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Clinton Climate Plan Benefits Big Green

Somewhat Reasonable - July 29, 2015, 2:57 PM

On Monday, Hillary Clinton, the presumed front-runner for the 2016 Democratic nomination for President and noted environmentalist, unveiled a “Climate Plan” that she claims would help foment the rise of solar power as a cheap and effective alternative to fossil fuels, thus combating “Climate Change.”

Her choice of solar power, though, as a leading fuel technology is mystifying to some, as solar has seen its share of recent instability. After a two-year skid, which saw some solar stocks decline by up to 20% because of rapidly decreasing crude oil prices, solar is just now evening out. And even then, that’s thanks to investors who picked up the stocks at bargain basement prices, on speculation that the industry, rife with government funding unconnected to evidence of success, would continue to flow. As of 2012, according to the CBO, alternative energy companies received $24 billion in federal support, including $20.5 billion in special tax rates, tax credits and grants, and $3.5 in spending, through the Department of Energy.

It turns out, of course, that Hillary Clinton is targeting solar for just that reason – some her most ardent supporters are primary investors in major solar energy companies and connected to major environmental policy shops – and her “Climate Plan” would heavily benefit “Big Green” and it’s policy affiliates.

The Washington Free Beacon reports:

Hillary Clinton’s plan to dramatically boost U.S. solar power production and installation could benefit a number of companies that have paid or donated to various arms of the former secretary of state’s expansive political network.

Leading solar panel manufactures and installers have donated to the Democratic presidential candidate’s family foundation, employed members of her inner circle, bankrolled a group providing policy advice to her campaign, and enlisted the services of lobbying and public relations firms run by her top supporters.

The solar industry will see a major boost if Clinton is elected and enacts her newly unveiled climate and energy policy plan. Released on Monday, the plan calls for a seven-fold increase in solar power capacity by 2020.

Much of the “boondoggle-to-be” can likely be traced back to Clinton ally Jon Podesta, a founding member of the Center for American Progress, recruited for the organization specifically for his connections to other Clinton allies. Podesta was instrumental in getting George Soros, among other anchor donors, to underwrite millions in startup costs for CAP, even as Democratic “big money” donors were moving away from the concept of financing think tanks. Podesta served as CAP’s President until 2013.

It seems to be no coincidence, then, that Clinton’s “green strategy” is the work of major environmental policymakers at the Center for American Progress. Clinton’s track record on environmentalism is shaky, earning, initially, support only from the League of Conservation Voters Action Fund (which, of course, features at least one CAP environmental policy group alumni, Senior VP Daniel Weiss, in its administration, and shares at least one board member with CAP).

And it also seems to be no coincidence that Clinton’s green strategy, were it to be enacted, would greatly benefit some of the Center for American Progress’s top donors.

Clinton’s climate strategy would likely benefit solar companies such as First Solar, whose donations to the Center for American Progress came under scrutiny after the policy group actively promoted the company’s positions on key legislative issues.

“First Solar gave money to CAP and CAP’s staff advocated for First Solar before Congress and in articles on CAP’s website without disclosing that pertinent piece of information,” wrote the Nation’s Ken Silverstein in a 2013 story about the group’s corporate supporters.

More recent corporate donors to the group include the Albright Stonebridge Group a political intelligence firm founded by Madeline Albright, the former secretary of state, that boasts of its ability to connect businesses to Washington power-brokers.

Albright Stonebridge represented First Solar in its efforts to secure a contract with the Chinese government to build a huge solar plant in Inner Mongolia. And the Free Beacon turned up evidence that Wendy Sherman, who worked at Albright Stonebridge, and is close with Hillary Clinton, has also worked closely with First Solar as a consultant.

And then, there’s the donations First Solar has made to the Clinton Foundation, between $25,000 and $50,000. NRG Energy, also a major solar energy company, gave to the Clinton Foundation, as well. Podesta also has ties to other solar energy companies, including Elon Musk’s SolarCity, which hired Podesta’s firm to lobby on its behalf.

Much is frequently made about “dark money” in political campaigns, often as a critique of major donors to Republican candidates, looking for corporate handouts in return for their financial fecundity, but Big Green is very closely aligned with the political process as well, giving, as demonstrated, thousands in carefully placed donations, in an effort to prime future administrations to keep government funds flowing, even to alternative energy sources that the market has clearly indicated are economically – if not environmentally – unsustainable.

Categories: On the Blog

‘Gov’ knows best

Out of the Storm News - July 29, 2015, 12:15 PM

No one likes a controlling, overbearing boyfriend. You know the guy I’m talking about. Incessantly checking in, sticking his nose into every and any decision, disapproving of anyone or thing that disagrees with him, and above everything else, claiming he knows what’s best.

While this persona of control and “knowing best” could be attributed to many individuals and organizations, one noted institution stands out: the federal government.

Our friends at the Independent Institute have addressed this issue through a satirical video series titled Love Gov, highlighting the folly, cost and intrusiveness of certain government policies. According to David J. Theroux, the institute’s founder and president:

Love Gov is a way to help anyone, especially millennials, understand the federal government’s ever-expanding reach into personal lives. It’s a lighthearted approach to reach audiences on a personal level, and inspire them to learn more and take action.

The series focuses on a young woman, Alexis, and her relationship with her overbearing, borderline crazy boyfriend, Scott “Gov” Govinsky. “Gov” represents the federal government and continuously introduces havoc into Alexis’ life through his intrusive behavior, which the series uses to allude to federal policies ranging from encouraging student debt to inadequate universal healthcare to privacy violations.

The hilarious (yet frightening) big government sentiments vocalized by “Gov” could not have been more spot on.

‘I love small businesses… but not as much as big business.’

‘I’m massively in debt, massively. Except it’s other people’s debt. It’s complicated.’

‘Education is priceless!’

Although these quotes obviously are used as vehicles to poke fun at big government, all of them possess a staggering ring of truth that have not been given sufficient attention. In a day and age when the rhetoric and agenda of the political left has infiltrated educational institutions and youth opinions around the country, Love Gov brings a long-needed fresh of a breath air.

Having recently graduated from a left-leaning, private university in Washington D.C., this could not have hit any closer to home for me.

If you oppose the Affordable Care Act, you’re viewed as an immoral individual who doesn’t care about the health of those who are less fortunate. If you oppose excessive business regulations aimed to “assist and protect employees,” you’re viewed as ignorant or “privileged.” Unfortunately, opinions like these have transcended beyond liberal educational institutions and have started to become part of the overall millennial mindset.

Nearly all twentysomethings would love if it healthcare were allotted to all citizens and employees could be protected from potential abuse in the workplace. The fact of the matter is, the cost of doing so with healthcare isn’t realistically attainable and a good amount of business regulations are unnecessary and kill the jobs they are designed to protect.

What price are we willing to pay as we continue allowing the federal government to continue to meddle in education, the housing market, business, health care and various other areas of our lives?

Using various examples – ranging from how a twentysomething woman without children has no reason to pay for pediatric dental care to how universities have no incentive to cut costs due to the existence of government-backed student loans – Love Gov breaks through with humor and does what many have tried to do before, but failed. It points out to everyone, and specifically millennials, that the government has been too intrusive and costs Americans too much.

Love Gov may only be a five-part video series, but through its ability to simultaneously provoke both laughter and reflection, it has a role to play in helping ignite America’s youth to start a discussion about the role of big government and what we can do to fix it.

You can see the trailer for the series below:

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

The Donald Trump Rule: ‘Flip-Flopping’ to the Right Position Can Be a Very Good Thing

Somewhat Reasonable - July 29, 2015, 11:09 AM

We hear the charge leveled all the time: “Flip-flopper.” When someone fundamentally changes their position on an issue.

We are naturally left to wonder if the move is genuine. Are they are saying what they think – or what they think we want to hear?

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has rocketed to to the top of the sixteen-candidate heap – in large part because of his anti-illegal immigration stance. Which is from all appearances a relatively new position for him. Here’s November 2012 Trump:

“(Mitt Romney) had a crazy policy of self deportation which was maniacal,” Trump says. “It sounded as bad as it was, and he lost all of the Latino vote,” Trump notes. “He lost the Asian vote. He lost everybody who is inspired to come into this country.”

Trump’s current illegal immigration stance is…slightly more staunch. And it appears to be working for him.

(Of course, Trump is by no means the only 2016 candidate to radically reconfigure his immigration position – Hello, Senator Marco “Gang of Eight” Rubio.)

If a pol flip-flops to the right side of an issue – we shouldn’t mindlessly attack. Because we can not with any certitude know why they did it. What we can do is hail their correction – and hold them to it.

So it is with the awful Innovation Act.

The Innovation Act is fundamental transformation of the Constitutionally-protected patent process – without benefit of the Constitutional amendment process. All under the (intentional or accidental) false flags of “litigation reform” – to deal with “patent trolls.”

But “patent trolls” are almost always nothing more than people with patents – defending them against patent thieves. The patent holders usually have to sue to do that – this “litigation reform” makes it exponentially more difficult for them to do so.

An Innovation Act House vote is expected after the August recess. Except:

Patent Reform Defectors Emerge in House

The House Judiciary Committee’s lopsided approval of patent reform legislation last month would not have looked as overwhelming if every member showed up.

Six of the seven members of the committee who were absent told The Hill they are leaning toward opposing the measure in its current form. Five of those opponents supported a similar bill last Congress….

Flip-floppers all, potentially. Hopefully.

House Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) 62% (R-Calif.) had put it on the July schedule and it appeared to be heading toward quick approval after a similar bill passed the full House last Congress 325-91.

But after a series of meetings, which opponents say did not go well, the bill was taken off the July calendar. McCarthy said last week that “there is more work to be done on it.”

But why waste any more lipstick on this pig? When there are actual attractive bills to be had?

TROL Act

This is not fundamental transformation. It specifically reforms demand letter abuse – without total system disruption.

It gives the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) the authority to deal with bad demand letter writers – on an a la carte basis. The FTC examines each case as it comes – rather then preemptive, all-encompassing legislation where every single patent holder trying to protect their intellectual property is assumed to be acting in bad faith.

And that’s about it. With DC – less is almost always more….

Strong Act

This isn’t fundamental transformation either. It reforms demand letter abuse – and cleans up some previous DC mistakes.

The last patent reform bill – the America Invents Act – established overly broad standards for when and how patents can be challenged at the patent office. This bill tightens them.

And it uses the TROL Act language that ends abusive demand letters.

As Ronald Reagan said of his treaty dealings with the Soviet Union – “Trust, but verify.”

We should (almost always) give flip-floppers to correct positions the benefit of the doubt – and thereafter the totality of our scrutiny.

If actually elected, Trump should absolutely be held to his new anti-illegal immigration stance – which will have helped deliver him to the White House.

And to these new tentatively anti-Innovation Act Republicans and Democrats – we say “Welcome (almost) home. Do the right thing – and vote No.”

Better still, House Leadership should take further note – and not waste any more makeup on this swine.

Let’s permanently leave it in the legislative pen. And move on to much better looking bills.

[Originally published at RedState]

Categories: On the Blog

It’s time for dialogue, not demagoguery, on price optimization

Out of the Storm News - July 29, 2015, 9:20 AM

Social activist Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals” was written as a how-to guide for community activists looking to compel political change. Yet its rules are no less applicable to parties already in power, particularly regulators.

From their perch atop a complex and wealthy industry, insurance regulators are well-positioned to take political stands by employing Alinsky’s thirteenth rule: “Pick the target, freeze it…and polarize it.”

Insurance regulators throughout the country have begun to target, freeze and polarize an increasingly visible set of rating practices known as “price optimization.” In authentic Alinsky-ian fashion, regulators have resorted to freezing price optimization practices as impermissible deviations from existing prohibitions against charging rates that are “unfairly discriminatory.” They are doing so without the benefit of a genuine understanding of what such practices actually entail.

In fact, even among the states that have sought to proscribe the use of price optimization, there is no common definition of the practice. For instance, last October, Maryland released a bulletin describing the practice as

[V]arying rates based on factors other than risk of loss, including, but not limited to: (a) the likelihood that a policyholder will engage in activities that result in policy turnover; and (b) the willingness of a policyholder to pay a higher premium compared to other policyholders.

Next up was Ohio, which issued a bulletin in January defining the practice as:

[V]arying premiums based upon factors that are unrelated to risk of loss in order to charge each insured the highest price that the market will bear.

A February notice from California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones to 750 insurers said price optimization was:

[A]ny method of taking into account an individual’s or class’s willingness to pay a higher premium relative to other individuals or classes.

In May, Florida’s Office of Insurance Regulation issued a memorandum that conceded price optimization simply “does not have a universally recognized definition.” Nonetheless, for the purposes of banning the practice, the OIR defined it as:

A process for modifying the insurance premium that would otherwise be charged to an insured or class of insureds in order to maximize insurer retention, profitability, written premium, market share, or any combination of these while remaining within real world constraints.

Most recently, Indiana released a bulletin earlier this month without a formal definition of price optimization at all! It nonetheless firmly established “that the use of price optimization in establishing rates is not permitted.” Companies that currently employ the undefined practices were given 90 days to correct their errant ways and submit new filings.  The contours of price optimization were described as:

“[U]sing data collection and analysis to predict which consumers will accept higher rates without changing insurers and/or varying premiums based upon factors that are unrelated to the risk of loss so that each insured is charged the highest price that the market will bear.”

When pressed for a definition of the practice at the National Conference of Insurance Legislators meeting earlier this month, Indiana Insurance Commissioner Steve Robertson retreated to Justice Potter Stewart’s subjective formulation for the identification of pornography: I may not know how to define it, but I know it when I see it.”

Such an approach is problematic. The disparate definitional guidance provided by the states may inadvertently proscribe practices which have been, to date, permissible.

Consider a scenario outlined by California attorney Bill Gausewitz, of the increased expenses incurred by an insurer whose strategy is to provide high levels of customer service, compared with one that simply offers the lowest-priced coverage. Gausewitz rightly concludes that such expenses are unrelated to the risk of loss and thus would run afoul of overly-broad formulations of price optimization practices.

On a more fundamental level, such restrictions could encumber the flexible application of crucial actuarial judgement concerning the development of rates.

R Street has discussed price optimization in the past and we, like insurance regulators, are circumspect about embracing the practices encompassed by it. We certainly have concerns about moving away from risk-based pricing. But unlike the regulators, we are loathe to mischaracterize the practices or otherwise inadvertently proscribe otherwise admissible practices in a rush to address price optimization. In their haste, insurance regulators have accomplished both.

The value of price optimization practices should be discussed and considered at length, and the National Association of Insurance Commissioners is doing its best to accomplish just that. But as the states promulgate judgments of their own, doing so will require regulators to un-freeze the very public characterizations that they have made of the practices.

It is time for regulators to leave the combative, unproductive and ultimately political Alinsky-inspired approach in the past and exercise the kind of judgment that the market and consumers require.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

FAA Warning Raises More Questions About Boeing Batteries

Somewhat Reasonable - July 29, 2015, 9:00 AM

It appears – two years after Boeing had fire incidents from installed lithium ion batteries that shut down deliveries of its vaunted Dreamliner 787 – that its “solution” to “vent” heat and flames outside the aircrafts has prevented any catastrophes, so far.

But it hasn’t alleviated concerns about the batteries’ physics and makeup. Last week Boeing issued a warning to its airline customers to not carry bulk shipments of lithium-ions because if they catch fire or overheat, they’re unstoppable. A spokesman told the Associated Press that the manufacturer has advised airlines not to transport the batteries “until safer methods of packaging and transport are established and implemented.” Likewise, the FAA simultaneously stated that its research has found that carriage of lithium ion batteries “presents a risk.”

The alert was industry-wide. At a safety forum held last week in Washington by the Air Line Pilots Association, Boeing’s fire protection system specialist Doug Ferguson explained what led to the decision to issue the warning. He said standard fire suppression systems employed on aircraft, called Halon 1301, are ineffective against the “thermal runaway” that bulk quantities of lithium ion batteries are known for.

“Unrestricted quantities of lithium batteries that are involved in a cargo fire…can still create hazards that would effect the continued safe flight and landing of the aircraft,” Ferguson said, “particularly depending on the location, the type and quantity of batteries and the time required for a safe landing.”

Boeing, after dismissing any fears about fires in the lithium-ion batteries that power most of the Dreamliner’s systems (saying “it almost doesn’t matter” what caused them), apparently had an intervention from a higher power. According to Aviation International News, the International Coordinating Council of Aerospace Industries Associations issued recommendations regarding transport of lith-ions. Boeing and fellow manufacturers Airbus, Embraer and Bombardier participated in developing the advisory, with plans to meet soon to work on packaging that can contain or mitigate thermal runaway fires.

“What has happened,” Ferguson added, “is that testing has shown that there are higher rates of smoke production, flammable vapor, pressures and temperatures that occur with fires that involve…lithium-ion batteries….than with ordinary Class A type combustibles – paper products for instance.”

So did Boeing learn something new all of a sudden? Or was the company pressed by industry groups to align with them over their serious concerns about the dangers of lithium-ion batteries? According to a physicist who has closely followed the Boeing situation, and battery fires in general, the dangers of bundled lith-ions and the shortcomings of Halon are nothing new.

“It was already very well-known 5 years ago that Halon has no chance whatsoever to extinguish a fire involving significant numbers of Lithium-ion batteries in air cargo,” said Lewis Larsen of Chicago-based Lattice Energy. “The notion that it would take yet another 5 years for this particular epiphany to finally dawn on them is simply not believable.”

At the safety forum Ferguson said in testing, the Halon controlled flames, but the thermal heat that migrated from battery to battery was unaffected. It’s a phenomenon with which Ferguson and Boeing’s safety team should be well experienced. Two Japanese airlines suffered battery fires on Dreamliners in January 2013, which spurred the Federal Aviation Administration to shut down operations while the incidents were investigated. And in 2006 a 787 battery explosion caused a “devastating lab fire” in Arizona, burning a 10,000-square-foot facility to the ground.

Two years ago Larsen said debris from a thermal runaway event on a Japan Air Lines Dreamliner showed that heat from internal shorts reached temperatures far higher than Boeing engineers likely contemplated in their design. The evidence showed that temperatures reached to the boiling point for stainless steel and then turned into gaseous vapor.

Boeing, however, was not to be deterred from its celebrated, fuel-efficient “green” Dreamliner, which is loaded with the troublesome batteries. Despite never finding out what caused the Japanese airlines’ fires, the company took measures designed to vent heat and flames outside the fuselage and thus mitigate risk, rather than try to detect the cause of the fires in the first place.

The FAA says the solution is good enough, but that may not instill confidence since the agency certified the airworthiness of the Dreamliner batteries in the first place. A National Transportation Safety Board investigation into the original fires determined that both FAA and Boeing failed to sufficiently oversee the batteries’ manufacturing process, which opened the door to design flaws. The list of failures in the safety inspection process is reportedly lengthy.

The problems haven’t fully dissipated. In January 2014 Japan Air Lines suffered another malfunction with a Dreamliner battery overheating, with reported smoke and liquid coming out. Last month an Aeromexico Dreamliner made an emergency landing in Ireland due to an alert in the cargo hold, but a spokesman said there was no fire. The cause has not yet been announced. And in May the FAA issued a maintenance mandate for the Dreamliner, after testing showed the plane could lose all electrical power after being continuously powered for 248 days.

Flyer, beware.

[Originally posted at NLPC]

Categories: On the Blog

A Newfangled Nanny State? U.K. Government to Force Fat People to Lose Weight

Somewhat Reasonable - July 29, 2015, 8:46 AM

Academy Award Winning Actress Gwenneth Paltrow on the set of the movie, Shallow Hall.

The Conservative Party of the U.K. – the Tories, Winston Churchill’s political bloc back in the day – is giving new meaning to the old pejorative “the nanny state” when it comes to health care policy.

A report in the Daily Mail, republished in the Conservative Home daily, the newsletter of the Conservative Party, indicates that the government of Prime Minister David Cameron  has floated a plan that would force the obese to lose weight, or lose their disability benefits.

“Obese people who refuse medical treatment to help them lose weight could have their benefits cut, the Prime Minister will announce today,” The Daily Mail reported. “David Cameron will launch a review to work out the cost to taxpayers and the economy of ‘preventable’ conditions such as obesity and drug and alcohol addiction. He has asked a government health adviser to examine plans to force people with health problems to undertake treatment when claiming benefits.”

Approximately 1,800 men and women in the U.K. receive “ incapacity benefits,” what Americans call disability, with the main reason listed as “weight-related issues,” the report added. “The claimants currently get offered treatment such as courses and medication to help them get better and back to work, but there is no legal requirement to accept the help.”

According to The Conservative Home daily, the Prime Minister has also asked a government health adviser to examine the feasibility of these plans to “force people with health problems to undertake treatment when claiming benefits.” The reports did not note at what weight level — or Body Mass Index (BMI) score one is considered overweight by the government.

One wonders what Michelle Obama – the dietary doyenne and First Lady of the U.S. – thinks about this intrusive policy of the newfangled nanny state, called the United Kingdom, and whether her husband, the President of the United States, Barack Obama, would ever consider making this kind of a policy integral to Obamacare.

Categories: On the Blog

The Latest Bughouse Square Debates: Heartland, and School Choice, Won

Blog - Education - July 29, 2015, 12:15 AM

At the latest Bughouse Square Debate in Chicago on July 25, from left: Mark Weyermuller, Heartland’s Bruno Behrend, and Lennie Jarratt.

Standing on a soapbox giving a political speech sounds like fun. That was the order of business this past Saturday at Bug House Square. This is the informal name of Washington Square, a park at Clark and Walton on the near north side of Chicago. The event was sponsored by the Newberry Library, which is across the street.

I came out to hear my friend Bruno Behrend speak on the subject “Public or Private? What should be the future of public schools in Chicago?” He debated Troy LaRaviere, a Chicago Public School principal.

You can imagine the topics. Bruno spoke of school choice, charter schools, right to work, vouchers, private schools, with focus on the residents, taxpayers, and children. Bruno is known  for using the term, “government education complex.”

This from his Heartland Institute blog: “The ‘Government Education Complex’  is the interlocking set of interests that control the vast majority of American education dollars, education policy, and the steady increase in unnecessary education job creation. The explosion of spending, debt, and taxation we’ve witnessed in the last 25 years was used to fund the growth of this Complex.”

The other side spoke of higher taxes and more spending. Much of his focus was on the importance of teachers. In true “soapbox debate” fashion, the audience of about 1000 cheered, booed, groaned, and heckled.

Many people look at the Chicago Public Schools as a jobs program for teachers and as a political activist group. Of course there are millions of dollars available for vendors and contractors.  Recently I wrote about the $20 million no bid contract for SUPES, an outsourced educational firm to train principles now under investigation. This led to the dismissal of Barbara Byrd Bennett, the superintendent and part of the school board. Many refer to it as a scandal, but few media stories about it lately.

I would call it the appearance of impropriety or better yet, waste, fraud, mismanagement, and corruption.

 

There were several other smaller debates throughout the park all day.  There were about 20 tables of activist groups including Planned Parenthood, The Green Party, and Socialists of America. The socialists were promoting the candidacy of Bernie Sanders. It appeared that the attendees could be categorized as left-leaning. The term “socialism” was used openly throughout the afternoon. Of course, there was a handful of us conservatives promoting limited government with freedom, liberty, and opportunity.

 

The debate went well, as I declared Bruno the winner. Bruno is a senior fellow with the Heartland Institute.  Its mission is to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems.  They just moved their offices to Arlington Heights and are planning an open house on Saturday, August 23, 2015 from 10:00 AM till 6:00 PM.  More details can be found on their website.

Next year I would encourage more conservatives to attend this event.  It is important to get the message out of limited government with less taxes, less spending, and less borrowing. This will create more freedom, liberty, and opportunity for all. I welcome the debate, even if I have to stand on a soapbox.

[First posted at Illinois Review.]

The Latest Bughouse Square Debates: Heartland, and School Choice, Won

Somewhat Reasonable - July 29, 2015, 12:15 AM

At the latest Bughouse Square Debate in Chicago on July 25, from left: Mark Weyermuller, Heartland’s Bruno Behrend, and Lennie Jarratt.

Standing on a soapbox giving a political speech sounds like fun. That was the order of business this past Saturday at Bug House Square. This is the informal name of Washington Square, a park at Clark and Walton on the near north side of Chicago. The event was sponsored by the Newberry Library, which is across the street.

I came out to hear my friend Bruno Behrend speak on the subject “Public or Private? What should be the future of public schools in Chicago?” He debated Troy LaRaviere, a Chicago Public School principal.

You can imagine the topics. Bruno spoke of school choice, charter schools, right to work, vouchers, private schools, with focus on the residents, taxpayers, and children. Bruno is known  for using the term, “government education complex.”

This from his Heartland Institute blog: “The ‘Government Education Complex’  is the interlocking set of interests that control the vast majority of American education dollars, education policy, and the steady increase in unnecessary education job creation. The explosion of spending, debt, and taxation we’ve witnessed in the last 25 years was used to fund the growth of this Complex.”

The other side spoke of higher taxes and more spending. Much of his focus was on the importance of teachers. In true “soapbox debate” fashion, the audience of about 1000 cheered, booed, groaned, and heckled.

Many people look at the Chicago Public Schools as a jobs program for teachers and as a political activist group. Of course there are millions of dollars available for vendors and contractors.  Recently I wrote about the $20 million no bid contract for SUPES, an outsourced educational firm to train principles now under investigation. This led to the dismissal of Barbara Byrd Bennett, the superintendent and part of the school board. Many refer to it as a scandal, but few media stories about it lately.

I would call it the appearance of impropriety or better yet, waste, fraud, mismanagement, and corruption.

 

There were several other smaller debates throughout the park all day.  There were about 20 tables of activist groups including Planned Parenthood, The Green Party, and Socialists of America. The socialists were promoting the candidacy of Bernie Sanders. It appeared that the attendees could be categorized as left-leaning. The term “socialism” was used openly throughout the afternoon. Of course, there was a handful of us conservatives promoting limited government with freedom, liberty, and opportunity.

 

The debate went well, as I declared Bruno the winner. Bruno is a senior fellow with the Heartland Institute.  Its mission is to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems.  They just moved their offices to Arlington Heights and are planning an open house on Saturday, August 23, 2015 from 10:00 AM till 6:00 PM.  More details can be found on their website.

Next year I would encourage more conservatives to attend this event.  It is important to get the message out of limited government with less taxes, less spending, and less borrowing. This will create more freedom, liberty, and opportunity for all. I welcome the debate, even if I have to stand on a soapbox.

[First posted at Illinois Review.]

Categories: On the Blog

Where's Weyermuller? At Bug House Square Soapbox Debates

Stuff We Wish We Wrote - Homepage - July 28, 2015, 11:43 PM
By Mark Weyermuller - Standing on a soapbox giving a political speech sounds like fun. That was the order of business this past Saturday at Bug House Square.…

Cato University Day Three: Liberty and the American Experience

Somewhat Reasonable - July 28, 2015, 10:09 PM

Georgetown Law School Professor Randy Barnett speaks on jurisprudence.

Today, Cato University Director Tom Palmer concluded his lecture series on the origins of state and government. He showed how guilds, churches, and other associations served as an alternative to government in mediating disputes between private citizens. He also showed how earlier documents like the Magna Carta and Kosice and Hungarian tracts served as predecessors to the American republic because of their emphasis on limiting arbitrary monarchic rule. He also showed how the unique feudal system in Europe, while imperfect, introduced more equal relations between lord and subject and a contractual system of reciprocal obligations that would be echoed in today’s democracies.

Georgetown Law School Professor Randy Barnett gave Cato University attendees a treat when he interpreted various portions of the Declaration of Independence for us. Barnett discussed how natural rights are naturally found in humans, noting that the primary function of the government is to preserve its citizens’ natural rights. He discouraged the judiciary from “discovering” rights in the Constitution and to consider how their rulings may unintentionally benefit special interest groups. Barnett also showed how the theme of unalienable rights—life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—is also echoed throughout the Constitution.

United States Military Academy Professor Robert McDonald gave two lectures in the afternoon. The first concerned the role of property rights in improving the lots of the American colonists. In the settlements Jamestown and Plymouth, many inhabitants initially starved to death in the early 17th century because of the collective farming system imposed on the populations by the British government. Men were mandated to work together in the fields, give their crops to the state, and receive an equal amount of the total yield. Morale soon fell as they were disincentivized to work and committed themselves to other endeavors like seeking gold. When men in those towns were allowed to plant and keep their crops privately a few decades later, production skyrocketed and the overall population and life expectancies increased. These formerly backward colonies became so successful with newfound property rights that indentured servants and later slaves were brought from across the Atlantic Ocean to satisfy European demands for crops.

McDonald’s second lecture concerned liberty and the American experience. Oppressive tax laws by the British on the American colonies were repealed time and time again before the tragic Boston Massacre in 1770. The Tea Act taxed the colonies on that highly demanded good and led to the Boston Tea Party. Although the newly formed United States won the Revolutionary War a few years later, liberty was difficult to preserve. Contentious elections in 1800, 1860, 2000 and other years divided the country even while the United States grappled with an increasingly activist judiciary and the legacy of slavery and Native American displacement. McDonald argued that the American experiment, while fraught with tragedy and errors, is well-worth maintaining because of its unique history and the Founding Fathers’ emphasis on small government and liberty.

Our customary dinner lecture was given by Palmer on the history of the liberty movement in the world. Palmer highlighted every society has two narratives: one of power and domination and the other of liberty. Statist and individualist forces have often fought throughout history. Palmer located the American Revolution as a link in the chain of pro-liberty Atlantic Revolutions. Classical liberalism emphasizes the unalienable rights of individuals and has been used to promote the women’s movement and eliminate slavery and serfdom in the 19th century. The 20th century was tragic in that many nations became dominated by statist and fascist factions and wreaked havoc on their own people. Since the dawn of the 21st century, the liberty movement has shown promise due to new communications technologies and the appeal of the libertarian virtues of individual rights and responsibilities, solidarity, respect for peaceful diversity, and a belief in the dignity of mankind, he concluded.

Categories: On the Blog

Lowering the drinking age will have some bad effects. We should do it anyway.

Out of the Storm News - July 28, 2015, 8:54 PM

For the first time in decades, the legal drinking age is back in the news, and nearly all the credit for that belongs to the Amethyst Initiative. Signed by 136 college presidents from across the country, the initiative calls on Congress to revisit the 31-year-old Uniform Drinking Age Act, which deducts 10 percent of the federal highway funds from any state that sets its drinking age lower than 21. For more than a quarter-century, no state has dared violate it.

Amethyst is a worthwhile initiative. It’s one I support. And given the proper framing and strategy, I believe it’s one that can prevail. But success will not come without a forthright and realistic assessment of the likely consequences of lowering the drinking age. They won’t all be positive.

The wrong approach, in my view, is the line of argument made by John McCardell, the former Middlebury College president who founded the pro-drinking-age-reform organization Choose Responsibility in 2007. Most advocates for lowering the drinking age repeat some variation of what McCardell told CBS’ 60 Minutes in 2009:

‘This law has been an abysmal failure,’ McCardell told 60 Minutes correspondent Lesley Stahl. ‘It hasn’t reduced or eliminated drinking. It has simply driven it underground, behind closed doors, into the most risky and least manageable of settings.’

Clearly, the analogy McCardell is drawing is to the War on Drugs, and to Prohibition before it. But there are some pretty obvious ways that the analogy is inapt.

The true folly of both Prohibition and the War on Drugs is the ways both enriched the violent criminal gangs who administer the black market. That’s just not true of the national drinking age; today’s alcohol producers and distributors are legitimate and, for the most part, law-abiding. That the barrier between licit and illicit alcohol use is sometimes porous doesn’t render a convenience store into the Medellín Cartel or InBev into Al Capone.

Moreover, the analogy to the War on Drugs breaks down when you consider the nature of the products in question. Those who oppose the War on Drugs favor legalizing marijuana – a popular, but largely benign vice – and decriminalizing harder drugs that are much more destructive, but thankfully, also much less popular. Alcohol has the unfortunate distinction of being both very popular and – for many, though not most, of its consumers – also very destructive.

Alcohol’s more destructive effects, and the role the national drinking age has played in tempering them, have left a rather inconvenient paper trail of data. This data can, has and will continue to be summoned readily by opponents to undermine the credibility of those who would characterize the law as “an abysmal failure.”

It also doesn’t help when some advocates of lowering the drinking age seek to apply the Prohibition analogy in ways that stretch credulity. Writing in Newsweek, Jeffrey Tucker of the Foundation for Economic Education essentially made the claim that lowering the drinking age would help solve the campus rape problem:

People speak of a rape crisis on campus, and whatever the scope of the problem, the fact that women under 21 must retreat to dorm rooms and frat houses to drink puts them all in a vulnerable situation. It’s hard to imagine that consent is really there when people are falling down, passing out and feeling mortified the next day about what happened. In fact, the law represents a true danger to women in particular because it prohibits legal access to safe public places to drink responsibly, and go home to a safe environment afterward.

Tucker is certainly right to highlight the role Greek life appears to play in campus sexual assault, given multiple studies showing that fraternity members are three times more likely to commit rape than other college men, and that sorority members are 74 percent more likely to be victims of rape than other college women. Of course, this was also a problem back in the 1970s, when the drinking age in many states was lower, and it’s not at all clear how lowering the drinking age would address the many issues raised by Greek life. It’s also not clear why “retreat[ing] to dorm rooms,” presumably to drink with friends, would be less safe than the obvious alternative – bars filled with intoxicated strangers.

Ironically, arguments like Tucker’s may actually be overstating alcohol’s role in sexual assaults. While alcohol is not infrequently a tool of rape, that is quite a different thing than being a cause of rape. According to a 2001 study from the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, alcohol use by either the perpetrator or the victim was present in about half of all sexual assaults. A sexual predator was present in 100 percent of them.

The problem of rape on campus is not that there are too few legal ways to get alcohol. The problem is that there are too many rapists on campus. They’ll be on campus whether the drinking age is 21 or 18, and alcohol is but one of many tools at their disposal. In any case, making it easier for them to buy alcohol does not seem likely to decrease the incidence of rape.

So, before some other advocate seeks to make a similar counter-intuitive claim that lowering the drinking age would help reduce college suicides or drunk-driving accidents, it’d be useful to recap how we got here and why the original push to lower the drinking age was broadly considered a failed experiment.

In 1971, the 26th Amendment was ratified, extending the right to vote to 18-year-olds. Two years before the amendment’s passage, the drinking age in all but a handful of states was 21. In the spirit of the times – in-line with the slogan “if I’m old enough to die for my country, I should be old enough to vote/drink” – between 1969 and 1973, 26 states reduced their minimum drinking age. Four others would lower their drinking ages in the following years.

In truth, the extent of the change tends to be somewhat exaggerated in the public imagination. There were actually only 21 states, representing about 42 percent of the population, that ever lowered the drinking age to 18 for all forms of alcohol. On the flip side, there were a dozen states, representing 27 percent of the population, that never lowered the drinking age from 21. States where it remained 21 to buy hard liquor covered 47 percent of the population.

But just as Oklahoma was becoming the last state to lower its drinking age, in 1976, there was an almost immediate reversal. Minnesota raised its drinking age in 1976, just three years after lowering it. In 1977, it was Maine that raised the drinking age. In 1978, it was Iowa and Michigan (twice in one year, in the latter case). In 1979, it was Massachusetts, Montana, New Hampshire and Tennessee. In 1980, it was Illinois, Nebraska, New Jersey, Georgia and Rhode Island. In 1981, it was Texas, Virginia and Rhode Island (again). In 1982, it was Maryland, New York, Connecticut and Ohio. In 1983, it was Alaska, Oklahoma, North Carolina, West Virginia, New Jersey (again), Virginia (again) and Connecticut (again).

In 1984, the Uniform Drinking Age Act was passed and, by the end of 1988, every state had a drinking age of 21.

So what happened?

In brief, drunk-driving fatalities by young people skyrocketed. In Arizona, the state Department of Public Safety estimated that traffic fatalities spiked more than 35 percent when the drinking age was lowered. In Michigan, the proportion of 16- to 20-year-old drivers with blood alcohol concentrations over 0.05 more than doubled. A 1984 paper by Philip Cook and George Tauchen estimated that in states that lowered the minimum age to buy beer to 18, overall fatalities among the 18-to-20-year-old age group rose 11 percent.

The trend reached what the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety deemed to be epidemic proportions. By the time it peaked in 1982, 61 percent of 16- to 20-year-old drivers killed in car crashes had illegal blood alcohol levels. A decade after passage of the national 21 minimum drinking age, that had fallen in half, to 31 percent.

Percent of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers with BACs at or above 0.08 percent by age, 1982-2007

 

To be sure, just as not all of the increase in drunk-driving fatalities was due to the lowered drinking age, nor was all of the decrease due to the national age limit. Harvard University economist Jeffrey Miron found in a 2007 paper that most of the improvement was attributable to states that voluntarily raised their age limits before the federal mandate, and that the effect did not persist for long. The generally accepted realistic figure for the UDAA’s impact comes from a 1999 paper by Georgia Tech’s Thomas Dee, who found that raising the national drinking age reduced traffic fatalities by at least 9 percent.

Of course, these are not the only relevant data. There are studies to support findings that teens from states with higher drinking ages drank less frequently. That states with lower drinking ages had higher rates of vandalism. That the move to lower the drinking age was correlated with a 10 percent increase in the rate of suicide by young people in the relevant age bracket. One can no doubt find quibbles with the data or the methodology of all of these. But there is an impressively thick literature of findings, and attempting to knock them down one by one is simply a losing battle.

Let’s just be honest. Lowering the national drinking age back to its pre-1984 levels will have some bad effects. We should do it anyway.

We should do it because 18-year-olds are adults. They vote. They pay taxes. They serve our country in the military. They sign contracts and testify in court. They get married. They buy property. They start businesses and hold down jobs. There is no moral foundation for the proposition that they can participate in the full panoply of rights and responsibilities that this country provides, except for choosing which beverage they’d like to consume.

We should do it because the Uniform Drinking Age Act violates the principles of federalism. There is no constitutional justification for the federal government to regulate the age at which someone should be legally permitted to consume alcohol. We knew this when we passed Prohibition. It’s why it took a constitutional amendment to enact. The 21st Amendment returned authority over the regulation of alcohol to the states, and that’s where it should have remained. The precedent set by NFIB v. Sebelius, wherein it was ruled unconstitutional for the federal government to withhold funding for states that refused to expand their Medicaid rolls, should be applied to the UDAA. The law demands a fresh challenge.

We should do it because, in short order, self-driving cars will render much of the discussion about drunk-driving fatalities utterly moot.

Finally, we should do it because public policy cannot properly be guided only by an accounting of costs. We must also consider benefits. People like drinking alcohol an awful lot. That counts for something.

Alcohol abuse can cause a variety of harms, but only a relatively small fraction of the people who drink alcohol drink abusively or ever experience such harms. Americans spend $90 billion a year on alcohol, including $5.5 billion spent by students. No market could be so large without producing enormous consumer surplus, and no policy analysis is complete that fails to account for that surplus.

Alcohol provides delicious flavors and aromas in a never-ending diversity of forms. It is a means of social bonding that has been with us since prehistoric times and has been the subject of probably more songs and poetry than any other, save love and death. It is the reason we have agriculture and, thus, the reason we have civilization at all.

We should lower the drinking age because young people deserve to experience the same joy of drinking alcohol that the rest of us do. It is, quite simply, a central part of what it is to be human.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Patent reform is not a left wing thing

Out of the Storm News - July 28, 2015, 4:40 PM

From the The Beacon:

Over at R Street, Zach Graves has a good piece up looking at the American Conservative Union’s opposition to patent reform pending in the Congress. He points out that the sponsors of the much maligned legislation are not looney leftists, but solid leaders on the right…

…The article is a good read. Graves concludes by noting that “Patent reform has loud detractors of all stripes, but it also enjoys overwhelming support on both the left and right. And if we’re going to be honest, its support has always been stronger on the right.”

Leamer talks Trump on The Big Picture

Out of the Storm News - July 28, 2015, 4:38 PM

R Street Outreach Manager Nathan Leamer participated — along with  Neil Sroka of Democracy for America and Sean Noble of American Encore– in The Big Picture host Thom Hartmann’s July 22 politics panel to discuss why Donald Trump continues to lead polls of the likely 2016 Republican contenders. You can watch the full clip below.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Cities, states keep piling on the Internet taxes

Out of the Storm News - July 28, 2015, 11:27 AM

The City of Chicago has the dubious distinction of becoming the first jurisdiction to apply a sweeping tax to “cloud-based” services, ranging from streaming video to tax preparation.

Beginning Sept. 1, residents of the Windy City will be dunned a 9 percent levy on entertainment, online applications and data-processing services that depend on the computing, transmission and storage capabilities of the Internet and World Wide Web.

It’s the result of a Chicago Department of Finance decision to extend the city’s Amusement Tax and Personal Property Lease Transaction Tax to Internet downloads. The application of the Amusement Tax means that Chicagoans will be paying 9 percent more for streamed video and music services, such as those from Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and Spotify, whether the purchase is in the form of a monthly subscription or a one-off order. In doing so, Chicago joins the Alabama Department of Revenue, which wants to apply the state’s 1980s-era tax on videocassette rentals to streaming video.

But Chicago went one better with its new reading of the Lease Transaction Tax. This will now cover any paid cloud-based application that provides information or processing services, such as TurboTax’s Web-based tax preparation application, as well as database search services such as Lexis-Nexis, Ancestry.com, and Realtor.com, just to name three.

The “cloud tax” represents yet another government money grab from Internet users. Sales taxes already are applied to nontangible digital purchases such as software, movies, music and games that consumers then permanently store on their own media. Then there are the numerous taxes, surcharges and fees states and cities heap on the broadband wireless phone and cable services that serve as Internet connections. On wireless service alone, these charges averaged 17 percent, according to a 2014 report from the Tax Foundation.

And it’s not stopping. Prince George’s County, Md., recently raised taxes on landline and wireless phone services as part of an overall local tax increase. Meanwhile, Congress is debating once again whether to create a legal framework that would let states collect sales tax from online retailers outside their borders.

It’s no surprise to see jurisdictions targeting cloud-based services. Enough consumers have turned to streaming for entertainment that it’s been dubbed the latest “game-changer” in tech circles. Even the Federal Communications Commission is trying to figure out a way to regulate it. In the past three years, the percentage of viewers watching live television has fallen from 89 percent to 80 percent, while Internet streaming has increased from 4 to 11 percent, according to research by Nielsen Co. and broadcasters. The same research found that over that same three-year period, per-week streaming grew from four hours and 13 minutes to four hours and 17 minutes in a growing market. No doubt governments covet these dollars.

Sadly, it seems that streaming services see taxation as inevitable, “Jurisdictions around the world, including the U.S., are trying to figure out ways to tax online services,” a Netflix representative told The Verge, an online site covering technology, entertainment and science.

Chicago consumers should not despair yet. The law firm Reed Smith LLP, quoted by CBS Chicago, believes the tax may violate the Federal Telecommunications Act and the Internet Tax Freedom Act, which, as one of the few consumer-friendly tax laws pertaining to the Web, prohibits taxation of Internet access.

Legal questions aside, taxing the Internet is just bad policy. Tax a commodity and people will use less of it. Adding a tax to Web-based applications means decreasing utility for users and increasing barriers to success for entrepreneurs who seek to build innovative cloud-based services. Lawmakers in states and communities all say they want to foster digital inclusion and stimulate a robust information-based economy. Rampant taxation is no way to do it.

Chris Farley Government: Remember When It Was Congress That Made Law? That Was Awesome

Somewhat Reasonable - July 28, 2015, 11:00 AM

Remember that recurring Saturday Night Live skit where the late Chris Farley was the ultimate fanboy – interviewing those for whom he was the ultimate fanboy?

Sniveling and sweaty, he would bring up some of his favorite memories of his interviewees – pretending they were questions by prefacing them with “Remember…?”

And when the interviewee said he did in fact remember, Farley would blurt out “That was AWESOME.”

To wit: Farley’s sit-down with Paul McCartney.

“You remember Beatle Mania? Where those four guys went on stage and looked like you and then they played Beatles songs and….

“Yeah, I heard about that.

“That was AWESOME.

I often think of the Farley Model when watching the media “interview” a Democrat. Especially, sickeningly so when it’s Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton.

But with the eternally overreaching Obama Administration, I am starting to feel more and more like the Anti-Farley.

This Administration issues executive fiat after executive fiat – piling the power grabs skyward.

And again and again, the allegedly opposition Republican Party – emplaced by We the People in control of the Legislative Branch – acts outraged and issues stern press releases. But does nothing to actually rein them in.

The President keeps encroaching on Congress’ lawmaking turf – and the lawmakers keep ceding the field.

Leaving us Less Government types to turn to one another and ask “Remember when it was Congress that made law? And defended their Constitutional prerogative to do so? That was AWESOME.”

Obama: ‘I Have a Pen and I Have a Phone’

Obama’s One-Man Rule Amounts To A ‘Gradual, Quiet Coup’

President Obama and every one of his Departments, Agencies, Commissions and Boards are working non-stop as stealth, unelected, unaccountable “law”makers.

By Unilaterally Changing ObamaCare, Obama Is Making A Mockery Of The Constitution

Obama EPA Climate Decrees Will Further Damage U.S. Economy

Obama’s Objective: Nationalize California’s Government-Made Water Disaster

Obama Proposes Massive Gun Ban by Regulation Fiat

Obama to Order Expansion of Overtime Pay for Millions of Workers

Likely the biggest Obama Administration power grabs have come from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Because they have so much more of the still-private sector to grab.

Because the FCC has set its sites on the Internet. Which – unlike just about every other economic sector – didn’t really have an agency (or eight) assigned to crush regulate it.

Back at the Internet’s dawn – during the Bill Clinton Administration – two unbelievably unleashing government decisions were made. The World Wide Web was privatized – and deemed to be basically regulation-free.

As always happens when the government doesn’t “help” – the Web has exploded. Becoming an always-evolving, ever-expanding, free-speech-free-market Xanadu.

President Obama could not let that stand. So he sicced on the Internet the FCC. Which is supposed to an independent agency – free from political arm-twisting.

President Obama’s FCC happily obliged. And unilaterally declared the Internet subject to 1934 law. Written for…land line telephones – and railroads. Seems eminently applicable, yes?

This is Network Neutrality – on century-old steroids. It is a HUGE power grab. Which will hopefully (yet again) be dumped by the courts.

Of course the FCC has by no means stopped there. Behold their abuse of the merger approval process.

When any two or more companies want to become one – the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Justice Department both have to give their approval. If those companies have anything to do with anything communications – the FCC piles in and piles on.

As does the FTC and Justice – when the FCC goes into merger-approval-mode, they grab their “law”-writing pens. And impose countless a la carte regulations they could never get through Congress. All three agencies take their licks – but the FCC usually hits the hardest.

These are called merger “conditions” or “concessions.” But that’s like saying I conceded my wallet to the guy with the gun and the mask. The merging companies are government hostages – to get out they have to give in. These are merger capitulations.

Rent Seeking in the FCC’s Approval of the AT&T/DirecTV Merger

(T)he FCC is largely free to ask firms for an almost unlimited range of concessions in exchange for favorable outcomes in matters before the commission. Such rent-seeking is business as usual.

In the merger context, the only practical limit on what the commission can request is however much the parties are willing to give up before walking away from the deal.

The FCC almost always takes full advantage.

FCC Approves AT&T, DirecTV Merger ‘With Conditions’

  • The soon-to-be single entity must expand high speed fiber Internet access to at least 12.5 million customer locations, E-rate eligible schools and libraries within the next four years.
  • AT&T must offer broadband access to low-income consumers at discounted rates. AT&T responded it will start with plans of 3Mbps service at $5 per month and 10Mbps for $10 per month.

These two capitulations will cost a LOT of money. These exorbitant costs will of course be passed along to AT&T and DirecTV customers – in the form of much higher monthly rates. Because “pro-consumer” – or something.

  • AT&T cannot write its own rules on data caps and providing access to online video, circling back into the tangled web that is net neutrality.

The FCC mandated a la carte Net Neutrality – in case the courts dump the whole-hog-grab. Something the Commission also did in the Comcast-NBC merger.

And remember this?

(FCC Chairman) Tom Wheeler Tweaks Net Neutrality Plan After Google Push

When the FCC Chair turned his law-writing pen into a waiter’s order-taking pen. Allowing huge President-Obama-and-Democrat-donating Google to order customized a la carte changes to the grab.

Fellow bandwidth-uber-hog Netflix is also in Waiter Wheeler’s section. And also gets to order way off the menu.

Netflix to Support Charter Acquisition of Time Warner Cable

So – merging companies now have to get Obama’s cronies’ approval, too. Which they will grant – in exchange for self-tailored capitulations, of course.

Netflix Inc. will support Charter Communications Inc.’s $55 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable Inc. in exchange for free access to Charters customers…. 

To quote another Saturday Night Live skit: “Well isn’t that special.”

So in the Age of Obama – the unelected regulatory agencies get to write “laws.” Their Crony Socialist donors get to write “laws.”

The only people who don’t get to write (actual) laws – are the Representatives elected and Constitutionally-mandated to do so.

All of which is anything but awesome.

[Originally published atRedState]

Categories: On the Blog

5 reasons to support the REINS Act

Out of the Storm News - July 28, 2015, 10:37 AM

The House is likely to vote this week on H.R. 427, the Regulations from the Executive In Need of Scrutiny Act, also known as the REINS Act. Introduced by Rep. Todd Young, R-Ind., the bill would require Congress and the president to approve major regulations (those with an economic effect of $100 million or more) before they could take effect. Congress would be granted 70 days to vote affirmatively to adopt such regulations. If it did not, the president temporarily could deem the regulation effective if national security or the public health or safety was imperiled.

Perhaps the third time will be the charm. The House overwhelmingly passed the legislation in 2011 and 2013, only to see it die in the then-majority Democratic Senate. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who has complained about ill-conceived regulation, has not yet said whether the Senate would take up its version of the REINS Act (S. 226), introduced by the junior senator from his state, Rand Paul.

There are at least five reasons why Congress should pass the REINS Act.

  1. Democratic accountability. Each year, about 4,000 new regulations take effect. Regulations have the force of law, and agencies that issue regulations usually are empowered to enforce them with fines and other penalties. Individuals who dislike a regulation are without recourse—they cannot vote regulators out of office. The Constitution declares: “All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.” The REINS Act would force Congress to take responsibility for the enactment of the largest and most economically significant regulations, thereby restoring some democratic accountability.
  1. Democratic equality. Who participates in federal rulemaking? Mostly, elites do. Regulations are proposed by unelected employees at federal agencies. Their final form is shaped through input from lobbyists and interest groups. Average citizens and their representatives seldom submit their own comments to an agency proposing a rule. The REINS Act would interject democracy into rulemaking by making the people’s representatives participate in regulatory policy.
  1. Oversight. The U.S. Constitution establishes a principal-agent relationship between the first and second branches of government. Congress legislates, and the executive effectuates the laws. The REINS Act would force Congress to spend more time overseeing the work of regulators to ensure they faithfully execute the law (and less time naming post offices and passing feel-good commemorative bills.)
  1. Reducing errors. Regulators do make mistakes. Under the present system, a private party has to file a lawsuit to get the problem fixed. Court challenges, in fact, have invalidated more than a dozen regulations in recent years, issued by agencies ranging from the Department of Health and Human Services to the Securities and Exchange Commission. Subjecting regulations to congressional review before they become law may prevent some errors and the costs thereof.
  1. Improving implementation. Current regulatory policymaking is dysfunctional. Congress delegates authority to agencies to implement a law, then yells when the regulations are not to its liking. Meanwhile, the American public foots the bill. Good policy implementation requires dialogue between lawmakers and agencies. This is why most states conduct legislative review of regulations before they take effect. Connecticut, for example, has a Legislative Regulation Review Committee. Michigan similarly has a Joint Committee on Rules that can disapprove rules.
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‘Repeal and Replace’ Fails in Senate, As Conservatives Scramble for Anti-Obamacare Votes

Somewhat Reasonable - July 28, 2015, 8:32 AM

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and other conservatives this weekend were unsuccessful in their attempt to repeal Obamacare through a parliamentary procedure. Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) would not allow the “repeal and replace” legislation to be added to another bill regarding the Import-Export Bank. Conservatives are concerned the Senate does not have the votes to pass a veto-proof bill.

Consequently, the National Center for Public Policy Research is proposing a “five-point plan” to help Republicans repeal ObamaCare and replace it with free market-based reforms. The NCPPR plan is as follows,

1. Sponsor Regular Congressional Hearings. Congress should hold weekly hearings on key health care issues, including mounting problems with ObamaCare and alternatives for more free-market reforms. Hearings on the latter will enable lawmakers and the public to debate free-market alternatives.

2. Hold Regional Town Hall Meetings. Republicans should hold town hall meetings across the U.S., seeking advice from Americans on what works and what doesn’t work about our current health care complex.

3. Appoint Congressional Working Groups. Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell should appoint health care working groups consisting of Members of Congress/Senators they trust who are committed to ObamaCare repeal.

4. Put Health Care Bills on the President’s Desk — Despite His Pledge to Veto Them.  Nothing gets a policy conversation started faster in Washington than sending a bill to the President’s desk.

5. Be Transparent. Americans should not have to wait for reform to pass to find out what’s in it.”

Experts commented that, all told, the cumulative effect of these moves would be powerful. “The hearings, town hall meetings, working groups and public debates of this Five-Point Plan will help insure that the process of evaluating, repealing and replacing ObamaCare is done in a transparent manner, which in turn will help insure that the next health care policy approved by Congress is one the American people are happy to live with,” said Amy Ridenour, chairman of the National Center for Public Policy Research.

Categories: On the Blog

Freedom to Move: Personal Freedom or Government Control, Part II

Somewhat Reasonable - July 28, 2015, 7:01 AM

There are many economic fallacies that surround the issue of freer or open immigration into the United States, and few of them can stand up to serious critical examination.

The Fallacy that Immigrants “Steal” Jobs from Americans.

Opponents of more open immigration sometimes argue that the arrival of more immigrants means the threatened loss of jobs for those already living in the country.

The often-implicit assumption behind this argument is that there are a fixed number of jobs in the country, and if more workers enter the labor market, by definition any work gained by one of the new arrivals must mean lost employment for someone else already there.

As long as there are unsatisfied wants that more production could gratify, then there is always more work for more hands to do. An increased number of workers within a country means that there can occur what economists call both more extensive and more intensive use of labor. By more extensive use of labor is meant that things that could not be done before because there were not enough hands to do them can now be undertaken.

The available number of employable workers might have enabled the production and supplying of a certain amount of, say, shirts, pants, and shoes. But given the availability of labor, and the importance that consumers assigned to having desired goods, it may have been impossible to also produce and supply hats that people also wanted to wear.

The arrival of additional hands through immigration to do productive work would now allow this unsatisfied want for headwear to be partly fulfilled without having to withdraw hands for the production of any of those shirts, pants, or shoes.

By more intensive use of labor, economists mean the more refined development of the system of specialization. More hands to perform desired work means that employers can undertake a more developed division of labor that enables an increased productivity.

Suppose that within a factory there were enough available workers to divide possible tasks into four steps or stages of production, each of which enables the participants to more industriously and productively focus their efforts and attentions to one part of the production process.

The arrival of more workers, again possibly through immigration, to be employed within such enterprises enables the potential and possible tasks to be divided into more refined and detailed steps that, again, raises the productivity and output of all those who participate in the economy’s activities. The increased output per worker means that all in the society can have available through trade a greater supply of wanted goods and services that might not have been possible without the new hands to assist in the work to be done.

Adam Smith began his famous book, The Wealth of Nations (1776), precisely by emphasizing the benefits from division of labor. He also pointed out that the extent of the division of labor is limited by the extent of the market. It makes little sense to take greater advantage of specialization to expand output to, say, a quantity of 1,000 units of some useful good from 500 units if there are not enough people participating in the network of exchange to buy all that can be produced through that intensified division of labor.

But in a country as large as the United States with its more than 320 million people and a global economy within which America trades with billions of people, any opportunity to more intensively develop the division of labor through the use of more available hands made possible by immigration can be successfully and profitably absorbed into the national work force.

The Fallacy that Immigrants Lower the National Wage Level.

Another fear often expressed about the arrival of large numbers of immigrants is that their addition to the national labor force will tend to push wages in general down in the economy as they compete for jobs currently held by the existing workers.

It should be remembered that there is no such thing as a “national wage level.” This, like the general “price level” of goods and services, is a statistical creation by selecting, summing, and averaging a large number of individual wages, each of which reflects the supply and demand for the specific types, skills and qualities of labor in particular markets for hiring workers.

It is certainly the case that if, all other things the same and unchanged, a significant number of qualified immigrant economists, all with teaching and specialization skills similar to my own, were to enter the job market for professors’ positions, the salary for my labor services in my narrow segment of the university teaching market would likely be bid down.

But this is no different than if more college and university age students out of the domestic population were to decide to major in economics, then earn their advanced degrees in the subject, and proceed to try to land jobs with their newly acquired PhDs. The greater supply of such economists might result in my employable salary being competed down.

On the other hand, the consumers of economics teaching services might very well find themselves able to acquire their education at a lower price because the cost of hiring such qualified economics professors will have decreased.

Suppose this were to happen. With a decline in the cost of an economics education, both parents and students may now have more money left in their pockets after having paid the tuition and related expenses. With this “freed up” sum of money they would now have the financial ability to buy more of other things they previously could not afford when paying higher tuition fees.

This will result in an increased demand for other desired goods and services. The prices for these goods and services, other things held given, would tend to rise, increasing the profitability of increasing their supply. This would open up new and increased demands for other types of labor – those able and skilled to, perhaps, produce more flat-screen televisions, or more service jobs at restaurants as people can afford to eat out more frequently, or more employment in other avenues of education. This greater demand made possible by the lower cost of some labor services due to immigrant workers in certain sectors or parts of the market would raise the demand for more workers, and therefore their potential wages and incomes, in other parts of the market.

The Fallacy that Unskilled Immigrants Have No Niche to Fill.

But what about the unskilled or poorly educated immigrants at the lower end of the employment scale? Studies over the years have shown that often it is the unskilled immigrants who fill niches in the market that many in the existing labor pool in the nation are unwilling to perform.

In the middle decades of the nineteenth century it was not unusual to find that many of the domestic servants in not just wealthy but middle class households were young Irish girls who had come over to escape from the potato famine in their native country as well as the British rule that they disliked. Uneducated with only simple “country manners,” this became their entry into the American labor market. Over a generation or two, the wave of Irish immigrants and their children improved their education and employment skills and left behind such domestic work as their talents fetched higher wages in other corners of the market.

In the early decades of the twentieth century, hired gardeners were often of Japanese background in places like California, for instance. As the descendants of these Japanese immigrants entered the mainstream of American life, especially after the Second World War, the image of the hired gardener was no longer that of Japanese.

Over the last few decades those of Hispanic background have filled the niche of hired gardeners, certainly not exclusively but often, as has the role of domestic servant in various parts of the country. If immigrant integration into American society follows the same paths as in the past, two or three decades from now, the stereo-types of Hispanics will have changed as they integrated into the general labor market, moving on to other economic niches and roles, as it did f other immigrant groups in earlier times.

We have seen this with many ethnic groups that have settled and integrated themselves into the general and greater social and economic environment within the country. It is no longer a caricature or cliché to refer to the “Chinese” laundry, because those of Chinese ancestry in America are simply, now, “Americans” distributed and dispersed among many professions and occupations and callings fully integrated into American society in almost all instances.

As new waves of immigrants have entered the American economy, they have filled roles that earlier waves have transitioned out of, just as they are most likely to do in the future. Think of it as the “new guys” who start their careers with the “entry level” jobs. They often are paid less than other workers at first, and are assigned tasks and jobs that others in the firm or enterprise no longer do and do not want to do. But it is the starting point for learning skills, gaining experience, and demonstrating higher worth and value for themselves over time to earn the promotion and better salary in the future, either from their initial employer or some other who sees and values their acquired abilities and potentials.

Filling these roles and entry level positions for the unskilled or low skilled enables part of the immigrant population to have an avenue for starting on the path of improved opportunity in America compared to the old country they have left behind.

To statistically cover over all these real and distinct changes and improvements in employments, incomes, and availabilities of goods by reducing them to price and wage averages and aggregates hides from view not only the real nature of adaptation to change in general, but more specifically many of the positive affects and impacts of immigrants to the United States.

Reducing Government Regulations and Welfare Temptations

We should keep in mind that the problems that some immigrants face are the same problems that government has imposed as stumbling blocks to improvement on all in the society: minimum wage laws, business taxes that hinder investment and capital formation, and regulations that prevent growth and innovation through anti-competitive policies.

These are the roots of many of our social and economic difficulties that harm both native-born and immigrant looking for work and trying to materially advance, including, for some, finding ways to escape from poverty and poor living conditions.

But what about the attempts of political panderers and plunderers to try to buy the votes of new immigrants who obtain or may obtain in the future the right to vote by offering them access to the “benefits” of the welfare state?

Let us remember that those who use such means for gaining political power have had their success with the American-born and American citizen population. It is their votes that have established, maintained, and expanded the interventionist-welfare state that so dangerously burdens the country. It cannot be blamed on “foreigners” – whether legal or illegal. As the cartoon character, “Pogo,” once said, “We’ve met the enemy, and he is us.”

Rather than punish those who, like our ancestors, want to come to America for their “second chance” for a better life for themselves and their children by closing the door of immigration, the task should be to eliminate the controls and regulations that hinder improvement for all of us.

Ending Access to the Welfare State for Any Immigrants

But given that fact that this is not likely to happen in any immediate future, what might be a “second best”? Let me suggest that one answer is to say that anyone may come to America to work, investment, live, and enjoy a freer life.

But for a period of, say, the first fifteen years during which they reside in the United States they are ineligible for access to any welfare-redistributive programs for themselves and their family members.

If this seems harsh, it is worth recalling that before the modern welfare state that is how every generation of immigrants came to America and made their way – either through they own hard work or the voluntary assistance of private charity.

I wonder how many critics of open or freer immigration into the United States would be as negative as they are if the new arrivals were expected to make their own way rather than receive any tax-based handouts from the government?

Part of America’s greatness has precisely been as a haven, a port of last call, for those denied religious freedom, or suffering under brutal and corrupt governments, or locked out of economic opportunities due to political systems of favor and privilege in their own lands.

It has not always been an easy or straight path for the new comer to America’s shores. But the fact that for over two centuries millions have come shows that it has not just been a dream but a reality of a land of opportunity and prosperity.

It has also been the country’s life-blood of new and innovative risk-taking, entrepreneurially spirited enterprisers, and youthful hopefuls who want to breath freer than where they were born. It is a good part of what had made America a dynamic and vibrant country unlike so many others around the world.

To turn our backs on this American tradition and legacy is to betray the essence of what America has been since its beginnings.

[Originally posted atThere are many economic fallacies that surround the issue of freer or open immigration into the United States, and few of them can stand up to serious critical examination.The Fallacy that Immigrants “Steal” Jobs from Americans.

Opponents of more open immigration sometimes argue that the arrival of more immigrants means the threatened loss of jobs for those already living in the country.

The often-implicit assumption behind this argument is that there are a fixed number of jobs in the country, and if more workers enter the labor market, by definition any work gained by one of the new arrivals must mean lost employment for someone else already there.

As long as there are unsatisfied wants that more production could gratify, then there is always more work for more hands to do. An increased number of workers within a country means that there can occur what economists call both more extensive and more intensive use of labor. By more extensive use of labor is meant that things that could not be done before because there were not enough hands to do them can now be undertaken.

The available number of employable workers might have enabled the production and supplying of a certain amount of, say, shirts, pants, and shoes. But given the availability of labor, and the importance that consumers assigned to having desired goods, it may have been impossible to also produce and supply hats that people also wanted to wear.

The arrival of additional hands through immigration to do productive work would now allow this unsatisfied want for headwear to be partly fulfilled without having to withdraw hands for the production of any of those shirts, pants, or shoes.

By more intensive use of labor, economists mean the more refined development of the system of specialization. More hands to perform desired work means that employers can undertake a more developed division of labor that enables an increased productivity.

Suppose that within a factory there were enough available workers to divide possible tasks into four steps or stages of production, each of which enables the participants to more industriously and productively focus their efforts and attentions to one part of the production process.

The arrival of more workers, again possibly through immigration, to be employed within such enterprises enables the potential and possible tasks to be divided into more refined and detailed steps that, again, raises the productivity and output of all those who participate in the economy’s activities. The increased output per worker means that all in the society can have available through trade a greater supply of wanted goods and services that might not have been possible without the new hands to assist in the work to be done.

Adam Smith began his famous book, The Wealth of Nations (1776), precisely by emphasizing the benefits from division of labor. He also pointed out that the extent of the division of labor is limited by the extent of the market. It makes little sense to take greater advantage of specialization to expand output to, say, a quantity of 1,000 units of some useful good from 500 units if there are not enough people participating in the network of exchange to buy all that can be produced through that intensified division of labor.

But in a country as large as the United States with its more than 320 million people and a global economy within which America trades with billions of people, any opportunity to more intensively develop the division of labor through the use of more available hands made possible by immigration can be successfully and profitably absorbed into the national work force.

The Fallacy that Immigrants Lower the National Wage Level.

Another fear often expressed about the arrival of large numbers of immigrants is that their addition to the national labor force will tend to push wages in general down in the economy as they compete for jobs currently held by the existing workers.

It should be remembered that there is no such thing as a “national wage level.” This, like the general “price level” of goods and services, is a statistical creation by selecting, summing, and averaging a large number of individual wages, each of which reflects the supply and demand for the specific types, skills and qualities of labor in particular markets for hiring workers.

It is certainly the case that if, all other things the same and unchanged, a significant number of qualified immigrant economists, all with teaching and specialization skills similar to my own, were to enter the job market for professors’ positions, the salary for my labor services in my narrow segment of the university teaching market would likely be bid down.

But this is no different than if more college and university age students out of the domestic population were to decide to major in economics, then earn their advanced degrees in the subject, and proceed to try to land jobs with their newly acquired PhDs. The greater supply of such economists might result in my employable salary being competed down.

On the other hand, the consumers of economics teaching services might very well find themselves able to acquire their education at a lower price because the cost of hiring such qualified economics professors will have decreased.

Suppose this were to happen. With a decline in the cost of an economics education, both parents and students may now have more money left in their pockets after having paid the tuition and related expenses. With this “freed up” sum of money they would now have the financial ability to buy more of other things they previously could not afford when paying higher tuition fees.

This will result in an increased demand for other desired goods and services. The prices for these goods and services, other things held given, would tend to rise, increasing the profitability of increasing their supply. This would open up new and increased demands for other types of labor – those able and skilled to, perhaps, produce more flat-screen televisions, or more service jobs at restaurants as people can afford to eat out more frequently, or more employment in other avenues of education. This greater demand made possible by the lower cost of some labor services due to immigrant workers in certain sectors or parts of the market would raise the demand for more workers, and therefore their potential wages and incomes, in other parts of the market.

The Fallacy that Unskilled Immigrants Have No Niche to Fill.

But what about the unskilled or poorly educated immigrants at the lower end of the employment scale? Studies over the years have shown that often it is the unskilled immigrants who fill niches in the market that many in the existing labor pool in the nation are unwilling to perform.

In the middle decades of the nineteenth century it was not unusual to find that many of the domestic servants in not just wealthy but middle class households were young Irish girls who had come over to escape from the potato famine in their native country as well as the British rule that they disliked. Uneducated with only simple “country manners,” this became their entry into the American labor market. Over a generation or two, the wave of Irish immigrants and their children improved their education and employment skills and left behind such domestic work as their talents fetched higher wages in other corners of the market.

In the early decades of the twentieth century, hired gardeners were often of Japanese background in places like California, for instance. As the descendants of these Japanese immigrants entered the mainstream of American life, especially after the Second World War, the image of the hired gardener was no longer that of Japanese.

Over the last few decades those of Hispanic background have filled the niche of hired gardeners, certainly not exclusively but often, as has the role of domestic servant in various parts of the country. If immigrant integration into American society follows the same paths as in the past, two or three decades from now, the stereo-types of Hispanics will have changed as they integrated into the general labor market, moving on to other economic niches and roles, as it did f other immigrant groups in earlier times.

We have seen this with many ethnic groups that have settled and integrated themselves into the general and greater social and economic environment within the country. It is no longer a caricature or cliché to refer to the “Chinese” laundry, because those of Chinese ancestry in America are simply, now, “Americans” distributed and dispersed among many professions and occupations and callings fully integrated into American society in almost all instances.

As new waves of immigrants have entered the American economy, they have filled roles that earlier waves have transitioned out of, just as they are most likely to do in the future. Think of it as the “new guys” who start their careers with the “entry level” jobs. They often are paid less than other workers at first, and are assigned tasks and jobs that others in the firm or enterprise no longer do and do not want to do. But it is the starting point for learning skills, gaining experience, and demonstrating higher worth and value for themselves over time to earn the promotion and better salary in the future, either from their initial employer or some other who sees and values their acquired abilities and potentials.

Filling these roles and entry level positions for the unskilled or low skilled enables part of the immigrant population to have an avenue for starting on the path of improved opportunity in America compared to the old country they have left behind.

To statistically cover over all these real and distinct changes and improvements in employments, incomes, and availabilities of goods by reducing them to price and wage averages and aggregates hides from view not only the real nature of adaptation to change in general, but more specifically many of the positive affects and impacts of immigrants to the United States.

Reducing Government Regulations and Welfare Temptations

We should keep in mind that the problems that some immigrants face are the same problems that government has imposed as stumbling blocks to improvement on all in the society: minimum wage laws, business taxes that hinder investment and capital formation, and regulations that prevent growth and innovation through anti-competitive policies.

These are the roots of many of our social and economic difficulties that harm both native-born and immigrant looking for work and trying to materially advance, including, for some, finding ways to escape from poverty and poor living conditions.

But what about the attempts of political panderers and plunderers to try to buy the votes of new immigrants who obtain or may obtain in the future the right to vote by offering them access to the “benefits” of the welfare state?

Let us remember that those who use such means for gaining political power have had their success with the American-born and American citizen population. It is their votes that have established, maintained, and expanded the interventionist-welfare state that so dangerously burdens the country. It cannot be blamed on “foreigners” – whether legal or illegal. As the cartoon character, “Pogo,” once said, “We’ve met the enemy, and he is us.”

Rather than punish those who, like our ancestors, want to come to America for their “second chance” for a better life for themselves and their children by closing the door of immigration, the task should be to eliminate the controls and regulations that hinder improvement for all of us.

Ending Access to the Welfare State for Any Immigrants

But given that fact that this is not likely to happen in any immediate future, what might be a “second best”? Let me suggest that one answer is to say that anyone may come to America to work, investment, live, and enjoy a freer life.

But for a period of, say, the first fifteen years during which they reside in the United States they are ineligible for access to any welfare-redistributive programs for themselves and their family members.

If this seems harsh, it is worth recalling that before the modern welfare state that is how every generation of immigrants came to America and made their way – either through they own hard work or the voluntary assistance of private charity.

I wonder how many critics of open or freer immigration into the United States would be as negative as they are if the new arrivals were expected to make their own way rather than receive any tax-based handouts from the government?

Part of America’s greatness has precisely been as a haven, a port of last call, for those denied religious freedom, or suffering under brutal and corrupt governments, or locked out of economic opportunities due to political systems of favor and privilege in their own lands.

It has not always been an easy or straight path for the new comer to America’s shores. But the fact that for over two centuries millions have come shows that it has not just been a dream but a reality of a land of opportunity and prosperity.

It has also been the country’s life-blood of new and innovative risk-taking, entrepreneurially spirited enterprisers, and youthful hopefuls who want to breath freer than where they were born. It is a good part of what had made America a dynamic and vibrant country unlike so many others around the world.

To turn our backs on this American tradition and legacy is to betray the essence of what America has been since its beginnings.

[Originally Posted at Epic Times]
Categories: On the Blog

Cato University Day Two: Liberty, The State, and The Free Market

Somewhat Reasonable - July 27, 2015, 8:52 PM

Cato University Logo

Today, I started my second day at Cato University by attending a morning lecture by Jeffrey Miron, director of undergraduate economic studies at Harvard, on the power of incentives. Miron taught the audience about consequential libertarianism, an approach that advocates “small government across the board” and is healthily skeptical of policies from the political left and right. Consequential libertarianism asks questions about the relative impact of policies and serves as a useful system for ranking them. Miron distinguished this approach from philosophical libertarianism, which equally rejects most government policies because they violate individuals’ unalienable rights. Miron concluded by noting policies often have unintended consequences that must be taken into account by analysts and legislators.

Next, Tom Palmer, the director of Cato University and senior fellow at the Cato Institute, delivered his first of a two-part lecture series on the origins of state and government. He started by contradicting an interesting argument espoused by University of Chicago law professor Cass Sunstein: the state is the source of all created value. Palmer argued government exists because of the surpluses of individual and group production. Businesses and individuals create wealth through exchange, as seen in many modern economic institutions today. Palmer drew from Cicero and other thinkers to show that without an established rule of law, crime would run rampant and fruitful production would cease because of a breach of societal trust. Palmer also elaborated on the role of the rule of law in promoting trust, justice, and freedom in society.

After lunch, Palmer lectured on freedom from a historical perspective. He defined rights as “an instrument for human liberty” and voiced skepticism about Karl Marx characterization of history as a predictable and inevitable pattern of events, noting that history contains more accidents than most want to acknowledge. According to Palmer, a theory of higher law was born in the influence of philosophical Athens and religiously inspired Jerusalem. All humans derive their rights from their capacity to reason and are equally under the scrutiny of the law, so “law is not just what a guy with a big club says it is.” He highlighted John Locke’s robust definition of property as life, liberty, and estate and harkened to the belief that we also “own” our actions. Palmer also discussed how states successfully claim a monopoly on force and distinguished between external and internal sovereignty.

Miron gave another lecture on the economics of cooperation and coercion, arguing that many interventionist policies have a negative impact on society due to unintended consequences. Some unintended consequences include tax distortions, an elimination of Pareto voluntary exchanges that benefit one party at no expense to the other, and altered individual incentives. Government programs can be notoriously difficult to enforce, especially when evaders’ livelihoods depend on their illicit activities. Too many interventionist policies and complicated laws can incentivize the citizenry to select which laws to follow and which to break. Palmer argued that small governments are superior to their counterparts in promoting equity, efficiency, and economic liberty and said federal agencies performing the same actions as civic organizations and religious institutions should be eliminated.

After a scrumptious dinner, New York Times science columnist John Tierney discussed the role of self-control in successful people’s lives and how it is intrinsically linked to human freedom. During the American Revolution, the rebels realized “to be free from a tyrant’s rule, man had to be able to rule themselves.” The Victorian Era touted hard work and discipline as the path to success and happiness, as opposed to the feel good pop psychology of today’s self-help books. Will power is the ability to master your temptations and complete tasks. This ability can be sapped with too many decisions, indecisiveness, a poor diet, and exhaustion. Tierney said will power is a muscle that can be developed through setting realistic goals, monitoring progress, not juggling too many tasks at once, and above all not making decisions on an empty stomach.

 

Categories: On the Blog

Cato University Day One: Arrival and Settling In

Blog - Education - July 27, 2015, 8:39 PM

Goodie bags for Bastiat Scholars!

I am attending Cato University 2015, an immersive seminar program occurring on July 26-31 at the think tank’s headquarters in Washington, DC that educates students and professionals on political economy. I received a Bastiat Scholarship I that covers my hotel stay and conference-related expenses. Interning at Heartland helped me receive the scholarship, and I am very grateful to this organization for helping open new doors for me. I am structuring my Cato University 2015 experience as a five-part chronological blog series.

I arrived in the capital on Sunday in 90-degree weather. I visited The Newseum, a museum devoted to cataloguing the history of journalism and calling for freedom of the press throughout the world. The museum exceeded my expectations with its interactive exhibits and memorialization of journalists killed in civil and international conflicts. The juxtaposition of the gray East Germany side of the Berlin Wall with its graffiti-covered western counterpart spoke truths words couldn’t about the transformative role of democracy in people’s lives. Afterward, I visited the Capitol. Although the Rotunda and other parts of the building were closed, I watched the Senate proceedings in the chamber, spotting Senators John McCain and Rand Paul.

Later that Sunday afternoon, I registered for Cato University, receiving a large tote bag stuffed with educational sustenance. After a lovely reception on the roof of the Cato Institute headquarters, we ate dinner while listening to Cato University Director Tom Palmer lecture on the role of Cato the Younger in promoting liberty in the floundering Roman Republic and the impact of his legacy on the Founding Fathers and, indirectly, the founding of the Cato Institute. The audience also learned about the Cato Institute’s mission: promoting limited government that primarily serves to enhance individual rights around the world. After dinner, we attended a brief meeting for Bastiat Scholars before going to bed.

 

 

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