The Stadium Welfairy Tale

English: Edward Jones Dome - Home of St. Louis...
Edward Jones Dome — Home of St. Louis Rams (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Most fairy tales begin “once upon a time, in a land far, far away.” The American sports industry’s fairy tale begins “all the time, right here.” Apart from that, though, it’s very similar to other fairy tales in that no sensible adult really believes the main elements of the story. It goes like this:

The ultra-wealthy owners of an ultra-profitable sports franchise decide their team needs a new stadium. But they have no intention of paying for that stadium themselves. They want the local, county and state governments in the area where the team plays to pick up the tab. And if those governments don’t cooperate, well, they’ll pack up the team and move it to some area with a government that’s more willing to fleece the taxpayers on its behalf.

Here’s where the fairy tale element comes in: Hey, guys, relax — this thing will more than pay for itself! Sure, you’re going to make taxpayers cover the building costs. Sure, you’re going to write all kinds of special tax breaks for the team’s owners into the deal. But the new stadium will create so much new economic development around it that you’ll be swimming in new jobs (and new tax revenues) before you know it. Everybody wins!

Well, no, everybody doesn’t win. Study after study shows that the “economic development”  claims are fairy tales. Stadium projects are at best an economic wash for the locales in which they’re built. The franchise continues to rake in fat stacks of cash; the taxpayers are just out a bunch of money.

My former home area of St. Louis, Missouri seems to be the proverbial sucker born every day.  A decade or so ago, area governments built a new stadium for the local Major League Baseball team, the Cardinals.

Now the city’s National Football League franchise, the Rams, wants one too, at a cost of $1.1 billion, even though the bonds on their current venue, the Edward Jones Dome,  won’t be paid off for another six years. The team’s owner, Stan Kroenke (estimated net worth: $7.7 billion), has threatened to move the team back to California if the taxpayers won’t pick up the vast bulk of the check.

Let’s call this what it is: Welfare for the rich, stolen from regular folks.  The billionaires get a happy ending. Everyone else gets eaten by the bears. Or, in this case, by the Rams.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.


Marijuana: A Better Plan

English: Discount Medical Marijuana cannabis s...
Discount Medical Marijuana cannabis shop at 970 Lincoln Street, Denver, Colorado. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 2014, Florida’s legislature passed the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act. The idea was to make strains of marijuana that are low in THC (the stuff that gets you high) and high in CBD (the stuff that helps children with seizure disorders) legal with a doctor’s prescription.

A year-and-a-half later, patients still await legal permission to purchase their medicine while state health bureaucrats and would-be providers of low-THC cannabis wrangle over which five nurseries will receive licenses to operate medical marijuana dispensaries.

Yes, you read that right. In a state with a population of nearly 20 million, only five plant nurseries will be legally permitted to provide medical marijuana. One wonders why the legislature even bothered. Was the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act just window dressing, passed to shut up a few loud constituents and maybe cloud the issue enough to hold off real marijuana policy reform for a few more years?

Florida’s not alone. Around the country, medical marijuana laws are mostly  piles of red tape seemingly designed for the specific purpose of making it as difficult as possible for anyone, anywhere to get a harmless, ubiquitous plant.

Yes, I said harmless. As “drugs” go, marijuana is less dangerous, less addictive, and has fewer harmful side effects than alcohol. Or, for that matter, sugar.

I can sum up why cannabis was ever made illegal in the first place in one word: Politics.

Ditto for why it remains illegal: Money. The main function of the war on marijuana today is to keep police departments and correctional facilities overstaffed and flush with money for overtime.

If there’s any such thing as a marijuana crime, it’s the fact that the plant remains illegal long after every myth of its evil effects has been conclusively debunked.

Fortunately, some states are moving away from the unmitigated evil of the war on marijuana. Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington have legalized it for both medical and recreational use, albeit with some of the same burdensome regulations.

In the sunshine state, Floridians For Freedom are working to put the “Right of Adults to Cannabis” initiative on the 2016 ballot. The proposed law would recognize the right of adults to possess, use and cultivate cannabis.

The initiative isn’t perfect — it would allow the state to regulate the purchase and sale of marijuana “in the interest of health and safety,” something the state has already proven it can’t be trusted to do with medical cannabis — but it’s a start.

Four states down, 46 to go. When and if you vote next year, remember to ask the candidates where they stand on cannabis legalization. Any politician who’s not enthusiastically in favor of ending the war on marijuana doesn’t deserve your support.

Correction: The original version of this article left Oregon out of the count of states which have legalized both medical and recreational marijuana use.  I apologize for the error, and thanks to commenters “Jolly green giant” and Tom Welsh for pointing it out.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.


Canute’s Courtiers Condemn Consumer Crypto

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In 1818, Jeremiah Chubb collected a reward of £100 (a fairly princely sum back then — depending on how the inflation is calculated, perhaps upward of half a million US dollars today) from the British government. After a major dockyard burglary, the government ran a competition to produce a lock which could only be opened with its own key. Chubb’s “detector lock” took the prize.

Were they alive today, Chubb and his brother Charles (they also invented the modern safe) might find themselves doing quite well in a similar business: Encrypting data to keep it away from prying eyes. But instead of reaping rich rewards from the US government for that kind of work, they’d likely have US Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Richard Burr (R-NC), not to mention FBI director James Comey, calling for their heads.

Comey visited Capitol Hill on December 9, delivering his latest tantrum over encryption to the US Senate’s Judiciary Committee. He wants America’s tech industry to produce the equivalent of pre-picked locks: Encryption that the government can compromise at will with a court order.

At that same hearing, Feinstein announced that she and Burr intend to introduce a bill requiring Silicon Valley to implement Comey’s demand.

Fortunately for all of us, Feinstein, Burr and Comey are a modern trio of King Canute’s courtiers, operating on a false belief that the state can, by decree, halt the tide of progress. The strong encryption genie has been out of the bottle for 20 years, it’s not going back in, and it recognizes no borders. If this law passes, Americans who care about keeping their data private will just use existing encryption applications or get new ones from abroad.

That said, the Feinstein/Burr/Comey proposal is dangerous in at least two ways.

One is that unsophisticated consumers, users who don’t educate and protect themselves and just use handicapped Feinstein/Burr/Comey applications without strong encryption built in, will suffer from the equivalent of broken locks on their data “doors.” Terrorists, drug dealers, child pornographers and regular people who take extra precautions to secure their data won’t be affected. Aunt Sally’s diary and banking information will be.

The second danger is precedent. You wouldn’t remove the deadbolt on your front door, just in case these tyrants wanted to wander into  your house and check your bedroom closet for dead bodies whenever they felt like it, would you? This is the same principle. If we give them an inch they will undoubtedly ignore all stop signs as they take mile after mile, forever (or at least until they run out of gas).

Your privacy and your information are either yours or theirs. There’s no in-between. And there is no room for compromise.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.