Mr. Burns Needs Mr. Monopoly

Strawberry Donut
A donut exemplifies the deceptively simple products made available and affordable by market economics. Photo by Guigui575.

The Simpsons have gotten real.

The show’s title family closed its thirty-third season on May 22 with a lengthy sequence acknowledging what has long been pointed out: that the setup in which “Homer lives a comfortable life with his wife and three children and has a secure job at the [Springfield nuclear power] plant, despite his nonchalance, laziness and incompetence,” as James C. Wilson noted in 2015, strains plausibility even in a cartoon.

In the not-roaring economy of the 2020s, Bart Simpson would face even longer odds making a living as a performer than his creator beat making him one of the media icons of the 1990s. Lisa Simpson’s book smarts might get her through college, but not out of paying the ensuing debt.

The Simpson kids face that uncertain future while having access to consumer technology unimaginable at the time of their debut. Indeed, the plot of the season finale itself ensues from Marge Simpson streaming a British series at her leisure on the family’s living room TV, which has been upgraded from the clunky cathode ray tube box like the ones that picked up The Simpsons on the fifth of five channels in many real-life Springfields to a slick flatscreen offering a world of choices in crystal clear high definition.

The shift is explained to be the result of “rampant corporate greed, Wall Street malfeasance and the rise of shortsighted politics” by the Clinton administration’s Robert Reich. This is at odds with the show’s takes on wealthy business owners over the decades, which if anything have softened as Mr. Burns’s unrepentant miser has shared the screen with more charitable successors. Bill Gates went from smashing Homer’s startup in season 9’s “Das Bus” to being in the admittedly small Beloved Billionaires Club in season 32’s “Burger Kings.”

Reich declared in a May 21 Facebook post that “monopolies are only good for the monopolists.” It might have been awkward to note how the firms that dominated the middle of the 20th century could pursue long-term projects like Bell Labs, and offer long-term employment, via the same insulation from competition that made them big. Likewise, to reverse “the decline of unions” Reich should take heed of the advice of labor historians Jonathan Cutler and Thaddeus Russell that “when unions compete, workers win.”

The board game Monopoly originated from the insight of Henry George that monopolization of land rent could explain the paradoxical “increase of want with increase of wealth.” This analysis was extended to areas where monopoly was taken for granted by Bertrand Russell, who observed that “in labor disputes, the employer is the immediate enemy, but … the real enemy is the monopolist,” and Benjamin Tucker, who proposed alternatives to the “money monopoly” over a century before cryptocurrency.  Without Mr. Monopoly’s help, a business as small as Homer Simpson’s “Mr. Plow” snow-shoveling service can cut the economic power of Mr. Burns down to size.

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


  1. “Mr. Burns Needs Mr. Monopoly” by Joel Schlosberg, CounterPunch, June 3, 2022
  2. “Mr. Burns Needs Mr. Monopoly” by Joel Schlosberg, The Lebanon [Indiana] Reporter, June 3, 2022

Marijuana: John Carney and Delaware’s Law Enforcement Lobby versus “The Children”

Legal cannabis (marijuana) product in Denver, Colorado. Photo by Cannabis Tours.  Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.
Legal cannabis (marijuana) product in Denver, Colorado. Photo by Cannabis Tours. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

On May 24, Delaware governor John Carney vetoed a bill — passed by super-majorities of both houses of the state’s legislature — which would have legalized possession of small quantities of marijuana by people over 21.

Carney’s justification: “I do not believe that promoting or expanding the use of recreational marijuana is in the best interests of the state of Delaware, especially our young people.”

Yep. Even though the bill applies only to those over 21 years of age, Carney felt compelled to play “for the chilllllllllldren” card.

It’s easy to see why, as the rest of his justification doesn’t hold water, either.

The bill wouldn’t have “expanded” the use of marijuana. Anyone who wants to use marijuana can already get it without much effort. Including the kiddos. It’s a common plant that’s easy to grow almost anywhere — it’s called “weed” for a reason — and nearly a century of “war” on it hasn’t dented its popularity. Quite the opposite. Fifty years ago, 4% of Americans admitted to having tried marijuana. As of last year, that number was 49%.

Nor, unlike most state recreational legalization schemes, would the Delaware bill have “promoted” the use of marijuana by creating a state licensing regime relying on big sales numbers to generate tax revenue. In fact, sales would have remained entirely illegal absent further legislation.

If anything, Carney’s veto, along with the continued prohibition of sales, actively promotes the distribution of marijuana to those under 21.

If it’s illegal to possess marijuana, and illegal to sell marijuana, heck, what’s one more “crime” to the “criminal?” He’ll sell it to anyone with the money to buy it. He’s already taking the risk, so why forego the additional profits?

If it’s legal to possess marijuana, and legal to sell marijuana, but only to those over 21, at least some sellers will decide to avoid those younger customers. They’re no longer at legal risk as long as they only sell to adults.

Prohibition-era speakeasies didn’t care what ages their customers were. They were headed for the hoosegow if they got caught anyway. Modern bars and liquor stores demand ID because they’re good to go so long as the guy who bought that mojito or pint of bourbon was over 21, and in trouble if he wasn’t.

The kids will still get marijuana and booze either way, of course.  I probably drank far more between the ages of 17 and 21 than I have between the ages of 40 and 55. I doubt today’s kids are, on average, any smarter about that, or any less capable of acquiring it, than I was at that age.

Why did Carney really veto the bill? Well, he also mentions “serious law enforcement concerns.”

“War” on marijuana means more police jobs and bigger budgets for police departments. And perp-walking a harmless citizen over a bag of weed is much safer than, say, saving a school full of children from a gunman.  Officer safety is the first priority, followed by job security. Back the Blue!

Leave the kids out of your police union featherbedding schemes, Governor Carney.

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


America’s Ruling Class: Candid — But Only In Camera

Allen Funt, host of Candid Camera. Photo by ABC Television. Public Domain.
Allen Funt, host of Candid Camera. Photo by ABC Television. Public Domain.

After someone — we still don’t know who — leaked a Supreme Court “draft opinion” in Dobbs v. Jackson (the case in which the Court is widely expected to overturn Roe v. Wade), Chief Justice John Roberts  characterized the leak as a “betrayal … intended to undermine the integrity of our operations …. a singular and egregious breach of that trust.”

Emory Law professor (and former SCOTUS law clerk) Alexander Volokh explains succinctly, via CBS Atlanta, why Court prioritizes confidentiality and why the leak is so controversial: “Justices rely on the ability to be candid.”

Something about that claim reminds me of another recent, and very different, controversy:

Throughout the various investigations of former president Donald Trump’s role in the January 6, 2021  Capitol riot, Trump and his lawyers have fought tooth and nail to prevent the release of documents to the US House Committee exploiti … er, investigating … that event by the US National Archives, on grounds of “executive privilege.”

I’ve argued (and the courts seem to agree) that even if “executive privilege” is justifiable, it inheres in an office (e.g. the presidency), not a person (e.g. Trump). That is, the power to release or not release presidential documents belongs to the current president, not whichever former president may have happened to generate those documents.

I got some pushback on that argument from more than one acquaintance, and their counter-arguments universally went something like this:

“If a president asks for my advice, will I give my best advice if I have to worry that whatever I say may eventually become public?”

The “would I be candid if what I say wasn’t kept secret?” argument doesn’t carry any weight with me.

If you want to wield power over, and collect a paycheck from, the public, what you say and do pursuant such activities is the public’s business.

If you’re not comfortable with the public knowing what you’re up to, there are plenty of jobs to choose from in the private sector.

If you’re not willing to be “candid” with the public you claim to work for, you’re not a “public servant,” you’re a “public enemy.”

I’m not big on creating new government sinecures, but if Allen Funt still walked among us we could do worse than to appoint him to the position of “transparency czar.”

Government activity shouldn’t take place — at any level or in any department — “in camera.” It should all take place on Candid Camera.

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