the Stop Online Piracy Act and PROTECT IP Act bills from following the Sonny Bono Act into enactment. Despite consolidation in the tech and media industries, nobody was truly in control, for better or worse.

Pepe the Frog creator Matt Furie told Esquire in 2016 of his doubts that “copyright laws have caught up to the wild west of the Internet” on which many “people can post Mickey Mouse on a blog and they’re not going to get a cease and desist from Disney.” Despite opposing the connotations that had tainted his amphibian since debuting on MySpace in 2005, “even if I did try to stop it, it’s like whack-a-mole” (itself a Mattel trademark colloquially decontextualized from the specific arcade game it originally denoted).

SOPA and PIPA couldn’t have driven crowds to early-2010s Disney turkeys like John Carter and The Lone Ranger. A decade later, Disney+’s financial losses — and its studio’s chances to revive its magic in the marketplace of ideas — don’t have much do with losing exclusives on one-reelers made during the Coolidge administration.

New Yorker Joel Schlosberg is a senior news analyst at The William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism.


  1. “Schlosberg: Where do you want to take a free mouse today?” by Joel Schlosberg, Dover, Delaware State News, January 4, 2024
  2. “Where Do You Want to Take a Free Mouse Today?” by Joel Schlosberg, CounterPunch, January 5, 2024
  3. “Where do you want to take a free mouse today?” by Joel Schlosberg, Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman [Wasilla, Alaska], January 5, 2024

Time for Leviathan Reduction Action

Mr. T pitied the fools in Reagan’s White House, but the building could still use general inspection from court jesters. Public domain.

Despite taking socialists to task for being leery of the president (Joe Biden) who boasted that he “beat the socialist,” Justin Vassallo may as well be wearing a red suit for the message he’s bringing reds.

After all, according to Vassallo’s “The Left’s Foolish Attack on Bidenomics” (Compact Magazine, December 5), socialists need not bother with nostalgia for Michael Harrington’s The Other America inspiring JFK and LBJ to launch the War on Poverty six decades ago, when they wield considerable influence on the federal economic policy of 2024.

Not only are their reservations about endorsing Joe Biden’s economic policies enough of a threat to his re-election to be worth warning against, but even measures seemingly “a ‘gift’ to capital in the form of various subsidies” have the potential to be “activated through public policy within the framework of market society” through what leftist historian Martin J. Sklar called a “socialist investment component.”

Vassallo finds it “ironic” that “the most militant leftist critiques of industrial policy echo the libertarian right’s complaint that it is but another iteration of ‘crony capitalism’.” Ironically, it was Sklar who helped fellow radical scholars realize that progressive interventions “were always limited to those that would allow corporate capitalism to function more efficiently,” as noted in the editorial comments by Blanche Wiesen Cook, Alice Kessler Harris and Ronald Radosh in their 1973 survey Past Imperfect: Alternative Essays in American History. Sklar was also included in A New History of Leviathan: Essays on the Rise of the American Corporate State, coedited by Radosh with free-market libertarian Murray N. Rothbard.

Rothbard and Radosh’s joint introduction notes that their respective goals of “removing the privileges of the large corporations and returning to laissez-faire” and “a decentralized socialist economy” showed the “major political and philosophical differences between the editors.” Yet they shared an “awareness that the nature of liberalism has been distorted to mask large corporate control over American politics is essential for interpreting our past development, and for understanding how the Leviathan Corporate State operates today.”

Vassallo gets it exactly backward: It was Sklar and comrades like Radosh who helped make libertarians less automatically in favor of big business, and leftists wary of assuming that state support is friendly to labor bargaining power and consumer safety. The “peculiar dissociation from the ideas and strategies that animated Bernie Sanders and European left populists” is, if anything, a sign of how much the current left has forgotten of what the New Left learned.

While deriding “Econ 101 certainties that haven’t determined actually existing capitalism since the Industrial Revolution, if they ever did,” Vassallo is arrogant enough to prescribe “what the American economy should be producing more of — and conversely, what it could use less of.” (A proposed “new synthesis” of John Maynard Keynes and Alexander Hamilton had already long been the norm in American political economy when Hamilton was a trivia question in a Got Milk? ad.) Such compulsory counsel is the equivalent of getting coal for Christmas, plus a bill for the coal.

New Yorker Joel Schlosberg is a senior news analyst at The William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism.


  1. “Time for Leviathan Reduction Action” by Joel Schlosberg, Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman [Wasilla, Alaska], December 14, 2023
  2. “Time for Leviathan Reduction Action” by Joel Schlosberg, OpEdNews, December 15, 2023
  3. “Time for Leviathan Reduction Action” by Joel Schlosberg, The News [Kingstree, South Carolina], January 3, 2024

Zombie Isms of the Protectionists

Made in America: an iconic Spanish one-liner delivered by an Austrian action hero, filmed by an Israeli cinematographer for a Canadian director. Photo by Joel Schlosberg. CC0 License.

Ghouls and vampires weren’t the only things refusing to die at the end of October. Oren Cass disinterred centuries-old economic fallacies in “Why Trump Is Right About Tariffs” (The Wall Street Journal, October 27).

It has been over a century and a half since the American Free-Trade League imported the words of Frederic Bastiat across the Atlantic “to convince the people of the United States of the folly and wrongfulness of the Protective system” in an edition of the book they titled Sophisms of the Protectionists (better and more simply known as Economic Sophisms). And pundits have had six decades to learn from Murray Rothbard’s observation that a clear look at the notion “that exports should be encouraged by the government and imports discouraged” reveals it to be “a tissue of fallacy; for what is the point of exports if not to purchase imports?”

Yet Cass blithely asserts that “domestic production has value to a nation, so a tariff that gives it preferential treatment can be sensible and even, to use the economist’s favored term, efficient.”

If they indeed provided consumers with better goods, “preferential treatment” would be exactly what American suppliers didn’t need to stay competitive.  As James Bovard has explained, “Australia is among the world’s most efficient sugar, beef, and dairy producers” — all of which were omitted from the scope of George W. Bush’s United States-Australia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act (AUFTA), while “in return, the United States agreed to exempt the Australian pharmaceutical industry and film industry from vigorous American competition.”

AUFTA was inspired by Bill Clinton’s North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which in turn drew on earlier trade policy; as Rothbard noted in 1993’s “The NAFTA Myth,” they “have converted an unfortunate [George W.’s father George H.W.] Bush treaty into a horror of international statism.”  Proto-Trumpist restrictions on free trade under the guise of Free Trade acronyms also gives the lie to Cass’s claim that “the school of thought that dismisses the case for tariffs is also a school that dismisses the possibility of the world in which we live.”

If we did live in a world of free trade, the “complex supply chains” that Cass wants to keep within  American shores to support “building and repairing billion-dollar warships” would be replaced, not by the “sailcloth and gunpowder” Cass suggests were enough to satisfy Adam Smith’s exception to free trade for essential military goods in the eighteenth century, but by a twenty-first century update of Bastiat’s proposed replacement of armadas “vomiting fire, death, and desolation over our cities” by the “merchant vessel, which comes to offer in free and peaceable exchange, produce for produce.”

New Yorker Joel Schlosberg is a senior news analyst at The William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism.


  1. “Zombie Isms of the Protectionists” by Joel Schlosberg, Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman [Wasilla, Alaska], November 9, 2023