William McGurn in The Wall Street Journal on taxing Kim Kardashian An organization called Courage Campaign is asking reality star Kim Kardashian to support a millionaire's tax in California that would raise higher-income tax brackets. "Ms. Kardashian's sin is this: She pays what she owes in state taxes under California law, instead of the much larger amount that some self-appointed advocacy group thinks she ought to be paying," McGurn writes. He lays out Courage Campaign's argument that those like Kardashian wouldn't tailor lavish spending because of new taxes, and the state could use new income to fund welfare programs. He links the campaign for Kardashian's money to the larger liberal ideology of taxes. But he says higher taxes could affect Kardashian's behavior: if Kardashian and others were to leave the state altogether, California would lose millions rather than gain marginally more. "It says much about the progressive Puritanism of our age that what these folks really find most sleazy about Ms. Kardashian is not her sex tape or her marriage, but that she's unembarrassed about making money."
William Patry in Bloomberg View on shifting goals for copyright law Revenue from book sales and movies continued to rise this year, yet copyright owners continue to claim that "legitimate markets are shrinking." "Today, owning copies of works is no longer the principal goal of most consumers. More and more, people have works streamed to them. So selling ownership of copies of works should no longer be the principal business model for the copyright industries," Patry writes. He outlines the traditional goals of copyright law, and notes how digital developments should be subverting and changing these goals. Copyright law, he says, shouldn't forcibly change technology to artificially create scarcity, but should find prices at which it can satisfy demand in legal markets. Traditional gatekeepers of copyright law (and profit) are resistant because the new models eliminate their grasp. "The Digital Millennium Copyright Act is a prime example of our march backward, of how our laws are used to thwart innovation and creativity."
Charles Lane in The Washington Post on the causes for crime's decline For the past 20 years, homicide and burglary rates in the U.S. have fallen rapidly. "What's most striking about the crime decline is how little we know about its precise causes," Lane writes. He recalls the time when crime was a major political issue that dominated cultural arenas, too. (He cites Robocop a lot.) He notes some arguments on both left and right that have been either debunked or upheld by the falling rates. But he also notes that we haven't learned enough about what's really behind the trend. "[W]e also need to investigate when things go right — especially when, as in the case of crime, success defied so many expert predictions."
Darrell Driver, Jin Pak and Kyle Jette in The New York Times on military pensions As the Pentagon cuts its budget, some have suggested substituting a guaranteed pension for armed service members for a market-based 401(k) approach. "But this would be a grave mistake, a disincentive to future volunteers and a threat to national security," write three lieutenant colonels in the United States Army. Military life, they argue, makes it difficult to build wealth through one's career, so service members shouldn't have to risk retirement in the market as civilians do. Moving around means sacrificing home equity. Spouses have more trouble advancing in a career. And skills learned in a long deployment sometimes don't transfer to the civilian sector. "Soldiers and their families are more willing to put off other careers, and to accept frequent displacement, lower earnings and even the risk of being ordered back to active duty after beginning new careers, because of the promise of future compensation," they write, and without it, we might have fewer volunteers.
Jonah Goldberg in the Los Angeles Times on the conservative establishment For the past few years, a division has solidified between "ideological enforcers" of conservative beliefs and the much-maligned "conservative establishment," filled with Republicans in Name Only (RINOs.) "It's difficult to catalog all of the oddities. Hugely successful, powerful and rich conservatives are lambasting the establishment as if they are in no way part of it," Goldberg writes. We have a primary campaign were numerous candidates seek to carry the Tea Party mantle, and where Romney, formerly the choice of conservatives in 2008, has shifted his poiltics right while somehow also becoming the hated symbol of the establishment. "Frankly, I can't blame anyone for being underwhelmed by Romney ... What's harder to understand is how nobody has noticed that the conservative establishment, which includes many of my friends denouncing it, has become vastly more conservative over the last two decades."