Rerun of a 2019 episode.
In theory, if you’re a screenwriter for Hollywood, you have an agent who gets you the best deals because that’s how they get money. But there’s a practice called “bundling”, where the agency puts together a collection of a writer, director, showrunner, and sells them to the studio as a package deal. (Agencies represent everyone. Not just Hollywood, e.g. pop stars, and one of them bought Miss America from Trump in 2016 or so.) Then the agency has less incentive to get the best deal for the writer.
The guy who wrote The Wire discovered this when trying to pitch The Wire, and also discovered that he’d been bundled on a previous project of his without being told. The agency had represented both him and the director when they’d been negotiating, which he didn’t like because, again, incentives.
We also hear from a writer whose show didn’t make it into production because two agencies—neither of whom represented him—were fighting over who got bundling fees.
Anyway, writers didn’t like this. They have their own union, so they started doing collective bargaining. Most of the agencies didn’t budge, so eventually they fired all those agents at once.
We hear from a head of a smaller agency, who gave in soon after and thinks doing so was good for them because they didn’t do that much bundling anyway. Writers feel like they have more power now.
As of 2021, the pandemic has also been good for writers’ power versus agencies, because people still watch Hollywood content at home, but not so much pop stars.
After Edwin became king in Northumbria, he didn’t want Ethelbert’s son down in Kent to do aggro at him, so he married Ethelbert’s daughter. She agreed on condition she could stay Christian and bring a priest, which is similar to how her grandmother had eventually converted Ethelbert’s father when she married him. (Or how her mother had converted Ethelbert?) The priest tried to convert Edwin. One day one of his enemies sent an assassin, but someone jumped in front of the blade, and also his daughter was born. He was mildly injured, said he’d convert if he recovered. He recovered and eventually converted. Then he got killed by a Welsh king or something.
One of Ethel???’s sons came to take the throne, he was somehow important but I forget how, then he was killed by the same Welsh king. Then his brother came too, possibly named Oswald? Oswald had been in Ireland, which had not been invaded by Germanic tribes and had a monastic culture. Oswald defeated the Welsh king and married Edwin’s daughter (also named Ethel??? but a different Ethel??? name) who had gone back down to Kent for safety. So the Roman Catholic and Irish Celtic churches were both trying to be A Thing at this point. It was awkward because they e.g. celebrated easter a week apart, so Oswald would be celebrating while his wife was still fasting.
Since we’re talking about marriage, some related words that I mostly forget. The “lock” in “wedlock” is actually “activity”. “Bridal” sounds like a normal construction, but it comes from “Bride-ale”, as in “Bride-beer”, a feast. “Wife” is possibly cognate to “weaver” and “bride” is possibly cognate to “brewer”.
Eventually a big meeting happened and they agreed on Roman Catholic doctrine, but the Irish Celtic monastic tradition stayed in place, and in particular it was literary.
At one point, I think this was sort of mid-7th century, there was a monastary with a cowherd. He’d hear the monks reciting poetry but was too shy to recite any himself. One night he had a dream where he came up with some poetry. He recited it to the Abbess who was impressed, and then he came up with a bunch more when asked. (It was a monastary for both men and women, though they’d live separately. Those places were fairly normal, and it was fairly normal for them to have Abbesses.) They wrote it down. And this was in English, which was a big deal because all the religious stuff so far had been in Latin. Some people consider this year as big a deal as 1066 in the history of English.
All the Old English poetry we know comes from four books, and this was one of them. Another, the one that included Beowulf, was just in some dude’s large library. Another somehow made its way to Italy, no one knows how. I forget the last.
I listen to podcasts while doing chores, and often feel like I’m learning something but end up unable to remember anything. So, experiment: I’m going to try writing brief summaries after the fact. I’m going to skip anything where that doesn’t feel appropriate, e.g. fiction. By default, nothing here is fact checked, either against reality or against the episode itself.
This is a 99% Invisible episode on UBI.
UBI is an idea supported by some on both left and right. Finland is currently trying an experiment. In fact, Finland is currently experimenting with experimentation itself: they set up a whole gov department whose purpose is to help run experiments, and enacted some law or something to avoid these experiments falling foul of the constitution. (Because you have to treat people equally, and having an intervention and a control group isn’t doing that.)
Finland’s problem: high unemployment, and disincentivizing work. You can collect unemployment for 2+ years after your last job, and you can’t earn anything on the side. The person they “hired” to do recording in Finland for this episode worked for free, because otherwise he would have lost benefits.
So they’re experimenting with UBI. About 2000 unemployed people given unconditional money each month instead of unemployment. It’s a bit less money, but now they can do part-time work without an income cliff. Interview with one of those people: she’s now looking for part-time work, but hasn’t found it yet.
Problems with study: 2000 people is small, only looks at currently unemployed people (can’t see if it makes employed people more likely to stop working).
Person running study thinks UBI will fail.
America almost had something like this under Nixon. But people started looking at the data before it was fully in. There were hints of bad effects, including increased divorce rates (scandalous at the time but Roman wants to make sure you know he thinks it’s fine). Don’t remember what else. When the data was fully in the effects were smaller than they first seemed/had been rumored, but damage was done.
There’s a deli that’s publicly traded and has a market cap of just over $100 million. This is crazy. Such a thing would normally be worth more like $100 thousand.
It came to public attention when someone mentioned it in a speech or something as an example of how there seems to be no prosecution of fraud, or something. Someone from CNBC looked into the filings, the CEO is the local high school team’s wrestling coach, and another important figure is a Chinese businessman with ties to Macau. Other large shareholders include companies based in Macau, too. And there are a few individuals involved who have been banned by the SEC from trading, or something. One of those individuals used to be coached by the wrestling coach I think.
Also, the deli is hiring one of those companies as a consultant, for $25k a month, on sales of idk what but pretty sure less than that.
What’s probably going on is the company is being used as a foothold into the American stock market. Someone doesn’t want to do an IPO so instead they merge with an existing public company. Kind of like a SPAC, but different in a way I didn’t quite catch. (Matt Levine’s explained it as well, but I forget that too.) Call it a SNAC, Special No-purpose Acquisition Company.
The deli didn’t allow recording inside, and they didn’t want to talk about what was going on, but they made a good sandwich.
More superhero licensing, this time adaptations. The holy grail they want is a movie. Turns out NPR already has a deal with a studio, the same one producing the Hamilton movie. They paid (censored) to get right of first refusal on anything NPR produces for (censored) number of days, so PM can’t shop around for that.
But they can go after other adaptations, and sign three deals. One is with a radio play group (I guess non-profit). Another is a choral music person, this one is more complicated because it’s not non-profit, I think they decided on the guy writes the sheet music and then pays them like 15% of the profits of selling it. (We hear a clip but I was on 2.1x speed so it sounded off. Choral music isn’t my thing anyway.) And finally there’s a broadway musical, even more complicated, they license Micro-Face to the producers and then plan to license the show itself back to produce for PM. (We also hear a clip of the “I am” song from this.)
Then after the ROFR on the movie has expired, someone else gets in touch wanting to do that. He’s done a bunch of small, well-reviewed movies, the name I remember is Slaxx which is about a pair of jeans. Looking at the credits for that they were probably talking to Shaked Berenson, I also recognize the name Turbo Kid now. He has a bunch of Rotten Tomatoes Certified Fresh trophies strategically visible behind him on the zoom call.
PM crew love his style, agree on something like: he pays $1500 for the option rights for 18 months. Tries to get together a cast and crew. If he successfully produces a movie, NPR gets 2.5% of the revenue up to $1mm, and then 5% of the profits if it makes a profit.
Previously Planet Money found and resurrected the superhero Micro-Face, who had been created long ago and lapsed into public domain. Now they’re trying to make money from him, through licensing.
They put out a call for people who wanted to do a licensing deal, and then spent a day talking to them in turn, Dragon’s Den style, either accept or reject. Speaking to an expert on licensing (she previously worked on Sesame Street and Beavis and Butthead) they decided to follow what they called the Elmo rule: don’t license something out of character.
They reject almost every application. Temporary tattoos because although Micro-Face is a hip guy in NYC, he definitely has tattoos, he wouldn’t have temporary tattoos. A recycling company endorsement because he’s a journalist, he wouldn’t endorse a company. Eventually someone comes along offering Gouda, and they go for it.
Then finally a husband-wife team, The Bitter Housewife, offers an ultimatum on some kind of soda, either work with them or no one. They’ve already registered the trademark on Micro-Face sodas. Can they do that? Yes, says the lawyer they consult, a trademark doesn’t give you exclusive use of the word in every market. Dove cosmetics and Dove chocolate are unrelated, and there’s nothing stopping the PM hosts talking about the Greek goddess Nike, or even selling a T-shirt with her picture, as long as they don’t use her name on the T-shirt.
But there’s also nothing stopping them putting the image of Micro-Face on a soda. (The Bitter Housewife can’t do that, but I guess they can use the original Micro-Face?). So out of spite they reach out to a soda manufacturer and do just that, calling it Planet Money Official Superhero Soda (“sour, but never bitter”).
La Brega is another podcast, focused on Puerto Rico. It’s produced with both Spanish and English versions. The name is an expression meaning something like “shit sucks but whatever”. Roman interviews the author then runs episode 2.
Levittowns were deliberately built to be places where I think returning veterans from WWII could buy a place and become homeowners. In the American version of the concept they’d only sell to white people.
For a while America was happy to let PR be poor, but then there was the cold war and Cuba became communist, and America wanted to hold up PR as an example of the success of capitalism, so they decided to raise a middle class there. Part of this was building a Levittown. But also there were too many people.
Host mentions forced sterilization and birth control experiments, but the approach taken here seems to be… encouraging PRans to move to the mainland states where there were more opportunities for them? Host seems to think this is obviously bad. Anyway, that worked for a bit and then PRans migrated back to PR.
We follow a family, possibly Host’s family? I think the story was they moved to America, back to PR, then almost had to move to America again after the dad finished building houses in Levittown because he couldn’t afford them, but then he won the lottery.
At first Levittown seems to have been a success, there were a few different models of house there, they were cement so people could paint them, and people would also extend them according to personal taste. Later, and especially in the wake of the hurricane, it seems not so much?
Rerun of a show from 2018. In the present-day into, Roman and someone talk about how even though we can recite that 90% of an iceberg is underwater, we tend to picture that stuff being mostly below the stuff above it, like an ice cream cone, when actually it’s a lot more spread out. Drawings can make this sort of thing much more intuitive. They mention a website where you can draw a 2d iceberg shape, and it’ll show you how it would orient itself.
For a long time people thought dinosaurs were slow and cold-blooded. They’d picture brontosaurus and diplodocus standing in swamps to help support their body mass. Evidence comes along suggesting they were warm-blooded and at least some of them were fast.
Bob (Barker?) writes an article defending this, and draws a picture of a dinosaur running, and this sets off a wave of other people drawing dinosaurs doing stuff and thinking of dinosaurs as fast and exciting things. Jurassic Park (the movie, book isn’t mentioned) is part of this.
But most depictions still assume dinosaurs are basically just what we can derive from the skeletons. You can’t figure out the shape of a whale or a camel or an elephant from its skeleton, so you probably can’t do it with a dinosaur either. Three things happen in I don’t remember what order:
We find a dinosaur with some of its softer tissues preserved, and it had quills, maybe feathers?
A book comes out, All Yesterdays, with pictures of “we can’t rule out that this is what this dinosaur looked like”.
That kind of thing becomes more accepted, as long as you make it clear that it’s “we can’t rule this out” not “this is what we know”. E.g. you might draw a triceratops with a nose balloon because that’s what the big nostrils might be good for.
Also, after All Yesterdays comes All Todays, where people take skeletons (sometimes partial skeletons) of modern day animals and do the All Yesterdays thing to them.
“Daryl” was an ETH user who fat-fingered a transaction. Went online for help, guest said sorry, nothing anyone can do. Then later guest went o shit maybe there is.
Daryl was playing with uniswap, a smart contract letting people provide liquidity for exchanging crypto, e.g. ETH for USDC. Normally when providing liquidity you’d do two things in one transaction, with something like a try/catch letting you do them atomically. I guess Daryl had only done one of them? Anyway, his money was just sitting there, and as soon as anyone tried to take their liquidity from uniswap they’d get Daryl’s money as well.
Guest realized this and went to check, and the money was still there. But! He also remembered stories of generalized ETH frontrunners. These will examine the pending transactions, see if there’s something in there they can use to make money, and if so, submit their own transaction with a higher fee so it gets executed first. Guest worried that one of these would show up if he tried to recover the money. He asked on a group chat if others would also be worried, some of them were, and they got together to try to figure something out.
Ultimately they’d need to do some kind of obfuscation so that a bot wouldn’t try the thing they were doing. They settled on two separate transactions in one block, where the second one wouldn’t do anything unless the first had already happened, hoping bots would only try them separately. But there’s stuff set up to protect you from making transactions that don’t do anything, and it was stopping them from making the second.
Guest was tired and stressed and the money might disappear at any minute, so eventually Guest said YOLO we’ll do them in two different blocks and hope. The second transaction got front-ran and they lost the money. On the plus side his worries were vindicated.
Guest and Adam (host) discuss Meditations on Moloch. The thing they take away from it is that you need regulation/Leviathan. Guest says for Hobbes the Leviathan was hereditary monarchy, recently we’ve been trying democracy and that seems better overall, but he’s optimistic that smart contracts will be another solution.
Now that people are writing Christian poetry in (old) English, they need to come up with English words for Christian concepts. One thing was that they had a stock phrase “blank-guardian”, and Cadmin’s poetry called god “mankind-guardian”. (Cadmin was the cowherd from last episode.)
The only history I remember from this episode was a cross called the Roothschild cross or something, which had a poem written on it that was also found in the Italy book from last episode. In the 17th Century the cross was broken up (either because it was Catholic and Protestants were doing that sort of thing at the time, or vice versa) and scattered across church grounds, but eventually it was mostly reconstructed. The poem was written from the perspective of the cross that Jesus was crucified on, and the way it talks about blood has similarities with Beowulf. Some people think it was written by Cadmin but we can’t know.
Some etymology: “good” and “god” are unrelated, but they sometimes get mixed up. “Goodbye” comes from “god be with you” and “gospel” comes originally from something meaning “good news” that at some point becomes “godspel”. “Drip” comes from blood dripping, and cognate with dreary. “Lord” comes from loaf-guardian (“breadwinner” is more modern but similar) and “Lady” comes from “loaf-maid”. That’s kind of redundant because “maid” itself comes from “dough-maker”, so we have loaf-guardian and loaf-maker.
The Mohists were a group from early China, either the Qin dynasty or whoever preceded the Qin dynasty. Then in the following dynasty, they were mostly forgotten.
They were consequentialists, and the consequences they considered good were something like, material wealth, something I forget, and people acting in their assigned roles. (Fathers acting as fathers, administrators acting as administrators, that sort of thing.) They were also anti-war, and their philosophy encouraged them to actually go out into the world and try to make it better. If there was a war, they’d offer their services to the defender, making it more costly to the attacker. They were kind of well-known for that. One story tells their founder walking ten days to talk to an aggressor and try to convince them to call off the attack. Aggressor is like “well but I’m all prepared now, it would be awkward to cancel. Plus I’ve got these neat siege engines”. Mohist demonstrates how he’d defeat the siege engines, and says he’s placed thousands of followers on the walls of the defender, which in this case is a flat lie but it works. Aggressor sighs and calls off the attack.
They were very religious, and their philosophy followed from their religion, but I didn’t really follow how. Also, they weren’t into equality. They thought society should be stratified, and the people above should be rewarded, but also they should use their rewards to help the poor.
A few factors in their decline. One was that their rank-and-file got super into giving stuff away for status, like you couldn’t live comfortably and be a proper Mohist, which the central Mohists didn’t agree with at all. Parallels to EA there. (Though the central Mohists did think you shouldn’t have, like, decorated clothing or weapons, because they function just as well as clothing or weapons without the decoration.) Another was that Chinese unification meant there were fewer wars for them to make themselves useful in. Another was that they sort of got into the water supply, some of their ideas became mainstream and then there was less distinguishing them from others.
America doesn’t eat a lot of potatoes in general, but it does eat a lot of French fries. Unfortunately, French fries only take a few minutes to go from crispy and great to soggy and shit. This is a problem for fast food.
The industry partially solved the problem once, when drive-through became a thing. Previously it was “drive-in”, you’d stay there in your car and a waitress on roller-skates would take your order and deliver it with plates and cutlery. But then people would drive off with their plates and cutlery, which was expensive. Enter the wrapper. Now you’d just get your food and drive home with it. In like the 70s or 80s? this became more common than a sit-down fast food meal. (It also gave us cup holders in cars.) But now your fries would mostly be sitting until you got home, by which time they’d be shit. So they invented “stealth fries”, which were french fries coated in something you couldn’t see, which kept them crispy for longer.
But delivery makes that harder again. Someone with a fairly high position in the relevant industry happened to go to Shangai? one time, noticed a crazy amount of delivery drivers, followed them around a bit and saw they were delivering a lot of fries. Thought, huh, if this happens in America people won’t want fries any more because the fries they get will be shit. So she went back home and tried to convince her bosses to work on making fries keep longer. They didn’t think it would be a problem, who wants to wait 30+ minutes for delivery? But she had enough power to work on it anyway, and eventually they managed to solve it. PM reporter sampled them and approved. These new fries aren’t available yet though.
PM reporter dips her fries in milkshake. Twelve-year-old me is vindicated.
Von Army (???, edit: it’s Von Ormy) is a city in Texas. It used to be unincorporated, then some firefighters were grousing about how San Antonio was going to annex them and they’d get higher taxes but no representation. One of them was like “we should make our own city”, the chief was all “go on then”, and they did. That first one became mayor.
Wanted to be as cheap as possible. Initially had property taxes to get them going, but started reducing them every year. One thing they did: buy a squad car from a nearby city that was replacing theirs. It lasted like a year but no regrets.
Another thing they did: some recent college grad from some city-development-related major wanted to do an internship and didn’t really like the obvious options. Heard about Von Army, called them up and was like hey do you want an intern? They said sure, and got their intern to write their legal code by looking at codes from nearby cities and copying the good bits. Health and safety, stuff like a fire code, sure. Indoor smoking prohibitions, not so much.
Intern later became City Administrator. Mayor wanted him to do a bunch of stuff but didn’t want him raising taxes. Mayor’s plan was to attract big businesses (Walmart, Target) with something or other, and collect sales taxes. Administrator tried to work with them, but the lack of sewage was a dealbreaker (residents just had to empty their septic tanks). So Administrator tried to work with San Antonio for sewage, got what he thought was a pretty big deal, but Mayor rejected it. Administrator resigned.
Today he thinks Von Army is not working out very well, and PM reporters spoke to people who also didn’t think that. Former Mayor thinks it’s fine, people just don’t understand that this is the price of low taxes. Von Army still has low taxes, but gets lots of money from speeding tickets for people passing through. $60k this year, expecting $250k next year, reporter is a bit incredulous at that, I don’t think Current Mayor explains. (I don’t know if $60k is actually a lot in this context. Current Mayor is Former Mayor’s mum.) Reporter questions whether it’s a bit paradoxical, like “low taxes on residents but high taxes on non-residents”, Current Mayor says every place does this.
In the early days of jazz, musicians would be playing in a club and receive requests, Broadway hits were popular, and have to search through their mountain of sheet music for the song, which they’d then improvise on top of. Some people started making stripped-down versions of the sheet music, not enough to reproduce the original but enough to riff off. Those might have been legal in their original incarnation? And then people started collecting those in “fake books”, which were much more convenient to carry around than a mountain of sheet music. Those definitely weren’t legal.
They also kind of sucked, they were often wrong and they were outdated, both in terms of what songs they included and in terms of how they were played. Jazz had evolved, Charlie Parker and Miles Davis, and the fake books hadn’t.
(I don’t think the show ever said why not, or treated that as an interesting question?)
(I think it was here we heard two versions of a song from Snow White. I couldn’t have told you that the jazz version was the same song. Though, listening on 2x probably didn’t help.)
Some students at Berkeley Music College in Boston approached their teacher with an idea to create a new fake book, updated for the 1970s. He hesitated because illegal and because people getting money for their work is good, but decided it would be worth it. They called it The Real Book, printed out a few hundred copies themselves, then those started getting copied all over the world. The teacher in question said the music quality when he’d walk down the hall improved, people were now playing the right things.
No one could compete legally with The Real Book because they couldn’t get the rights to all those songs. But then someone did get the rights to almost all those songs, and printed a legal version. They kept basically the same design and made a digital font of the original handwriting. Today The Real Book is basically essential for jazz musicians. (Has it been updated since the 1970s?)
Some hand-wringing about how the person who has legal credit as songwriter might not have been the actual songwriter. Some criticism that The Real Book has essentially become canonical in a genre that shouldn’t have canon. Some opining that you can’t learn jazz from a book, you have to study with other jazz players.
Reporter eventually managed to get an email exchange with one of the original students, who did the handwriting. He wants to stay anonymous basically because it’s fun. Agrees with the criticism and the opining. Thinks the digital font isn’t very good.
Rerun of a show from 2017. Charlie Shrem found bitcoin early, got into it like other kids would get into Ayn Rand. Founded BitInstant, which helped people something something with bitcoin. Other people who liked bitcoin at the time were criminals, some of them used BitInstant, Charlie knew this. He got arrested, convicted of aiding and abetting something or other, and two years in prison.
Prisoners aren’t allowed cash so they used tins of mackeral from commissary, which is not a great currency. You could only buy 14 tins at a time, plus one time the guards redistributed all of one inmate’s mackeral, left it lying around for others to pick up, inflation. He started thinking about how to “digitize” it. You’d have prisoners writing down transactions in physical notebooks, and to solve the problem of trust you’d have several write down each one, and then at the end of the day everyone would compare and sum up. Sounds like this never got implemented though?
When he got out he discovered that bitcoin is now mainstreamish, the existing institutions have adopted it rather than being replaced like he wanted. He starts a new crypto-related venture, which as of 2019 is no longer a going concern but now he has a podcast.
The inhabitants of England at the time (6th century ish?) had been seafarers and there’s a lot in English that comes from this. The word way (cognates include weigh) which was originally more like weg; and the word from Latin that gave us port which is also cognate to ford; and voyage might be cognate to those too, through French, or that might have been a similar-but-unrelated thing.
There was a bit with like four kings, Ethelbert in the south and Ethel??? in the North and someone else in East Anglia and Edwin. Edwin ran away from Ethel??? to the East Anglia dude, Ethel??? tried to bribe East Anglia to give Edwin up, but East Anglia supported Edwin, overthrew Ethel???, became a power, then later Edwin became a power too. At some point we discovered the ship-grave of East Anglia, no body remains but it did have his lyre. Lyre cognate to lyric, and the instrument may predate Indo-European in Greece, one was found in a particular region of it.
Because these guys weren’t writing, minstrels just had to remember their poems. Poetry itself is a way to help with this, it’s easier to memorize poetry than prose. Modern English poetry is all about rhyming, but Old English poetry was more about alliteration: word endings were more constrained. The standard form was a line would have two halves, the first stressed sound of the second half had to be found in the first half. A modern English example would be:
Jack and Jill / jogged up the hill
Pleasantly pursuing / a pail of water
Jack did drop / damaging his crown
Jill tripped too / tumbling after
Old English also had a lot fewer words than modern English, so poets would invent compounds. Beowulf describes something going over the sea as going “by whale-road”, “by sail-road”, “by swan-road”, changing the middle word according to alliterative need.
There’s a possibly-even-older poem from around then too, describing a minstrel meeting all sorts of historical figures including Julius Caesar and Attila the Hun.
After writing comes in, we have someone writing (in this style, possibly as homage) a complaint that no one does things this way any more.
Following the Puerto Rico disaster, people are wanting to suspend the Jones act to get more aid to PR. That happened for Texas and (Florida?), but hasn’t happened for PR yet. Because it’s relevant, rerun of a 2014 episode.
Jones act says that if you’re ferrying something between two ports in America, it needs to be done on an American-owned, American-made, American-crewed ship. There aren’t that many of those, so it’s expensive. Some workarounds people use: ferrying things from port to a bigger ship using a tiny Jones-acceptable barge that has to make several trips (is the bigger ship in international waters or something, or is port-to-ship just acceptable?); shipping cattle from Hawaii to Canada and driving them down to the states; flying younger cattle from Hawaii to the states. There was a family who ran up against it for their holiday, they missed the boat in not-America but had the chance to fly to Florida and board their cruise ship there, but then they’d have to pay like $300, I didn’t catch exactly why.
Economists are not fans. The (Council of Economic Advisors?) to Clinton recommended scrapping it. The person PM spoke to called it “stupid”. As a jobs program, it costs $250k/job which is a lot. Military says they need to encourage American shipmaking and skill-building, but council is unconvinced. But diffuse costs, concentrated benefits.
And one I previously wrote.
This is the most American story.
After states start requiring license plates, Idaho realizes they can be used for advertising, and start boasting about Idaho potatoes on their plates. North Idahoans grumble because that’s more of a Southeast Idaho thing. Tourists start stealing plates as souvenirs, causing people to be very confused when they’re pulled over because who checks whether they still have a license plate.
Anyway, New Hampshire’s state motto is Live Free or Die, I don’t know if that’s just a generic America thing or a specifically fuck-communists America thing. But a super fuck-communists guy gets them to put the motto on the license plate, presumably for fuck-communists reasons but I dunno if that was explicit or just subtext.
And then a Jehova’s Witness is like, no, I don’t want to, God gave me life and I’m not gonna give that up for freedom. So he starts covering up that bit with tape. And he gets arrested and the fuck-communists guy is now governor and not inclined to give an inch, so it goes to the Supreme Court who split 6-3 but the pro-freedom side wins, the government is not allowed to compel you to express your love of freedom.
(Later: Texas allows specialty plates, some group designs a plate to support a cause and then you pay a little extra for it, some going to the group and some to the state. Most of these designs are just rubber stamped. But this is Texas, so the Sons of Confederate Veterans want a license plate supporting their cause, and they want the Confederate flag on it. The state says no, they sue the state, and the Supreme Court sides with the state 5-4.)