Roaring into Recession 

Travel back in time a whole century to the year 1922, the dawn of what has become known as the roaring ‘20s.  Forever immortalized in the textbooks, literature, and imaginations of America, the 1920s will be remembered as a time of decadence, affluence, technological advances, and moral degradation.  Does it sound familiar?  We think of Art Deco, The Great Gatsby, the flappers, and the speakeasies.  What doesn’t come to mind nearly as often is that just like in 2022, a hundred years back, the world was also only several years out from a global pandemic, the Spanish flu of 1919-1920.  Another point of interest is the turning point in Russia at the time.  The Soviet Union was formed in 1922.  Today, the invasion of Ukraine has once again placed Russia in the spotlight of the international news.  The ‘20s today eerily mirror the ‘20s of the twentieth century.  And what is the significance of this?  Everyone knows what brought the roaring ‘20s to a screeching halt.  According to a number of economic trends, it looks like the United States may once again be on the road to another economic recession.

We’ll start by taking a look at the effect of the major global crisis of the times: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Sanctions against Russia, as well as companies pulling out of the nation, have naturally led to supply chain issues, of which we are feeling the effect.  As a significant producer of oil and other commodities, these actions against Russia have hiked up prices in oil, food, and components for consumer goods, only leading to further inflation and economic hardship.   Necessities are now taking up a larger percent of a person’s income, and this decreases demand in other industries.  Now, decreased purchasing power leads to less consumer spending, due to their deceased discretionary income.  Less consumer spending means less money flowing through the economy, which ultimately slows economic growth. All of this leads to a reduced GDP growth and an increased risk of recession, ultimately leaving citizens to fear a possible return to the ‘70s.

 Stagflation, a combination of stagnation and inflation, was the hallmark of the 1970s and is once again applicable in this day and age.  Essentially, it means a combination of elevated prices, inflation, and decreased economic growth, or stagnation.  The government increased printing of new dollars in the past two years in hopes of stimulating the economy after the lockdowns.  Injecting more money into the economy will also inevitably lead to inflation, which is at a 40 year high.  In response, the Fed raised its interest rates in hopes of stopping this inflation.  Raising interest rates, however, slows down economic growth through disincentivizing loans, and can even cause recessions.  In doing so, the government is walking a fine line between inflation and recession. 

Another time-tested indicator of recession is an inverted yield curve.  What exactly does this mean? To begin, a yield curve is a graph showing the difference in interest rates between bonds. 

 The yield curve should slope up, but now, it slopes downward instead.  An inversion in the yield curve means that short-term interest rates, in this case 2 year bonds, exceed the rates for long-term, 10 year bonds, meaning investors believe the economy will fall sharply.  An inversion in the yield curve corresponds to the onset of an economic recession; it has predicted every economic recession in the last 50 years.  Essentially, when short-term rates are higher than long-term ones, banks no longer want to lend money, limiting opportunity for economic growth and making it harder for companies to pay off current loans.  The inverted yield curve heralds a looming recession in the near future. 

Although it may have seemed like a positive, the low unemployment levels may be yet another cause of concern for the future.  Firstly, low unemployment can be taken as a green light to raise interest rates, which naturally slows down economic growth.  Secondly, this low unemployment rate is causing increased inflation.  In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, we’re seeing the rapid retirement of the baby boomers, the wealthiest generation in history, who control 53% of the USA’s wealth.   This leaves a workforce vacuum, leaving a multitude of available jobs and positions which creates the low unemployment.  Since there are now more jobs than people willing or available to work, the labor costs are rising. In order to afford the labor costs, prices also must go up, which leads to inflation.  Essentially, with the COVID-19 pandemic, governments around the world tried to turn the world economy off and then turn back on. This is simply not how it works.  Inevitably, the fallout of the lockdowns is leading to economic concern. 

It is a known phenomenon that everything tends to regress to the mean.  We are currently at a time of economic excess, with high inflation a telltale sign.  The only way to alleviate these excesses is to decrease economic activity through a recession.  As the chart shows, historically, peaks in inflation have been followed by a recession.  

The economy goes in cycles.  History goes in cycles. The economy shapes history and history shapes the economy. Every aspect of the economy is intricately interwoven with the past, current, and future events.  While major, external circumstances like disasters and politics are the major drivers of the macroeconomic scene, at the individual level, we have the power to make day to day financial decisions that microscopically shape the economy.  Some tips for preparing for an economic recession include, setting aside an emergency fund, paying off any current debts, living a more frugal lifestyle, and building up your resume in case of job loss.  And so, we as college students, with our lives ahead of us, face an uncertain future in terms of the economy upon graduation.  But how we prepare, budget, and save is up to us.  Perhaps the greatest benefit of all is that we have the ability to learn from history.

Trinity Conservatives Demand Campus Safe Space

Imagine walking around campus feeling oppressed at every turn for your political beliefs. At a school like Trinity University where almost no one will come up to you and talk to you about your political beliefs, the Conservative Texans that are Young (CTY) have had enough of feeling constantly looked down on for their conservative beliefs. Following in the footsteps of other major universities across the country, CTY is demanding a safe space for conservatives on campus.

Former CTY President Chad Miller was spotted entering the Diversity and Inclusion Office (DIO) yesterday afternoon. What reason could CTY possibly have to go to DIO unless to ask the university for a safe space? 

Conservatives have long felt oppressed by their fellow Trinity students. From CTY’s memorable tabling events such as handing out fortune cookies on the anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China to building a miniature Berlin Wall and encouraging peers to smash it down, CTY has truly been unable to freely express their political beliefs on campus. 

They are in such need of a safe space on campus that the club even holds weekly meetings in which students can discuss current events and policy issues with their fellow conservatives (or non-conservatives who choose to attend meetings and cause chaos during discussions). 

Former  CTY Treasurer Kyle Smith reached out with a few comments when The Tower asked about his position on the conservative safe space the current CTY leaders are asking for. “We just…like feel like we have no place on campus where we can be ourselves, you know? It’s so hard on us to always feel like people don’t like us. That’s why we want the university to provide us with a safe space.”

Safe spaces are usually created for students who are part of marginalized communities to come together and discuss their unique experiences without outside judgment. CTY claims that because of their unique experiences as conservative college students, they qualify for a safe space. In an unanticipated move, they are demanding interference from Trinity administration to alleviate their problems.

When asked how the club can reconcile its anti-government tendencies with its desire to take advantage of university authority, current CTY Campus Events Chair Dave Baker had this to say: “it’s okay when it gets us something that we want. I mean, uh, it’s okay because Trinity is a private school. Officially, we as a club support private institutions over government ones, so we think Trinity is a pretty cool place.”

But, according to CTY and other conservatives on campus the club claims support its efforts, Trinity University would be an even cooler place if they created a safe space for its marginalized conservatives.

Trinicat Conspiracy: Revealed

Every year at Trinity University, as the school year draws to a close, a problem arises; what to do with the Trinicats. These staples of campus, beloved by all, are cared for by the students of the Cat Alliance during the school year. However, during the summer these students go home. What happens to the Trinicats then? One would suppose the university would start to take over care for the cats, or that students of the Cat Alliance would come by to deliver the cats’ meals. A recent source has revealed to The Tower a much darker, more sinister, secret.

As students pack up the contents of their dorms, lugging books, chairs, and clothes back to their cars, it is a common sight to see the Trinicats out in full force, rubbing up against students, seemingly asking for pets. Their quest for students’ attention is not a plea simply for a few measly scratches; the cats, being as wise as they are, know what is coming. Some cats are lucky, as they get adopted by the loving members of the campus community. The unlucky ones who get left behind face a far more gruesome fate.

Enter St. Anthony Catholic High School. Every year, the anatomy class dissects an animal that many high school students dread: a cat. Now, where do these cats come from? They are remarkably opaque about their sourcing of these poor animals, with no material on their website indicating anything about the lives these cats had before they reached the school. That is for one simple reason; the school itself does not know where these cats come from. The teachers there simply buy from the cheapest local source available. Little do they know just how close these cats used to live.

The first night after finals, when all students have left to go back home to enjoy their summers, members of Trinity’s staff commit a deed that, while heinous, helps to keep the University afloat. Grabbing nets, tranquilizers, or anything else they can get their hands on, they leave the comfort of their air-conditioned offices for the heat of a San Antonio summer night. The hunt has begun. The remaining Trinicats cower in fear, hiding under cars, in crevices in buildings, high up in trees, but to no avail. The pure number of faculty members overwhelms even the cleverest of cats. One by one, they are caught, rounded up, and sent to the labs of CSI, where they are placed into vats of formaldehyde, to be sold to local high schools later.

In a few month’s time, this cat will be dead.

Now, the clever reader you are might ask, “what is your proof” or “that’s utterly ridiculous.” I know, I was once in your shoes too; hopelessly naive and ignorant. However, once you dig into the details, it starts to make much more sense. Have you ever stopped to consider why Trinity University, a school of under 2,800 students, has an endowment of over $1.7 billion, a total of over $600,000 per student? There can only be one explanation, that the University is making most of its money on the side. And what’s the most lucrative business that an academic institution can engage in? That’s right, the clandestine collection of cat cadavers. 

While the most intelligent amongst you have already been convinced by this impeccable logic, some of the slower among you might need a bit more proof. Enter the University itself. While writing this article, the president of the University failed to proactively send us a comment supporting the hypothesis of the status quo, or in fact, any statement at all. Now, was this because the University likely had no idea that we were writing the article? Doubtful. Was it because this story being broken to the student body population would devastated the reputation and future stability of the school? Most assuredly.

Think this is Sabrina? Think again.

Next fall, when moving back into your dorm, take a closer look at the Trinicats. The new, hapless strays and rescues may seem familiar; they might even come when you call their name. This is due to the hard work of the University. They scour the shelters and streets of San Antonio, looking for cats that look as similar as possible to the Trinicats of the prior year, so that no student notices. If you look closely enough, however, the difference is clear. A few stray hairs on one cat, a scratch on the ear of another; the new cats are never identical. Only then, my dear reader, will you become truly convinced of the depth of the Trinicat Conspiracy

Chinese Infiltration of the Lone Star State

China’s growing influence in the US is noticeable to anyone who doesn’t ignore it, but what is even more concerning is China’s growing influence in our very own state of Texas.

Sun Guangxin, a Chinese billionaire connected to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), planned to build a wind farm on the 15,000 acres he owns in Val Verde County. In total Sun owns more than 144,000 acres of land, all of which is not only near the Texas border, but also Laughlin air force base. 

In June 2021, Governor Abbott signed the Lone Star Infrastructure Protection Act which prevented Sun, and anyone else connected to countries like China, Russia, Iran, or North Korea, from building critical infrastructure in Texas. However, the law does not do enough to protect Texas from foreign adversaries who use their financial resources to infiltrate Texas’ borders. Despite Abbot blocking Sun from building his wind farm, he still owns the land and could use it for other malignant purposes. 

Texas leads the nation in foreign-owned land with 4.4 million acres, which is more by far than any other state. Six states actually ban foreign ownership of farmland, but Texas still allows it. In Houston, Chinese investors are buying up homes not to live in the US, but to make money off Americans by renting out the properties.

Sun is not the only businessman or business connected to the CCP who is currently operating in Texas. There are many, and each one represents a potential national security risk to not only the Lone Star state, but to the country. 

DJI Technology Co. Ltd, a Hong Kong-based drone manufacturing company, has been under heavy scrutiny recently for the security risks its drones pose due to the company’s closeness to the CCP. China Chengtong Holdings Group Ltd, a state-owned enterprise, described DJI as China’s leading company that “adheres to the standard of Xi Jinping’s socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era.”

DJI has sold its wares to many companies, local agencies, and even Federal agencies. During the tail-end of the Trump Administration, Washington made it a priority to mitigate the dangers that Chinese drones pose in the US. The U.S. Commerce Department added DJI to the U.S. government’s economic blacklist in December 2020, and in January 2021 Trump signed an executive order prioritizing their removal from service. 

The Bexar County Sheriff’s Office operates four DJI drones as of 2018, according to data compiled by the Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College. Across Texas 42 police departments use a total of 73 DJI drones.  

In addition to the business sector in Texas, the CCP has also tried to infiltrate our education system. In one of the CCP’s boldest moves in Texas, it attempted to use a Hong Kong foundation to fund the University of Texas’ China Public Policy Center (CPPC). 

The Center opened in Aug. 2018 and was tasked with making “fresh and enduring contributions to the study of China-related policy topics while advancing U.S.-China relations and Texas-China relations.” Former foreign service officer David Firestein, who proposed that the Hong Kong-based foundation China United States Exchange Foundation (CUSEF) funds the Center, currently leads the CPPC. The CUSEF’s leader is Tung Chee-hwa who is vice chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, a united front organisation. United front groups are the primary agents used by the CCP for foreign influence operations, with hundreds of United Front and United Front linked groups operating in the US.

Luckily Senator Ted Cruz and the White House pressured UT not to accept the funding, but the fact that a major state university was about to fund a Chinese research institution using a CCP front organization’s money shows how much influence China has already seized in the US and in Texas.

Some dramatic acts were taken by the Trump administration to combat Chinese intelligence operations in the US. The Chinese consulate in Houston was a hotbed for spies and the theft of intellectual property by CCP agents before Trump closed it down in July 2020. This action led to frenzied scenes of consulate workers burning huge amounts of classified documents to prevent the US from getting access to them. 

Policymakers in Austin and Washington, DC must make combatting Chinese influence in America a priority, especially as China continues to increase its aggressive threats towards Taiwan, and continues to oppress Tibet, Xinjiang, and Hong Kong. Congressman Chip Roy has been vocal about this issue, and his Securing America’s Land from Foreign Interference Act would have prevented members of the CCP from buying US farmland. Even these efforts, had they been successful, would not be enough. Most of the influence China has gained in the US has been indirect through front organizations. The CCP now has allies in every layer of the US echelons of power. We must remain vigilant and on the offensive against the influence they have accrued. 

We welcomed Chinese capital into the US for decades for cheaper and cheaper trinkets made with Chinese labor, all in the hope that as a developed nation it would have to democratize. We bet wrong, and it is time to face that fact and reverse course before it is too late. We must begin decoupling, limiting Chinese investments coming into America, and bring manufacturing back from China to the US. China is now a threat to the US and we must treat it as such. Hopefully the current administration will have the backbone to do so, and we must call on our government to protect American citizens and infrastructure from foreign dangers. 

CCP Delenda Est

UTSA is Not Just Trying to Erase Texas History

The “Come and Take It” flag denounces tyranny, and only tyrants want to be rid of this important symbol.

UTSA announced on Sep. 7 2021 that it would end the tradition of unfurling a large “Come and Take It” flag before home football games and would remove any trace of the phrase from the school’s campus and website. This comes after an online petition that garnered less than 1,000 signatures argued that the flag was racist, pro-slavery and “anti-Mexican.”

When those without backbones, who either sympathize with or openly support anti-historicists, control institutions like universities in our society, they eventually wage war against history and tradition in the name of “wokeness” and “inclusivity.”

This is the most recent of a long war against our history and traditions that has been waged by the left, and shows that they are showing no signs of letting up. When those without backbones, who either sympathize with or openly support anti-historicists, control institutions like universities in our society, they eventually wage war against history and tradition in the name of “wokeness” and “inclusivity.” Some, like Kevin P. Eltife, chairman of the UT System Board of Regents, have stood up against UTSA’s decision by calling it the “abandoning [of our] traditions and history.

Ian De Koster, Class of 2024 at Trinity University, doesn’t see any problems with the flag. “As a Mexican-American and a Texan I can attest on my own account that it is not a point of grievance for the Mexican-American community. I don’t know anyone in the Mexican-American community who has felt attacked by the flag. Mexican-Americans today who understand what the flag means, are not provoked by it. I understand it can be used in negative contexts, but strictly in regards to the present day Mexican-American community, I don’t see the open wound they refer to.”

The [“Come and Take It”] flag was created in support of a cause, the cause of freedom and liberty.

But in this specific situation, what makes the “Come and Take It” flag so offensive? What makes it politically incorrect in this day and age? According to the left-wing activists it has anti-Mexican connotations. Yet what it was originally created for and what it still stands for are not in any way related to racist, anti-Mexican sentiments. Texas was about to launch a revolution against Mexican dictatorship and used the flag as a rallying cry against the tyrannical government of Santa Anna. The flag was created in support of a cause, the cause of freedom and liberty. It was not created to target a specific group. This is as ridiculous as if someone accused the Gadsen flag or the Betsy Ross flag of being insulting to British people today. These banners stand for something far greater than the narrow definitions that the Left uses to try and take them down. Or tries to “Come and Take It” down, if you will. 

The “Come and Take It” flag represents a direct challenge to tyranny. The words “come and take it” are eternal from when they were uttered by Spartan King Leonidas I as “molon labe” at Thermopylae, to when Texans flew them on that white flag over the battlefield at Gonzales. They represent far more than a single battle, war, or cause. They stand for every patriot who stands against a tyrannical government trying to infringe upon his life, liberty, or the pursuit of his happiness. Throughout history, the heroes we celebrate today like William Wallace, William Tell, and Spartacus refused to bend the knee to a tyrant. Instead they proudly cried the words “come and take it.” We can not allow such an important phrase to be ripped from public display by those who do not understand, or are actually against, what it symbolizes.

The “Come and Take It” flag denounces tyranny, and only tyrants want to be rid of this important symbol.

Texas Takes a Baby Step Toward Election Integrity

This article is a repost and was originally published on July 19, 2021 by Capital Research Center.

Following the lead of several other states in the wake of the 2020 election (and the public distrust of elections that ensued), Texas passed its own legislation restricting the use of private money in elections.

According to research conducted by Capital Research Center, the Center for Technology and Civic Life (CTCL) gave $33.5 million to Texas county election offices across 117 different counties. Election administrators in these counties applied for CTCL grants and used the money for COVID-19 safety measures including drive-thru voting, mail voting sorting assets, polling place rental expenses, labor expenses and hazard pay, personal protective equipment, and voter education and outreach.

The most money (over $15 million) was granted to Dallas County, and the smallest amount was just over $47,000 given to Maverick County. Our own Bexar County received $1.9 million from CTCL. While CTCL claims the money was purely for COVID-19 relief for elections offices, Public Interest Legal Foundation tracked the 14 counties with the most significant donations from CTCL and found that blue-leaning counties received far more COVID-19 aid than red-leaning counties. Public Interest Legal Foundation also found that the total amount of money granted by CTCL in Texas could be over $36 million.

CTCL-funded counties gave President Joe Biden 69 percent of his Texas votes and former President Donald Trump only 25 percent of his votes. Of the $33 million to $36 million donated to various Texas counties, counties that voted for Trump received about $0.55 per capita from CTCL, while counties that voted for Biden received an average of $3.22 per capita.

In addition to the $350 million Mark Zuckerberg donated to CTCL, the nonprofit is also funded by left-leaning funding organizations like the Democracy Fund, Knight Foundation, and Rockefeller Brothers Fund.

Governor Greg Abbott signed HB 2283 on June 12, 2021. The bill prohibits the joint elections commission, county elections commissions, and county elections boards from accepting private donations of $1,000 or greater without the written consent of the secretary of state. Before giving consent, the secretary of state must get the unanimous approval of the governor, lieutenant governor, and the speaker of the house of representatives. Donations less than $1,000 need only the written consent of the “relevant political subdivision.” While HB 2283 decreases the influence of private funding on elections, it does not fully ban private funding in elections altogether. Six other states have already passed laws fully banning “Zuck Bucks,” so why is Texas holding back?

With as much private money as flowed into Texas during the last election, it is not surprising that a bill like HB 2283 passed. The surprise is that Texas passed one of the weakest bills banning private funding in elections.

HB 2283 limits the amount of money that groups like CTCL can donate to Texas counties. It is a fine solution while those in power in Texas are staunchly opposed to private funding in elections. However, if Texas is one day run by politicians who support private funding in elections, HB 2283 will do little to protect Texas elections.

When compared with bills passed in other states, Texas’s HB 2283 falls short. Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, North Dakota, and Tennessee all passed laws fully banning private funding in elections. Unlike Texas, these states left no loopholes for future administrations and election officials to abuse.

HB 2283 falls short not only of the standard set by other states but also of expectations the Republican Party of Texas (RPT) created for the 2021 session. In 2020, RPT established election integrity reform as a top priority for the 2021 legislative session. The omnibus bill (SB 7/HB 6) of election reforms did not get through both the Senate and the House before the end of the 2021 session. As a small consolation prize, Texans must satisfy themselves with HB 2283 among several other smaller bills that touch on election integrity.

Admittedly, HB 2283 is a first step, a response to the 2020 election rather than a means to protect future elections. While public scrutiny into CTCL’s influence over the 2020 election may prevent it from interfering in future elections, it is probably too weak to prevent other organizations from doing the same in 2022 or 2024.

A second bill (HB 3) has since become the focus of a political circus, with Texas House Democrats fleeing the state to prevent the quorum required to vote on legislation.

Trinity Wants to Have Its Cake and Eat It Too

The administration at Trinity University has made it clear that it wants to put temporary safety over the eternal liberty and trust of its faculty, students, and staff. It will charge students the full price of tuition to attend a limited university. Trinity claims to offer one of the highest quality educations in the United States, but it is not allowing students and staff the ability to take full advantage of that high-quality education.

Over these past two weeks, the administration of Trinity University has sent out two emails to all students outlining the new COVID-19 restrictions that will be on campus, despite giving the impression in the Spring Semester that there would not be a return to COVID-19 restrictions in the Fall. These new restrictions include an indoor mask mandate for everyone regardless of vaccination status, a maximum of 4 persons in a residence hall room (with masks), no outside group or visitors to campus, limits on event sizes, and a requirement of Trinity’s version of a COVID-19 green pass to access campus.

There needs to be mass civil disobedience and non-compliance over these new regulations.

Nathan Darsch, Class of 2022

Trinity stated that some of these policies would be re-evaluated come mid-September, but that only leaves open the possibility for even stricter regulations.

The problem is not just what Trinity will do but also what Trinity has failed to do. It did not even consider getting feedback from the student body on what COVID-19 measures, if any, should be implemented. I know as a club president that I was never consulted over this past summer on what the university needs to do to make sure their student organizations remain active. 

How many student organizations have effectively died because they were unable to meaningfully recruit new members, because they were unable to host events, because they were unable to maintain interest and required membership numbers? My student organization was lucky to have enough members to survive and get through the past year, but I know others cannot say the same.

The university has also not given students any information on how it is expanded its health services–if it has expanded at all. Many students need additional support, especially in the form of counseling, during this time.  How many students now suffer from chronic depression and anxiety, and suicidal thoughts because of the university’s draconian lockdown measures over the previous year? How many students lost their scholarships because they were unable to maintain the GPA needed because of their worsening mental health?

Trinity is once again going down the road that will kill its student body’s spirit and sense of community.

Trinity says it is following CDC guidance and “trusting the science,” but how can we fully trust the guidance given when the chief people in charge of it have either undermined the very science they now promote or have flip-flopped on too many issues to keep track of? Trinity needs to trust its students to be mindful of their own health, not health and policy experts that have shown they are willing to lie to the American people. 

Trinity University has already reached effective herd immunity, in part due to its strong “recommendations” to students to get the COVID-19 vaccine. According to the American Lung Association, 70-90% of a population needs to have some form of immunity for herd immunity to be reached. Trinity University is currently 91% vaccinated (as of the last update on August 9), and at least 81% of the San Antonio adult population has had at least one dose (as of the last update on August 4). When combined with natural immunity, Trinity University and San Antonio have effective herd immunity or will have it very soon.

I am very thankful for the student body’s work to vaccinate themselves, especially those with risk factors, but we need to recognize when enough is enough. There needs to be mass civil disobedience and non-compliance over these new regulations. If we roll over and allow the university to take these measures freely, it signals that they can continue to make restrictions with impunity. We are a young and healthy student body, and it is time we start acting like it instead of allowing our lives to be dictated by fear.

Counter-Point: Pornography Isn’t a “Moral Threat” to Society

No, Pornography Isn’t a “Moral Threat” to Society.

No, Pornography Isn’t a “Moral Threat” to Society.

Five years ago, the Republican Party released their revised party platform that markedly differed in a number of ways from their 2012 platform. One of the ways in which the platform differed was its increased fearmongering about pornography, labeling it a “public health crisis.” In addition to the usual “this time it’s different” diatribes and moral pearl-clutching, Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) recently called for the Department of Justice to investigate the website OnlyFans.com (a content subscription site that is known for and is used most often for buying and selling adult content) for supposed “immoral” and “illegal” activity related to its services. And so begins yet another right-wing crusade against pornography and the desperation for government intervention into an outgrowth of the world’s oldest profession.

While pornography is hardly a modern invention, I will grant that perhaps there is something different this time around. Ever since the advent of the Internet, pornography has become largely democratized: the people who make up the porn industry have become more diverse while access to and use of porn has skyrocketed, especially after the world went into lockdown after COVID-19 began to spread across the world. Anyone with a webcam or camera can make porn while anyone with a decent Internet connection can find it. In articulating the libertarian view about pornography, I will not comment on the morality of pornography as I don’t think it is germane. Rather, I want to focus on the typical arguments against pornography, that it encourages/enables/normalizes violence, that it is responsible for the sexual dysfunctions in our society, and that it is inherently tied at the hip to human trafficking, before suggesting some solutions that will alleviate some of the problems that conservatives are really concerned about.

One common argument against pornography is that it has been supposedly linked to interpersonal violence and other social ills. The argument is that pornography depicting violent treatment of porn actors–usually women–leads some people–usually men–to replicate this violence in real life. With this argument, we would expect to see rape rates increase along with the accessibility and usage of porn. While pornography usage has skyrocketed (one report found that 77% of Americans view porn at least once a month), rape rates have actually decreased in the last 30 years. A meta-analysis from UTSA and Stetson University failed to find any strong link between nonviolent and violent porn and sexual violence over the past 50 years. Ironically, some researchers have found that increased porn consumption has been linked to decreased sexual violence. Some researchers have theorized that this link is due to individuals using porn and not rape as their “release.” Interestingly, in a 2006 study from Northwestern University, states with the least Internet access (and therefore, limited access to online porn) saw increases in reported rapes between 1980 and 2000, while states with the most Internet access saw decreases in reported rapes.

While some would point out that correlation does not equal causation, I think I can safely say that pornography is not responsible for increasing sexual violence because the evidence suggests otherwise. I’ll go a step further and point out that other issues that some conservatives worry about–sexual irresponsibility, abortion rates, STD transmission, teen sex, and divorce rates–have seen decreases as well. The CDC has documented a 41% decline in abortions and even steeper declines in syphilis (74%) and gonorrhea (57%) since 1991. Additionally, since 1991, teen sex has declined by 7%, teen condom use has increased by 16%, and the teen birth rate has fallen by 33%. Lastly, since 1990, the divorce rate has decreased by 23%. Given this volume of data, one might conclude that we’re actually doing much better when it comes to porn and sex, even though the former has proliferated by leaps and bounds in recent years. Elizabeth Nolan Brown from Reason even went as far as to argue that “today’s teens seem poised to take safe sex and sexual consent even more seriously than [previous generations] did.”

But what about porn’s effects on relationships? Conservatives and other anti-porn activists argue that the relationship between men and women can be damaged from porn use, that porn increases sexism and raises beauty standards to ridiculous highs. Elaborating on the first point, there have been some arguments (mainly from the fringes of the conservative movement and the alt-right) that have pointed to some studies that have found that a sizable majority of women have rape fantasies and that some women act out these fantasies through violent porn. It is then argued that this is proof of the “decline of Western masculinity” as well as showing that women have an inherent need to be dominated, which is not being fulfilled. I find this to be one of the most ridiculous arguments put forth from the right, as it blindly ignores more plausible reasons for this phenomenon, such as coping with trauma associated with actual incidents of rape and sexual assault and that increased sexual openness–particularly for women–has led to fantasizing about violent and coerced sex (the reasoning being that, “I’m free, I can fantasize about whatever I want.”). 

Additionally, some have argued that porn objectifies and sexualizes women, and that it contributes to more sexist attitudes. A study from Queensland University of Technology could not find a link between consumption of porn and increased negative attitudes toward women (though later research indicated that this overlooked benevolent sexism). Another study from the University of Zagreb found that users of nonviolent porn were “neither more nor less sexually satisfied than nonusers” and “felt the same degree of intimacy in their current or recent relationships and shared the same range of sexual experiences,” though this differed for consumers of violent porn, who tended to masturbate more often, have more sexual partners, and felt slightly less relationship intimacy than their nonviolent compatriots (though I would circle back to my argument about violent porn users using porn as a substitute for sexual crimes). Lastly, I want to briefly comment on the blaming of porn for the reduced birth rate in the United States. I also find this argument ridiculous as there has been numerous scholarship that has pointed to greater work opportunities for women, higher educational attainment, accessible birth control, improved sex education, and lower child mortality that comes with industrialization as reasons for the declining birth rate. In other words, economic conditions better explains why people are postponing having children until much later in life. 

The last point I want to address is the dicey issue of human and sex trafficking, which anti-porn activists argue is fueled by the demand for porn, making both industries closely interlinked. I find human trafficking to be fraught with issues, and in doing research for this article, it’s very maddening to see that the very definition of human trafficking differs markedly from organization to organization. What I found to be common was that some definitions tended to lump together so many different activities and classify it as “human trafficking” when clearly these things did not carry the same moral weight. For example, I do not think that an individual who gets paid to fly overseas to become employed in the porn industry is a victim of trafficking or exploitation (assuming they are of age and fully consent to the activity) and should not be classified in the same group of people that are actually victims of slavery and forced labor. Such an assumption otherwise would indicate that someone would not voluntarily enter the porn industry, that if given the choice, that individual would choose another profession. But here is where I think conservatives show their anti-market colors because this assumption flies in the face of asymmetric information theory, which posits that there is an imbalance of information that favors the seller and leaves the buyer vulnerable to exploitation. This existence of this imbalance has led some to argue that asymmetric information is a token market failure and that this imbalance can only and should be rectified through government fiat. 

However, this argument is deeply flawed as it ignores the very basis for which our economy is successful in the first place: the division of labor. If we just assumed that everyone had perfect information when it comes to market transactions, there would be no need for any social cooperation, i.e., if we could be entirely self-sufficient, we would have no need for any market system whatsoever. But this is not the reality that we live in: we have to have individuals who specialize in specific tasks to make social cooperation possible. Ludwig von Mises argued that this is actually desirable for several reasons: that it is more productive and efficient for people to cooperate rather than be self-sufficient, that people can benefit from talents that they don’t possess, and that almost all production processes require some kind of teamwork. 

The idea that the government, as deeply flawed as it already is, can somehow fix the information imbalances between buyers and sellers is a utopian one at best and a naive one at worst. We should learn to respect the choices that people make, even if they are made in undesirable circumstances, barring any uses of force, fraud, or aggression. Trying to limit the migration of sex workers will only exacerbate the problems of human trafficking as it will further drive black market smugglers underground and leave sex workers vulnerable to actual exploitation and coercion. Additionally, we need to recognize that the sex industry is full of people with diverse motivations: some are using it as a stepping stone to something larger, others are there to make a career, while others want to make some quick bucks and move on. One need only to look through the revenue statistics for content creators on OnlyFans to conclude that a lot of sex workers come from the working class, and that any government action against sex workers is likely to be harmful rather than helpful.

I would be remiss if I did not propose some solutions. This article is not meant to argue that there are risks to porn usage, especially if it becomes addictive. I have no problem with people who seek help for porn addiction, be it psychological or spiritual. As for actual policy solutions, we should start by loosening immigration laws so as to provide alternate means for potential sex workers to migrate without having to go through a smuggler or trafficker. We should also stress the importance of sex education, which would involve recognizing that we should not be treating sex with kiddie gloves as well as providing a suitable alternative for those who go to porn to learn about sex. I will leave open the possibility for those who want to provide moral education through churches and other groups that aims to reduce the demand for porn (as opposed to reducing the supply through legislative restrictions, which will have a trade-off through the increase in sex crimes). Lastly, we should not forget that the easiest solution lies at home with the parents and letting them determine what kind of moral and sexual education their kids should be receiving, providing guidance around a topic that some kids may find intriguing or frightening.

Point: Pornography Poses a Danger to Society

It is within the powers of a state government to protect its citizens from the dangers porn and the porn industry present. States should protect citizens, and right now, citizens need protection from porn.

Pornography is a danger to our society, and it should be highly regulated, if not banned entirely. Not only is it bad for the consumer, but it also preys on vulnerable members of society. The porn industry and consumers of porn are not simply engaging in a bad habit that doesn’t harm anyone. The production and consumption of porn actively does evil both to those taken advantage of by the industry and to the consumer and his or her interpersonal relationships. Because of the negative effects of porn, it is within the power of the state to regulate it to protect its citizens from further harm and exploitation.

The porn industry is linked to human trafficking. Although porn does not cause human trafficking and human trafficking existed before pornography, the two are related crimes. First, though, we have to establish what constitutes human trafficking. For the purposes of this article, I will be focusing on sex trafficking, but there are two other subcategories of human trafficking–organ trafficking and forced labor. Sex trafficking can take many forms and is defined as any commercial sex act which an individual engages in as a result of force, coercion, or fraud by Human Trafficking Search.  Any minor working in the sex industry, according to the US Department of Justice, is a victim of sex trafficking regardless of the presence–or lack thereof–of force, coercion, or fraud. Force is a kind of human trafficking that many people first think of when they think of sex trafficking. Usually, that is when someone is taken and physically forced to engage in commercial sexual activities. Fraud is when someone is misled or deceived into engaging in such activities, such as being told that partaking in commercial sexual acts will help them advance a career in acting or dancing, or that in exchange for doing this one act, the trafficker will get them a job or a promotion, depending on the circumstance. According to the US Department of Justice, “the coercion can be subtle or overt, physical or psychological.” In an article by Beautiful Dream Society, the kinds of coercion tactics that sex traffickers employ can include “threats, lies, blackmail, intimidation, humiliation, and debt bondage.” While a person may agree to participate in commercial sex activities, they are doing so only out of fear of the trafficker or because they have been coerced into doing so. To recap, sex trafficking is when an individual engages in a commercial sex act as a direct result of force, coercion, or fraud. 

According to a study from the Journal of Counselor Practice, the porn industry creates increased demand for trafficked individuals. In addition, according to the study, much of pornography that is legally available online is produced illegally through force, coercion, or fraud, which takes advantage of trafficked individuals. In an interview with NBC-2, Julie Franklin, the chief operating officer of the Shelter for Abused Women and Children in Naples, FL, said that “Those taking part in watching porn, which they believe is something passive and private in their own home, do not know the background of the performers and are not educated on the very fact that many are being coerced or forced to act out these sexual scenes.” 

Franklin also said that many individuals who are trafficked into the porn industry had been sexually assaulted since they were children, and this makes them especially vulnerable to predators in the porn and human trafficking industries. The porn industry and sex traffickers both prey on already vulnerable individuals, as they are easier to traffick. 

There are many instances of anecdotal evidence of the porn industry taking advantage of women by publishing and profiting from videos of young girls and women being raped or otherwise exploited. Traffickinghub is one of the largest and most well-known entities fighting against the porn industry for “enabling, hosting, and profiting from videos of child rape, sex trafficking, and other forms of non-consensual content exploiting women and minors,” according to their petition. On Traffickinghub’s website, countless stories have been shared of children being taken advantage of by the porn industry and the link between human trafficking and pornography. 

On stoptraffickingdemand.com, they report that even porn actresses who initially consented to being filmed in porn movies had their contracts violated and were sexually and physically abused on set. These are not the marks of an industry that does its best not to take advantage of those who work in it. Although women are the most vocal about their experiences in the porn industry, I’m sure that there are cases of men also being abused. Vulnerable members of our society are being taken advantage of and abused, and the porn industry profits off that abuse by selling porn to consumers. 

Porn isn’t bad only because of its ties to sex trafficking. Its influence on the way porn-viewers interact with others and view others also make porn and its widespread consumption a danger to society. Porn commodifies sex and the people participating in sex. It encourages viewers to see actors and actresses on-screen as sex objects existing only for the viewer’s own sexual pleasure. By routinely consuming content in which people are turned into mere objects of sexual gratification, it stands to reason that viewers of porn may eventually view people around them as objects of sexual pleasure as well, rather than independent human beings. This is problematic because we should view human beings outside of how useful they are to us, and especially outside of what sexual gratification they can give to us. 

Viewing individuals only as sexual objects leads to problems in which people do not care about one another as human beings. In a 2010 study conducted by G.M. Hald et al., they found a positive correlation between “pornography use and attitudes supporting violence against women in nonexperimental studies” (Hald et al.). The study also found that there are statistically significant correlations between attitudes supporting violence against women and the use of both sexually violent porn and non-violent porn. The study found that there is a stronger correlation between attitudes supporting violence against women and the consumption of sexually violent porn than between such attitudes and the consumption of non-violent porn. The consumption of porn is correlated to attitudes supporting violence and aggression towards women. While porn may not be the sole cause of these attitudes, it does offer a commodity and a space in which such attitudes are allowed, if not encouraged. 

Porn can also negatively influence romantic relationships. There have been many studies linking porn consumption to reduced satisfaction and function in romantic relationships, both in married and unmarried couples. In a 2009 study conducted by Maddox, Rhoades, and Markman, they found that couples who have never viewed porn had lower rates of infidelity than couples who only watch pornography together. In addition, the study found that individuals who did not view pornography had better communication and higher dedication to their partner than individuals who did view porn either by themselves or with their partner. 

Beyond the harmful effects porn has on society and interpersonal relationships, it also affects the individual viewer negatively. In Sam Black’s The Porn Circuit, he explains the chemicals which are released while having sex or watching porn. Black explains how when couples have sex, they can “experience a high, an alertness of sexual pleasure, and the deep calm afterwards (norepinephrine, endorphins, and serotonin). With each sexual embrace [they] are emotionally bonding to [their partner] (oxytocin and vasopressin). Over time a craving for sex is transformed into a desire for one another (dopamine).” When viewing porn, a person has no other individual to connect with, so they connect with the pornographic content they’ve just viewed. This chemical process encourages porn viewers to connect with porn and to continue to view more and more porn rather than to connect with a new non-porn individual.

But worse than the problems porn can cause to individuals and interpersonal relationships is the problem of how easily accessible porn is on the internet. On average, a child’s first exposure to porn is at the age of eleven. Oftentimes children accidentally find porn sites by accidentally typing a URL incorrectly or clicking on the wrong link. That happened multiple times in one of my classes my freshman year of high school when students were trying to find Kahoot.it to play a Kahoot as a review session. Porn is widespread and easy to find on the internet for free. It’s too easy to find, so easy to find that children are being exposed to porn. CHILDREN. Even if you argue that porn is okay for adults to watch as we must allow people to use free will and make their own decisions, I think we can all agree that it is unacceptable that children can so easily watch porn, especially if it’s an accident.

But just because porn is bad doesn’t mean that the government has any business banning it, or so one might be inclined to think. Some might argue that the publication and viewing of pornography is an expression of free speech, which is protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution. However, there are several kinds of speech which the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) has ruled exempt from free speech protections. One of these is obscenity. 

In Miller v. California, the SCOTUS ruled that obscene speech if 1) the average person, with contemporary values, considers the content to be appealing to “prurient interests,” meaning that the content has or encourages an excessive interest in sexual matters 2)  the material depicts or describes “in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law” and 3) the material as a whole “lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.” 

Pornography is “printed or visual material containing the explicit description or display of sexual organs or activity, intended to stimulate erotic rather than aesthetic or emotional feelings.” By its own definition, pornography fails the first part of the obscenity test established in Miller v. California

Since we are in the state of Texas, I will refer to the Texas Penal Code for the second part of the test. According to the state of Texas, something is considered obscene if there are “patently offensive representations or descriptions of ultimate sexual acts, normal or perverted, actual or simulated, including sexual intercourse, sodomy, and sexual bestiality;” or if there are “patently offensive representations or descriptions of masturbation, excretory functions, sadism, masochism, lewd exhibition of the genitals, the male or female genitals in a state of sexual stimulation or arousal, covered male genitals in a discernibly turgid state or a device designed and marketed as useful primarily for stimulation of the human genital organs.” Pornography is, again, a material containing “the explicit description or display of sexual organs or activity, intended to stimlate erotic rather than aesthetic or emotional feelings.” Pornography is obscene material because that is the point of porn, and thus porn fails the second part of the test.

The third part of the test is another one in which porn fails. Porn is meant to be viewed and enjoyed for erotic feelings and sexual gratification. It is not meant to be an expression of art or aesthetically pleasing. Let’s be honest; no one watches porn for the plot or the greater value it adds to their life, other than its potential necessity for sexual gratification. Porn doesn’t belong in an art museum because of its inherent value, and it isn’t being used in biology or anatomy classrooms to aid in education or scientific research. Porn doesn’t add serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value to anyone’s life, and thus it fails the third part of the test SCOTUS established in Miller v. California

And yet, the Supreme Court has refrained from considering porn obscenity. So perhaps an argument on the First Amendment is not the one to make for stricter regulations on porn. Instead, let’s think about the porn issue in terms of state police powers. Utah recently passed a bill requiring cellphones to have a built-in block on pornography in an effort to protect children from accidentally exposing themselves to porn. At the federal level, a similar bill was ruled unconstitutional. However, it might be within Utah’s state police powers to enact such a bill within the state. States are supposed to have more power than the federal government to enact laws and protect their citizens because states are better equipped to attend to state needs than the federal government. 

I would argue that it is within a state’s police powers to severely restrict access to pornography. The highest burden on the state in cases involving infringement on individual liberties is Strict Scrutiny, in which 1) there is a sufficiently important governmental interest and 2) there is no more infringement upon liberty than strictly necessary. 

The majority of this article has been spent discussing how bad porn and the porn industry is. The porn industry takes advantage of women and children and profits off exploiting them. Porn itself is damaging to relationships and to the people that watch it. Porn is easily accessible by children, oftentimes by accident. Because of these major problems porn causes, the state has a sufficiently important governmental interest in regulating porn and limiting access to it. 

Now, the best way to completely get rid of porn and the negative impact it has on our society is to completely ban it. But that won’t happen anytime soon, and something even worse would probably take its place if the federal government decided to ban porn completely. Besides, it would be impossible to simply ban porn, as the government has no business snooping into people’s private lives to make sure no one is watching any porn in the privacy of their own homes. But what the state can do is regulate the sale of porn and the websites which profit off it through sales or advertisements. The state can and should impose regulations making it far more difficult to produce porn, and it should impose regulations making it more difficult to access porn. Users should have to prove that they are over 18 before being able to access porn sites. Depending on the state and the citizens living there, it would be within the state’s power to create a law like Utah’s, which compels phones and other technology to have a built-in restriction to keep users from accessing porn sites. 

Some might say that a crackdown on the porn industry and viewers of porn is harsh and an infringement on individual liberties. But a crucial part of government is protecting its citizens. That’s why we have laws regulating the sale of alcohol and tobacco products, as well as something as commonplace as driving. It is within the powers of a state government to protect its citizens from the dangers porn and the porn industry present. States should protect citizens, and right now, citizens need protection from porn.

Jim Crow and Georgia Voting Laws

Fridays in middle school were usually pleasant. Even though Friday was testing day, it was also famous for being something more delightful–movie day.

I remember being excited for my social studies class. The history topic of the week was about Civil Rights, and we were promised a movie. As our teacher was loading the VHS tape, I was expecting to watch something about Rosa Parks or Martin Luther King.

But before she started the tape, she warned us that what we were about to watch may have troubling or disturbing content. Being a fan of World War II documentaries during that time, I thought myself prepared for what I was about to see. 

I could not have been more wrong.

I was not prepared for fire hoses throwing innocent protestors on concrete. I was not prepared for hounds being let loose on black bystanders. I was not prepared for black boots and thick batons falling and rising over the unconscious bodies of black men and women.

I could not understand the countless photos of black men hanging from trees. I could not understand the faces of the people that surrounded them–their smiles, their joy, their satisfaction. I could not understand crowds draped in white cloaks, encircling a burning cross under a black night sky.

I could not comprehend the fate of a black boy, around the same age that I was at the time, being beaten, tortured, and thrown into a river with bricks tied to his feet for daring to interact with a passing white girl. 

Jim Crow is a name that should weigh heavily on the mind of our Nation. It represents one of the darkest periods of America’s history. 

But when reflecting on past tragedies–such as Jim Crow–in contemporary times, we have the habit of viewing those periods through a contemporary lens. The media often attempts to draw allegories between our Nation’s dark past and our current social issues.  But there is a danger to this: this tendency can lead to a trivialization of those tragedies. 

This tendency can be seen in the media’s portrayal of the new Georgia voting laws. 

At first, I knew nothing of the bill outside the media’s portrayal of it. According to them, the bill was a blatant attempt at voter suppression, specifically towards black voters. But then our President compared the Georgia bill to Jim Crow in a press conference. He even suggested that the bill was worse than the Jim Crow laws. 

When I first heard his statements, I just assumed it to be an exaggerated gaffe. But then the media stood behind his statements.

Perplexed, I looked up information on the Georgia voting laws.

Updated requirements for voter ID, limitations on voting drop boxes, and limits on Sunday early voting appeared to be the most controversial changes. 

The premise behind the media’s Jim Crow comparisons is that these changes would disproportionately suppress black voters. 

The media claims that the new voter ID requirements are harsh. But the requirements do not change. The law just adds slightly more measures in checking voter ID at the polling stations. The media also claims that limits on Sunday early voting suppress the votes of black worshippers. But this section of the bill was later edited to expand early voting days on Sunday. The media claims that the new voting drop box rules negatively impact the voting numbers of metropolitan areas, which have a high number of black voters. But this is a stretch, and it is completely unlike the violent voter suppression strategies of Jim Crow.

I have grown skeptical of media narratives that connect contemporary issues to humanity’s darkest moments. This is because the media has become too hyperbolic in how they represent the past and the present. 

We should reflect on the reality of Jim Crow with vigilance and reverence. We should be vigilant in our value of equality and our inalienable rights. We should be vigilant when overcoming humanity’s propensity for hatred and fear. But we should also have reverence for the black individuals who suffered during this period, and how their sacrifices paved a way for our society today. 

Although the media has remained vigilant in its reflection of Jim Crow, it has struggled to adopt a reverence.

For example, the claims about the Georgia bill trivialize the reality of Jim Crow. The enforcement of voter ID does not harken back to days when black people were barred from entering buses. Limitations on voting drop boxes are not reminiscent of a time in which black populated areas were the targets of racial riots, burnings, and lynchings. Sunday early voting rules are not similar to practices in which black voters were discouraged from entering polling booths through violence and murder. 

The media has a tendency to use tragedies such as Jim Crow as a platform to launch political discussion. By tying political opinions to infamous tragic events, they are able to grab the attention of a larger audience. Although this strategy is effective, it does have a consequence–it essentially trivializes the reality of those tragedies to conform with their political views. 

Tragedies such as Jim Crow or the Holocaust should not be diminished or trivialized in order to support a political opinion. Rather, those events should stand on their own, allowing us to form political views that reflect the lessons learned from those tragic periods. 

The media should be wary of hyperbole, and we should be concerned with how history is represented in the media.