A review of the most recent internal migration (domestic migration) in England and Wales reveals some surprises. The latest data covers the one year ended June 30, 2014. It was published by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) and provides estimates at least down to the local authority area (municipality). In this regard, is positioned along with a number of European nations and the Australian Bureau of statistics well ahead of the US Census Bureau, which provides estimates only to the county level.
On a regional level, there was little movement outside the southern half of England. England is divided into nine regions. Three of the northern and middle regions lost modest numbers of internal migrants, ranging from a minus 0.05% (minus 3,000 people) in the West Midlands, which contains England’s second largest city, Birmingham. There was loss of 0.06% (minus 7,100 people) in the North West, where Manchester and Liverpool are located. There was a 0.09% loss (minus 4,700 people) in Yorkshire and the Humber, where Leeds and Sheffield are located (Figure 1).
The North East, which contains the city of Newcastle, has long been an area of economic hardship and is of danger of becoming “Britains Detroit” according to The Guardian. Yet the North East experienced a small gain of 0.01% in internal migrants (500 people). The largest gain outside southern England was in the East Midlands, which includes Leicester and Nottingham, attracted a net 0.13 percent in new migrants (6,200 people). Wales (largest city Cardiff) also had a 0.1% gain in internal migrants (200 peopled).
London (the Greater London Authority) lost by far the largest percentage of its population to internal migration, at minus 0.82 percent, or 68,600 people. This may be particularly surprising because London has recently reached its all-time population peak, having exceeded its pre-World War II 1939 estimated level. Yet virtually all of London’s huge population gain has been from natural growth (births minus deaths) and international migration. In recent years, this growth stems from strong gains in migration from a European Union countries, between which there is virtually unrestricted immigration.
But Londoners, whether born in Great Britain or those who arrived before 2013, have been moving in large numbers to the exurbs beyond the greenbelt for some time and even farther away. The two large exurban regions have attracted many migrants. The East, which includes such well-known localities as Cambridge, Luton, Milton Keynes and St. Albans added the 0.33 percent to its population through internal migration. The South East, which includes localities like Oxford, Windsor, Dover and the entrance to the Euro tunnel to France added a somewhat smaller 0.23 percent.
But some Londoners appear to be moving even farther away. The largest growth was in the South West region, which lies at least 70 miles (125 kilometers) from Trafalgar Square in London. The South West is home to such places as Bristol, Bath, Salisbury and Cornwall. The South West added 0.48 percent to its population through.
London and Environs
During 2013-2014, the dominant trend was movement away from London to the exurbs and regions just beyond the exurbs, with a less dominant trend away from the balance of England and Wales. Virtually all the internal migration growth was in the London Exurbs (East and South East) and the adjacent areas, the South West, East Midlands and West Midlands (Figure 2). Nearly all the loss was in London. Inner London, suffered the largest domestic migration loss, at 1.05 percent of its population (minus 35,000). Inner London, at 3.3 million remains well below its population peak of 4.5 million, reached nearly 115 years ago (1901). Outer London, consisting of the large tracts of semidetached and detached housing built in the inter-war years lost a smaller 0.66 percent of its population to internal migration (minus 33,700). Outer London now has a population of approximately 5.1 million, one-half larger than Inner London.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) explains that London attracts internal migrants up to age 29. But, the internal outmigration of people 30 and above more than cancels this out. ONS explains:
“A key factor for people in their 30s and 40s who move out of London could be the cost of housing. Young couples wishing to buy their first house, or a larger one for a growing family, may find prices in London prohibitively expensive and therefore choose to live outside of London.”
“Another important reason may be that people with children are more likely to move out of London because of environmental or social factors. For example, they may be seeking somewhere greener and quieter, and may also perceive that a less urban neighbourhood offers a better social and educational environment for children. Moves of adults with children also explains why there is a net outflow of children from London.”
ONS further indicates that there is net migration from London of older citizens, including those over 90 (the highest age category reported upon). These are trends similar to those we have identified in the United States some of which were opposite the conventional wisdom (See: Driving Farther to Qualify in Portland, Urban Core Millennials? A Matter of Perspective, Exodus of the School Children, and Seniors Dispersing Away from the Urban Cores)
Greatest Gains and Losses
Even so, London had one local authority area with the greatest internal migration gain: the historic City of London. However, this area, which is the core of the central business district, has few residents. Even after the internal migration gain (1.80 percent), the city still has fewer than 8,000 residents. The other largest gainers in numbers were found in the London exurbs or the South West, with the exception of Fylde, which is located in Lancashire (the North West), adjacent to the resort of Blackpool.
London had nine of the 10 local authority areas with the greatest internal migration losses (out of 348). The largest loss was in the inner London borough of Newham (minus 2.68%). The one non-London local authority area in the bottom 10 was Pendle, in Lancashire (the North West).
Only one of the larger metropolitan areas experienced a net internal migration gain. The Bristol – Bath area (ceremonial Avon County), located in the South West gained 0.25 percent (Figure 3).
Two metropolitan areas that have long experienced serious economic declines suffered only modest losses. Newcastle (Tyne and Wear Metropolitan County) lost only 0.2 percent of its population to internal migration. Liverpool, with a central municipality that dropped from a population of 856,000 in 1931 to 439,000 in 2001 (after which modest growth returned), had an internal migration loss of 0.03 percent. Sheffield (South Yorkshire Metropolitan County) lost 0.08% of its population to net internal migration.
In view of the relative fortunes of London and Liverpool over the last century, it is especially surprising that the London region, including the exurbs, lost internal migration at a rate four times that of Liverpool (0.13%).
Manchester (Greater Manchester Metropolitan County) experienced a net internal migration loss of 0.17 percent, and Leeds-Bradford (West Yorkshire Metropolitan County). Birmingham (West Midlands Metropolitan County) have the greatest loss at -0.22 percent.
By far the largest net internal migration numbers are in the south of England, reflecting strong trends of decentralization away from London, to the East and the South East. But, by far the largest recipient of internal migration is the South West, beyond even the exurbs. This is another confirmation of the dispersing pattern of development, as has been observed in virtually all of the world’s megacities.
Note: The United Kingdom does not formally designate metropolitan areas. This article uses metropolitan and former (ceremonial) counties to approximate metropolitan areas.
Photograph: Local authority of Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire (South East of England), by author
In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, Budget & Tax News managing editor Jesse Hathaway speaks with Reason Foundation director of criminal justice reform Lauren Galik. Galik and Hathaway talk about criminal justice reform and the growing “ban the box” campaign.
The “ban the box” campaign removes barriers to gainful employment placed in the way of people seeking to rejoin society after paying their debt to society and serving time in prison. Galik explains how current employment laws often force ex-criminals back into criminal behavior, because they are not given an opportunity to explain the circumstances of their mistakes.
If you don’t visit Somewhat Reasonable and the Heartlander digital magazine every day, you’re missing out on some of the best news and commentary on liberty and free markets you can find. But worry not, freedom lovers! The Heartland Weekly Email is here for you every Friday with a highlight show. Subscribe to the email today, and read this week’s edition below.Constitutional Reform Program Will Launch in Dallas on Wednesday, August 26 Please join The Heartland Institute in Dallas onWednesday, August 26 to celebrate the launch of our new constitutional reform program. Some of the nation’s top pro-liberty advocates are joining us, including former U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) and former Rep. Allen West (R-FL). Learn how constitutional reform can prevent another left-wing assault on our personal liberties! The event is free of charge to attend. READ MORE EPA Causes Environmental Disaster in Colorado Emily Zanotti, Somewhat Reasonable The Environmental Protection Agency, while attempting to collect wastewater, released an estimated 3 million gallons of “acidic, yellowish” discharge into the Animas River. EPA has not only claimed responsibility for the spill but is admitting to a slow response as well. EPA says the spill was far faster and far larger than initially assumed. READ MORE Come to Our Open House on August 21–22! We’ve finally finished our move from downtown Chicago to suburban Arlington Heights, so it’s time to celebrate! An all-day program for Heartland donors featuring Heartland staff and senior fellows takes place on Friday, August 21 – call Tonya Houston at 312/377-4000 or email her at THouston@heartland.org for more information – and an open house for friends, allies, and new neighbors takes place on Saturday, August 22. Hope to see you there! READ MORE Featured podcast: Dan Kish on Obama’s Clean Power Plan Dan Kish, vice president of policy at the Institute for Energy Research (IER), joins Environment & Climate News Managing Editor H. Sterling Burnett to talk about President Barack Obama’s recently released Clean Power Plan. Burnett and Kish discuss how the carbon emission cuts mandated by the plan will result in higher energy costs while having no real benefit for the climate. LISTEN TO MORE Watch the Tenth International Conference on Climate Change! The Heartland Institute’s Tenth International Conference on Climate Change (#ICCC10) was another huge success. You can watch the entire conference online at climateconference.heartland.org. Watch the full panels composed of some of the leading climate scientists and energy policy experts as well as keynote addresses by Sen. Jim Inhofe, Rep. Lamar Smith, and author Mark Steyn. SEE WHAT YOU MISSED! Five Reasons Teachers Unions Must Change Heather Kays, Providence Journal Teachers unions should not have greater power over education than parents, taxpayers, policymakers, and teachers, but they do. States must reform their laws so ineffective teachers can be removed, effective teachers can stay, and teachers have a real choice as to whether they want to join a union. Here are the top five reasons teachers unions must change. READ MORE Wind Energy Even More Expensive than Previously Thought H. Sterling Burnett, The Heartlander A new report by researchers at Utah State University shows the true cost of wind-generated energy is much higher than previously thought. The report attempts to take all cost factors into account, including government subsidies. The Production Tax Credit alone amounts to a $5 billion per year subsidy to wind producers. READ MORE
Greek Health Care Crisis Seen as Warning for United States D. Brady Nelson, The Heartlander As the economic situation in Greece grows more uncertain, the nation’s health care system is facing complete collapse. With government spending curtailed, patients are left waiting and hoping for treatment. Dave Racer, a member of the Board of the Minnesota Physician-Patient Alliance (MPPA), explains how the Greek situation illustrates the danger of a nationalized health care system and why the United States should take note. READ MORE Bonus podcast: Jared Meyer on DeBlasio’s War on Uber Jared Meyer, research fellow for the Manhattan Institute for Policy, joins Budget & Tax News Managing Editor Jesse Hathaway to talk about New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio’s war on Uber. Hathaway and Meyer discuss the history of and motivations behind DeBlasio’s fight against ridesharing and how reducing regulations could reduce traffic deaths. LISTEN TO MORE DDP Takes on Myths, Superstitions, and Real Threats Confronting America Donald Kendal, Somewhat Reasonable Doctors for Disaster Preparedness (DDP) hosted its 33rd Annual Meeting in Ontario, California where participants discussed the “Myths, Superstitions, and Real Threats Confronting America.” The event included presentations from Heartland policy advisors, contributors, and supporters, including Science Director Jay Lehr Ph.D., Dr. Willie Soon, and William M. Briggs. READ MORE Millennial Voters Will Like GOP’s Pro-Energy, Pro-Science Message Gene Koprowski, American Spectator Obama’s environmental policies are unpopular with everyone, but especially with millennials who want results and not more government regulations and empty promises. This creates an opportunity for a conservative candidate for president who is willing to seize it. According to Rasmussen Research, 56 percent of likely U.S. voters believe Obama’s plan will “increase energy costs.” Just 17 percent think it will decrease costs. No one is buying what the Obama green team is selling. READ MORE Smoke and Mirrors: The Truth About US Unemployment Justin Haskins & Robert Paquin III, The Blaze Obama’s use of the unemployment rate as a weapon to inflict political damage on Republicans is nothing new. However, contrary to the popular impression, the unemployment rate is not the percentage of the population looking for work. Unemployment rates are highly complex and appear to be designed to mislead the public into thinking the employment situation is much better than it actually is. READ MORE Invest in the Future of Freedom! Are you considering 2015 gifts to your favorite charities? We hope The Heartland Institute is on your list. Preserving and expanding individual freedom is the surest way to advance many good and noble objectives, from feeding and clothing the poor to encouraging excellence and great achievement. Making charitable gifts to nonprofit organizations dedicated to individual freedom is the most highly leveraged investment a philanthropist can make. Click here to make a contribution online, or mail your gift to The Heartland Institute, One South Wacker Drive, Suite 2740, Chicago, IL 60606. To request a FREE wills guide or to get more information to plan your future please visit My Gift Legacy http://legacy.heartland.org/ or contact Gwen Carver at 312/377-4000 or by email at email@example.com.
New research published this week by the British Medical Journal (BMJ) demolishes a destructive pseudo-science argument mischievously marketed by a fellow at Oxford University that, without evidence, characterizes kids’ computer games as a pending health threat, “like global warming.”
The BMJ piece is entitled, The debate over digital technology and young people, and appears in the 12 August edition of the BMJ, one of the world’s most prestigious journals.
“Through appearances, interviews, and a recent book, Susan Greenfield, a senior research fellow at Lincoln College, Oxford, has promoted the idea that Internet use and computer games can have harmful effects on the brain, emotions, and behavior, and draws a parallel between the effects of digital technology and climate change,” write the authors Vaughn Bell, et al. “Despite repeated calls for her to publish these claims in the peer-reviewed scientific literature, where clinical researchers can check how well they are supported by evidence, this has not happened, and the claims have largely been aired in the media.”
The article’s authors, furthermore, added the devastating declaration, “As scientists, working in mental health, developmental neuropsychology, and the psychological impact of digital technology, we are concerned that Greenfield’s claims are not based on a fair scientific appraisal of the evidence, often confuse correlation for causation, give undue weight to anecdote and poor quality studies, and are misleading to parents and the public at large.”
Greenfield’s controversial book is called, Mind Change: How Digital Technologies Are Leaving their Mark on Our Brains (Rider, 2014). “We think it is unfortunate that Greenfield’s media profile means her claims have an exaggerated impact on public debate given their limited evidence base,” the BMJ article’s authors wrote. The scientist’s work, to be true science, “needs less shock and more substance.”
House Panel Warns EPA Chief McCarthy She Faces ‘Criminal Liability’ for ‘False, Misleading Statements’
As the deluge of polluted, toxic wastewater unleashed last week by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) upon Colorado residents finally subsides, the agency is facing another legal storm, a criminal probe into the conduct of its argumentative administrator. Members of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee are distressed by EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy’s reportedly “false and misleading testimony” last month, and are asking her to correct the record, or face a possible prosecution.
Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and other members wrote to McCarthy, according to a news report today, regarding her July 9 testimony on EPA regulations. During that appearance before the panel, McCarthy could not provide a scientific justification for certain EPA regulations, nor could she speak to the science of carbon emissions, stating that she had no clue as to the level of C02 in the atmosphere of the Earth.
Some are accusing EPA of peddling “secret science,” i.e. false assertions, to justify otherwise unmerited environmental regulations.
In the letter, first reported in the news media earlier today, Rep. Frank Lucas (R., Okla.) asked McCarthy whether the agency had made data that was used to draft the discredited Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule public. While McCarthy said that the information was “available,” the committee states that EPA did not provide “any scientific or legal justification” for the figures Lucas officially requested.
“Your statement that the information and data requested in Mr. Lucas’ question was publicly available in the EPA docket was false and misleading,” the committee wrote. “Based on the Corps’ memorandum, it is apparent that the figures outlined in EPA’s final WOTUS rule were completely arbitrary and not based on any science.”
The letter cites three additional examples during questioning at this particular hearing where the panel proclaimed McCarthy’s statements either false or misleading.
McCarthy earlier said she did not know the percentage of CO2 in the atmosphere, information fundamental to EPA’s regulations, especially President Obama’s attempt to shut down most of the coal industry through impossible-to-meet guidelines, released just last week.
“Providing false or misleading testimony to Congress is a serious matter,” the committee wrote. “Witnesses who purposely give false or misleading testimony during a congressional hearing may be subject to criminal liability.”
“With that in mind, we write to request that you correct the record and to implore you to be truthful with the American public about matters related to EPA’s regulatory agenda going forward.”
Members who wrote and signed the letter to McCarthy include: Smith, Lucas, Rep. Randy Hultgren (R., Ill.), Rep. Bill Posey (R., Fla.), Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R., Okla.), Rep. Randy Weber (R., Texas), Rep. Bill Johnson (R., Ohio), Rep. John Moolenaar (R., Mich.), Rep. Steve Knight (R., Calif.), Rep. Bruce Westerman (R. Ark.), Rep. Gary Palmer (R., Ala.), Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R., Ga.), and Rep. Ralph Lee Abraham (R., La.).
In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, H. Sterling Burnett, managing editor of Environment & Climate News speaks with Pat Michaels. Michaels currently serves as director of the Center for the Study of Science at the Cato Institute. Burnett and Michaels discuss how the tremendous amount of money the federal government funnels to researchers, biases science and suppresses dissenting speech and publications in science in general and climate science in particular.
Michaels states that it became apparent to him long ago that “global warming was going to be the overarching environmental regulatory issue of our time.” He points out that funding doesn’t go to researchers who produce studies which find we don’t need larger government to fix a problem. He also talks about the recent revelation of new government temperature data tampering and error ranges.
A U.S. appeals court this week pared the list of bondholders whose claims against Argentina are still unsettled, 13 years after the nation’s most recent debt default. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals opined that the U.S. District Judge Thomas Griesa had “improperly expanded a class of investors” who hold bonds and are demanding payment, following the country’s $100 billion default in 2002.
The appeals court ordered Judge Griesa to limit the class of claimants to those who “still hold the bonds in question,” and to hold a hearing to take evidence to discern the correct amount of damages.
With economic trouble bubbling up once again in Argentina, there are worries among investors of yet another debt default by Buenos Aires. U.S. opinion journals have speculated that another Peron-style government could be elected there, one that nationalizes industries owned by foreign firms.
The situation could become as bad as the crisis seen recently in Greece, but put U.S. investors’, rather than German share and bondholders, at risk. “Greece capitulated, but it is Europe that was defeated,” an op/ed in LeMonde Diplomatique, the English-language edition of the French daily, LeMonde, this week said.
A hundred years ago, teachers first formed unions in the United States. At that time, too many teachers lost their jobs for reasons such as an unplanned pregnancy or gaining too much weight. Wages and working conditions often were substandard.
Today, by contrast, union-negotiated employment policies protect mediocre and bad teachers from consequences for abysmal performance and even, in some cases, criminal activities. Teachers who feel misrepresented and have no desire to belong to a union are nevertheless forced to pay for these organizations.
Here are five reasons states should change their laws regarding teachers unions and education job protection.
Number 5: Last in, first out (LIFO) provisions ensure no matter how effective a teacher is, when the time for layoffs arrives, whoever was the last to walk in the door is the first one out. These practices, long acknowledged as unfair to students and teachers alike, stifle creativity and innovation as newer teachers are shoved out the door year after year across the country. In several instances in various states, teacher-of-the-year honorees have lost their jobs this way.
Number 4: Mandatory union dues require teachers to pay for unions and their political activities even if they don’t want to, or to pay an “agency fee” if they opt out of the union. The U.S. Supreme Court is reviewing the constitutionality of mandatory union dues in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. The plaintiffs argue mandatory dues violate their freedom of association, which should include the freedom not to associate with a particular group. These public school teachers also say mandatory dues violate their First Amendment rights because unions spend the teachers’ money to support political causes with which the teachers don’t agree.
Number 3: Many teachers feel misrepresented by their unions and disagree strongly with their unions’ comments on social issues. Case in point: Hundreds of teachers in Staten Island, N.Y., planned a counter-protest after United Federation of Teachers leaders marched alongside Al Sharpton during a protest against police brutality in the wake of the Eric Garner incident. A group of teachers printed more than 600 T-shirts expressing support for the New York Police Department, to be worn by teachers on the first day of classes, but the counter-protest was called off under pressure from the city’s Department of Education and UFT.
Number 2: Teacher tenure and job protection laws make it exceedingly difficult to remove an ineffective teacher or even one guilty of misconduct. A California court’s decision in Vergara v. California, currently under appeal, required specific changes in state law, including eliminating teacher tenure, seniority, and teacher-dismissal procedures that protect incompetent teachers and impede students’ education. A similar case is underway in New York. For now, however, taxpayers, parents, teachers and students across the country watch in dismay as ineffective teachers collect paychecks and even sex offenders grab large sums of money on their way out of a district because job protection laws make it easier, less time-consuming and less expensive to pay off teachers guilty of misconduct.
Number 1: Each election cycle, teachers unions spend millions of dollars — obtained from taxpayers — protecting their interests. Teachers buy and sell politicians just like any other special-interest group does. The captive politicians then negotiate sweetheart deals for the unions — contracts giving teachers union members anything and everything, even unlimited free plastic surgery, including breast implants. Spurred by the unions’ hunger for more dues-paying members, the number of administrators and other non-teaching personnel continues to rise far out of proportion to student enrollment. Collective bargaining agreements are written like celebrity contracts, yet union leaders claim education funding is inadequate.
Teachers unions should not have greater power over education than parents, taxpayers, policymakers and teachers, but they do. States must reform their laws so ineffective teachers can be removed, effective teachers can stay, and teachers have a real choice as to whether they want to join a union. It will take a serious effort to do so, given the unions’ massive political power. But an education advocate can dream, can’t she?
In a subtle but obvious attack against Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, President Barack Obama mocked “trickle down” economics and praised Democrat Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton’s tax hike on higher income earners and his plans to raise the minimum wage.
“According to the Republican theory, all that kind of stuff would have been bad for the economy,” Obama said during a July 2 speech. “But Minnesota’s unemployment rate is lower than Wisconsin’s. … Minnesota’s winning this border battle.”
Obama’s use of the unemployment rate as a weapon to inflict political damage on Republicans is nothing new. For most of Obama’s presidency, he’s been touting his economic policies and how successful they have allegedly been at reducing unemployment rates (when in fact all recession recoveries reduce unemployment rates), all the while intentionally misleading people about what the unemployment rate actually represents.
Contrary to the popular impression, the unemployment rate is not the percentage of the population looking for work. The unemployment rate is simply the percentage of a state or nation’s economy that isn’t employed and doesn’t fall into one of a number of excluded categories.
A person who has “given up” looking for work, for instance, is not considered “unemployed” by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, even if that person is still interested in getting a job. Individuals who retire early because they can’t find a good job are also excluded. In addition, state unemployment figures can be quite confusing at times because people who leave the state because they can’t find work are not counted as “unemployed.”
In short, unemployment rates often change in large part because the labor force pool grows or shrinks, not because of actual economic growth. Even when economic growth does occur, it often looks more impressive than it actually is because of the way unemployment is calculated.
Despite all of Obama’s praise for Minnesota, there are good reasons to believe Walker’s Wisconsin has actually experienced better economic development over the past year. According to BLS, the number of unemployed in Minnesota has fallen by an unimpressive 4,600 since June 2014, even though the unemploymentrate has fallen slightly. Over that period in Wisconsin, by contrast, the number of unemployed fell by more than 26,000.
Unemployment data in other states are even more misleading.
In Vermont, lawmakers have been happily touting a not-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 3.6 percent for June, according to the BLS. This figure is down significantly from 2010, when the state’s unemployment rate hovered around 6 percent. What Vermont officials fail to mention, however, is if the same number of people were in the labor force today as there were in July 2010, the unemployment rate would be 7.7 percent.
Whoever said “numbers don’t lie” didn’t spend much time working at BLS.
Further proof the unemployment rate is a poor indicator of economic success or failure is found by looking at the number of people enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also called food stamps.
From 2010 to 2014, the average number of people enrolled in SNAP in the United States increased by more than six million. And although the national unemployment rate decreased by 30 percent from January 2013 to December 2014, the average number of people in SNAP decreased by only 2.3 percent.
If the economy is enjoying a major recovery, you would think there wouldn’t be so many people still needing government assistance to pay for something as common as milk and eggs.
Unemployment rates are highly complex and appear to be designed to mislead the public into thinking the employment situation is much better than it actually is. This is a problem to which both parties have contributed, and the public should become aware of this and stop buying into the hype and praise that inevitably come every time unemployment rates are announced.
These nearly useless statistics are almost always taken out of context and exploited for political gain, while jobless and underemployed Americans continue to struggle to find quality work that will put food on the table and keep the lights on.
In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, Managing Editor of School Reform News Heather Kays speaks with Tennessee Director for the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) Mendell Grinter. Grinter and Kays discuss whether School Choice should be considered a Civil Rights issue.Grinter and kays also discuss the effects of educational opportunities (or lack thereof) on black and minority communities. They also discuss the work and mission of BAEO both nationally and in Tennessee. [Subscribe to the Heartland Daily Podcast for free at this link.]
Fifty percent of the recipients of “subsidies” to buy overpriced Obamacare health insurance in 2014 found out at tax time this spring that they had to refund the money to their supposed benefactor the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), according to a new analysis. The average cost of the government claw-back was $800.
“This was due to Obamacare’s complex subsidy calculations, which are based on each enrollee’s estimated income for the coming year,” writes the Heritage Foundation. “Not surprisingly, many enrollees’ estimates turned out to be either too high or too low. Yet the same situation will occur next year, and every year thereafter.”
The thing is that the Obamacare subsidy calculations won’t become more straightforward, and subsidy recipients, salespeople and freelancers who have irregular earnings, are unlikely to develop an accurate algorithm for estimating their future incomes.
While the Department of Health and Human Services eventually managed to repair the troubled Healthcare.gov website, much of the back-end IT infrastructure for handling secure transactions between the government and insurers is still woefully incomplete and error-filled.
A new report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that Healthcare.gov lacked eligibility and enrollment controls to halt fraud and abuse, and a recent inspector general’s audit determined that Healthcare.gov did not even have the proper internal controls in place for calculating and authorizing subsidies. So millions of Americans are forced to buy insurance they don’t want, and then compelled to refund, to the government, the money given to them to subsidize the unwanted, unneeded health benefit? Sounds so Washington D.C., 2015, right?
The once rarely used word, “sustainability”, has become rather common today, arguably overused by those who want to make changes in our World. Dictionary.com provides two meanings for the word: “1. The ability to be sustained, supported, upheld, or confirmed. 2. Environmental Science: the quality of not being harmful to the environment or depleting natural resources, and thereby supporting long-term ecological balance.”
However, the word has morphed into something quite different. The contemporary explanation has been defined by Webster Dictionary as: “One that tends to fair rules, social justice, and reconnects the economy with what is right and just.”
Do you see the problem with the contemporary definition of “sustainability?”
It is ambiguous, leaving open the obvious question of who among us decides what is fair, right, and just. Possibly that is why the term has gained such popularity. It means different things to different people, and thus a solid definition is difficult for the average person to discern, leaving the interpretation open for a political advantage. We are left with more questions than we have answers to the word’s meaning and intent.
We do know there seems to be a compulsion for overuse, even abuse of the word, as if the word itself is a solution, rather than a descriptive word identifying what we hope to accomplish. A perfect example is the debate over climate change. Even though there is a growing controversy as to whether man can either cause or prevent a change in our climate, our President boldly claimed man-made climate change is “established science, and the greatest threat to future generations”, emphasizing the need for sustainable solutions. Nevertheless, many scientists have rightly claimed that such a catastrophic threat is simply not true, as evidence clearly shows Earth’s climate is in a perpetual state of change, and has been for thousands of years.
Skepticism began to surface in some circles, when it was discovered that leading Climate scientists were told to cover up the inconvenient fact that according to satellite records, temperatures have not risen in the last 15 years to 18 years and three months. It comes as no surprise that the cover up was under-reported and/or completely ignored by the mainstream media.
Global warming promoters continually connect their claim of global warming with the word “sustainability”, and suddenly everyone is expected to put intelligence and any opposing facts aside to blindly believe the improbable proposition that man has the power to significantly change or control our climate. While we fully understand the need to protect our water ways and Earth from pollution and correct any known pollution problems, we also must fight against any agenda designed to mislead the public in order to serve a specific political purpose. We must not be misled into believing that there is absolute, irreversible proof that man has the power to seriously impact the world’s climate, and use that as an excuse to initiate draconian laws.
What many may not know is there is a growing number of scientists and investigative reporters who have dared to stray from the White House and U.N.’s politically correct opinion on issues, especially those which claim global warming and/or climate change is man induced. The reason the public is unaware of this, is because the opposing scientists find it difficult to get their documented research or opinions published. Instead, the public is inundated with regurgitated information that aligns with the politically correct viewpoint, and little attention is given to any other opposing scientific evidence or conclusions.
The Heartland Institute, according to “The Economist”, is “the world’s most prominent think tank promoting skepticism about man-made climate change”. It stands in direct contrast to the United Nation’s scientific body, the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), whose questionable scientific research forms the basis of the scare tactics being employed by Al Gore, the Obama administration, and members of the United Nations. See here to view the full Archive of the 10th International Climate Change Conference event organized by the Heartland Institute, which has hosted ten International Conferences on Climate Change since 2008, the latest in June 2015.
The 10th International Conference on Climate Change attracted some 450 scientists, economists, policy experts, and guests worldwide who were not hesitant to question and conclude that man has little, if any influence upon the climate.
The Public Wants Honesty From Its Leaders
Granted, facts are often boring, but it would be helpful if those of us who yearn for the truth on any and all controversial issues could receive uncensored facts, rather than information meant only to advance a particular goal or political agenda. Maybe that is why Donald Trump, in his quest for the presidency, has become so popular and quickly jumped ahead of all the other 16 Republican candidates. He actually verbalizes what so many of us are thinking, and refuses to blindly follow the politically correct course.
Trumps’ bluster and bluntness is actually refreshing to those who have grown tired of the politically correct “white washing” of any issue that is at all divisive. That leads to these obvious questions: 1) Why are we so hesitant to state our own opinions on controversial issues? 2) Why do we stay quiet while words like “sustainability” are used to excess, and often used to stop opposing conversations? These tactics should be identified as a form of bullying opponents into silence. Unfortunately, that method has proven to be effective.
Could the “Donald” have inadvertently started a new trend in politics? Does his immediate jump in approval ratings testify to a public yearning for open dialogue and blunt speech? Whether the man wins the Republican primary or not, he has opened the door to expose a different style candidate with a radically unusual style of communication that seems to be appealing to many citizens, while resented by the political Washington D.C. “establishment”.
It seems highly probable that the public’s immediate approval of Trump is sending a message that the public yearns for something that has been foreign in elections for quite some time: the unfiltered truth! Voters want more honesty and less politically correct speech. We are more forgiving of a politician misspeaking on occasion, than those sounding as if every word out of their mouth was first tried and tested by a team of P.C. experts. We do not want politicians that need or rely upon a teleprompter, but instead those who speak from the heart and believe every word they are saying, and who will honor their promises once elected. We long for true patriots who will defy the status quo when necessary; who will fight for the people rather than serve self-interests. It is therefore essential that we not be fooled by fancy words or rhetoric that we find problematic, or buy into words with obscure meanings and a political agenda, such as “sustainability” and the U.N. agendas.
As the pre-election activities progress, Trump may lose his lead to another Republican candidate who emerges with the gravitas, experience, confidence, and character that people believe will best lead America into the future. If so, let us hope none forget that people crave honest, open dialogue, and for that we must thank the Donald.
Our new president must be equipped for a World that holds more surprises and challenges than ever before. When we find that candidate who best represents our values, let us give him or her all of our support. That is our responsibility as patriots who love our amazing country and want it to remain “the land of the free and the home of the brave.”
Not unlike the unprecedented number of candidates in the 2016 race for the presidency, each of us must also work hard to protect America, by doing our best to elect the right person to lead us for the next four or eight years.
Our children and grandchildren are depending upon us to preserve for them what generations before have given us: freedom, security from our enemies, a sound economy, and laws based on the values and principles of our forefathers. Above all, please do not just vote and feel you have “done your civic duty”. It has never been more important or essential that we all vote wisely, if we are to bring our nation back to a comfortable, solid place that would rate approval from George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and many other brave, bright, honest presidents who contributed to America’s prosperity.
Part 2 will deal with “sustainability in education” and what will be the outcome is allowed to continue for the future of our nation.
The Atlanta Journal Constitution (AJC) reports, incorrectly, on the funding of the Georgia GOAL Scholarship Program, noting, “The nonprofit entity collects money from the state as directed by donors who get tax credit for their contribution.”
But, readers should know that the state does not provide the money. Donors, both individuals and corporations, donate directly to GOAL.
The AJC’s misunderstanding comes from its conflation of taxpayer money with donor money and a tax credit.
GOAL does not receive any taxpayer money from the state. All monies are donated directly to GOAL. The state’s involvement is two-fold. First the Department of Revenue tracks and approves application to donate to GOAL since the donations are both limited by taxpayer and in aggregate across the state. Second, each of the donors gets a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for their approved donation to GOAL. The step-by-step process can be reviewed here, GOAL frequently asked questions page.
The full GOAL financial report can be viewed here, with highlights below:
Students have profited from the program. The bios of four graduates of the scholarship program are highlighted in the report:
- Lauren Cargil used the scholarship to escape bullying in her previous school stating, “The GOAL program altered Lauren’s life. She was able to attend Mount Paran, and her joy was back.”
- Alan Longoria wanted a more attentive environment and more focused students stating, “I received more attention from my teachers. Also, being in an environment where everybody wants to attend college helped me to prepare myself mentally for the challenges ahead.”
- Marvin Perkins wanted a “well-rounded college preparatory school”.
- Erica Godbehere wanted to attend a “Christian, college preparatory high school.”
It hasn’t been a great year from the perspective of shrinking government. In fact, it’s been terrible. Really awful, pork-and-cronyism-filled programs are being refunded, renewed – and even resurrected.
Since November – when We the People delivered Republicans another historic landslide victory – what have they delivered us?
“A 1,600 page bad joke.”
All the while, the GOP incessantly tells us that not only is it the best we can do or expect – it’s all really fantastic.
Conservatives – and Americans of all stripes who know how broken government is – know Shinola. This ain’t Shinola.
All the while, President Barack Obama’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is rapidly becoming the Federal Cronyism Commission.
And after having recently watched a round of its cronyism fail so miserably it bothered even them – they’ve decided to do it exactly the same all over again. Behold the FCC’s spectrum auction set-asides.
Spectrum is the airwaves we use for all things wireless. From your intercontinental cell phone all the way down to your car key fob. The spectrum supply is finite – and not all spectrum is equally useful. Think of it as a Monopoly board. Some spectrum is Boardwalk and Park Place – some is Baltic and Mediterranean Avenues. And varying degrees in between.
The government last year held a spectrum auction to get some out the door to a data-driven private sector. Except:
Federal regulators…set aside a portion of choice spectrum for smaller wireless carriers at an auction of TV airwaves scheduled for next year.
An auction is everyone bidding on any and everything they want – no restrictions. So this was…something else.
And look where government’s good intentions led.
Dish participated in the auction through three entities: American AWS-3 Wireless, Northstar Wireless and SNR Wireless….
Northstar Wireless and SNR Wireless…made $13.3 billion in gross provisional winning bids, but they are to pay around $10 billion because they both qualify for the FCC’s 25 percent discount for small businesses.
So Big Company Dish Network (total assets: $22.1 billion) set up small front companies – to rig the FCC’s set-aside system.
This was too much – even for government.
But not too much – for the FCC to make the exact same mistake all over again with its next spectrum auction.
Some of the Big Company cronies were unhappy there wasn’t even more Big Government meddling and cronyism. One of the whiniest Big Companies on the planet is T-Mobile (total assets: $19.95 billion):
I suppose those of us here in Reality are supposed to think that this latest status quo government meddling and cronyism is…progress.
As usual, I don’t feel very progressive.
Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump yesterday took a surprising stance on public policy. He hasn’t offered any specifics for weeks it seems as to what he would do as President, except for expatriating illegal aliens, massing at the southern border of the U.S. from all points along Yucatán Peninsula.
So it was surprising in that he offered some thoughts on revising the U.S. tax code. According to a report in The New York Times, Trump said that he would seek to simplify the existing system and attempt to “create a flat tax or an entirely new” tax structure for the U.S.
“Put H&R Block out of business,” Mr. Trump said during his call for a simplified tax return, the paper of record reported.
Trump also touched on other, hot-button conservative issues, like defanging Islamic terrorism, and defunding a controversial provider of selected women’s health services, according to the report.
In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, Budget & Tax News managing editor Jesse Hathaway speaks with Manhattan Institute for Policy Research fellow Jared Meyer. Meyer and Hathaway talk about New York City mayor Bill DeBlasio’s “war on Uber,” and how the city can reduce traffic deaths by reducing regulations on taxicabs and ridesharing companies.
Meyer explains the history and motivations behind DeBlasio’s fight against the ridesharing company, saying that DeBlasio’s campaign promise to make the streets safer for pedestrians by making it easier for Uber to pick up passengers, and easier for people to get where they want to go how they want.
Meyer says he suspects the DeBlasio administration will restart its campaign against the popular ridesharing company in a few months, after the conclusion of the city’s “impact study” examining how Uber affects local traffic patterns.
Unless, of course, you’re Illinois.
The number of Illinois residents applying for and receiving medical marijuana cards continues to climb sharply, while the state’s legal cannabis cultivation centers continue to race the clock to have medicine to sell by the fall deadline mandated under the law that created the state medical cannabis pilot program.
About 3,500 people have applied for the cards, a 40-percent increase over the number four months ago, according to recently posted numbers by the Illinois Department of Public Health.
The problem seems to be Illinois’ intense regulatory structures for both patients and for dispensaries. Those looking to apply to use medical marijuana must pay an application fee of $100 and agree to having their fingerprints placed on file for law enforcement. They must also have a doctor fill out a pile of paperwork, but the state has done very little to help educate doctors on how to fill out and file a patient’s application.
Dispensaries have faced regulatory hurdles as well. Despite assurances from the state and a looming September deadline for dispensaries to open or lose their licenses, no licenses were approved until after January, as the previous gubernatorial administration put off the decision to the current one. Once licensed, dispensaries must have product, but the state licensing process also delayed cultivation. So even though the state is currently approving (some) licenses, most approved patients have nowhere to purchase their drug.
When they do open, of course, many of those patients will be the only patients in their chosen dispensary. The state has accepted patient applications for almost a year, but has, so far, only approved 2800, which means that, despite the state’s “best efforts,” each of the 52 sanctioned dispensaries will have only an average of 47 customers.
Too many dispensaries, not enough patients and everyone is impacted by onerous and slow-moving state-sponsored regulatory bodies: medicinal marijuana is easily becoming Illinois’ next boondoggle.
One of the great voices for personal liberty was that of the British economist and political philosopher, John Stuart Mill. His essay, “On Liberty,” though penned well over 150 years ago, is a classic statement that the individual should be respected in his right of freedom of thought, speech and action.
But John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) was also one of the most important economists of the nineteenth century. His Principles of Political Economy, originally published in 1848, became the leading textbook for at least two generations of students from which they learned the nature of a market economy and its alternatives.
J. S. Mill’s Sympathies for Socialism and “Distributive Justice”
Mill has been a highly controversial figure among friends of freedom because while strongly endorsing the autonomy of the individual in thought and deed, he believed (and even hoped) that someday in the future human nature might have changed enough to be compatible with elements of the socialist idea of an altruistic good society.
He also argued that while the physical laws of production (the technological requirements of producing goods from resources and raw materials) are beyond man’s control to arbitrarily change, the “laws of distribution” were open to human choice and manipulation, given any social values people may have.
That is, after the output of goods has been produced, it is a matter of “society’s” preference to decide how to distribute it among the members of any community. This led the Austrian economist, F. A. Hayek, to argue that Mill’s “advocacy of distributive justice and a general sympathetic attitude towards socialist aspirations in some of his other writings, prepared the gradual transition of a large part of the liberal intellectuals to a moderate socialism.”
And it is certainly the case that in his Principles of Political Economy, Mill argued for numerous exceptions to the laissez-faire principle of governments being limited to the protection of life, liberty and peacefully acquired property. Most current-day classical liberals find many, if not most, of these exceptions unpersuasive in the light of more than a century with the experience of government intervention in education, business regulation, the labor market, and welfare state “social safety nets.”
Self-Interest and the Consequences of Government Intervention
But it would be unfair to Mill to assert that he had lapsed into a fully utopian la-la-land of malleable human nature in which social reality could be whatever the dreamer of a “better world” might desire.
He may have been open and even sympathetic to the idea that maybe someday human nature in the normal societal work environment might become more like a monastic brotherhood of collective sharing and selflessness. But in the world in which Mill lived he had no illusions about any such transformation in a reasonable horizon of time.
He worked under the clear and evident assumption that individuals are guided by self-interest, that they attempt to improve their own circumstances as they define betterment, and they respond to the incentive structures within the institutional settings in which they find themselves.
Given the reality of human nature in the social world, Mill was insistent that, “though governments or nations have the power of deciding what institutions shall exist, they cannot arbitrarily determine how those institutions shall work.” The effects from changing how wealth was distributed in society were not under man’s unlimited control through government edict, legislation or command. Or as he put it,
“We have here to consider, not the causes, but the consequences, of the rules according to which wealth may be distributed . . . Human beings can control their own acts, but not the consequences of their acts either to themselves or to others. Society can subject the distribution of wealth to whatever rules it thinks best; but what practical results will flow from the operation of those rules must be discovered, like any other physical or mental truths, by observation and reasoning.”
He understood that the link between work and reward was strongest when the gains from effort were the property of the producer of wealth, and the resulting output might be negatively affected under prevailing human circumstances with a break in this linkage.
Individuals Know Their Own Interests Better Than Government
Mill also believed that individuals have a far greater understanding of their own surroundings in terms of enterprise decisions than any government agents and bureaucrats could ever possess. Even if one were to imagine that they possessed the same knowledge as the actors in the different corners of the division of labor, those representatives of the government would never have the same incentive to use that knowledge as productively and profitably as the separate individuals in the market arena.
However, in fact, there is more knowledge in the minds of all the members of a society combined than any one or group of government officials could ever know or master, Mill pointed out. Thus, it was better to leave the use of such dispersed and personal knowledge to those who possessed it, rather than the government taking on commercial and enterprising tasks for which it was not competent.
In addition, given the reality of self-interest on the part of all members of society, whether in the market or in government, Mill warned the presumption needed to be the constant danger of misuse and abuse of political power and governmental position.
Government the Greatest Threat to Person and Property
Essential for individual and social prosperity was security of person and property, Mill insisted. But there is always the eternal problem: who guards the people from the guardians meant to protect people’s lives and possessions? Or as Mill expressed it:
“By security I mean the completeness of the protection which society affords to its members. This consists of protection by the government and protection against the government. The latter is the most important.
“Where a person known to possess anything worth taking away, can expect nothing but to have it torn from him, by every circumstance of tyrannical violence, by the agents of a rapacious government, it is not likely that many will exert themselves to produce much more than necessaries . . . The only insecurity which is altogether paralyzing to the entire energies of producers, is that arising from the government, or from persons invested with its authority . . .
“It is sufficient to remark, that the efficiency of industry may be expected to be great, in proportion as the fruits of industry are insured to the person exerting it; and that all social arrangements are conducive to useful exertion, according as they provide that the reward of every one for his labor shall be proportioned as much as possible to the benefit which it produces.
“All laws and usages which . . . chain up the efforts of any part of the community in pursuit of their own good, or stand between efforts and their natural fruits . . . [tend] to make the aggregate productive powers of the community productive in a less degree than they would otherwise be.”
Government Services Should Not be Monopolized
Though Mill may have concluded that government in a liberal society should extend its responsibilities beyond the narrower confines of a more strict laissez-faire policy, he nonetheless remained suspicious and indeed critical of any monopolization of such tasks.
For instance, he believed that state involvement in education was essential to assure the development of a generally literate, intelligent, and informed citizenry. But while he argued government funding and supplying of schools were desirable for a functioning and free society of reasoning and reasonable individuals, he was forcefully against the exclusion of educational competition.
Nothing was more to be feared that total government control over any facet of life that would threaten to stifle the creative, innovative and uniquely original ideas that only emerge from diverse and free minds able to think and experiment:
“One thing must be strenuously insisted on: that the government must claim no monopoly for its education, either in the lower or in the higher branches . . . It is not endurable that a government should either de jure or de facto, have a complete control over the education of the people. To possess such a control, and to actually exert it, is to be despotic. A government that can mold the opinions and sentiments of the people from their youth onwards can do with them whatever it pleases.
“Though a government, therefore, may, and in many cases ought to, establish schools and colleges, it must neither compel nor bribe any person to come to them; nor ought the power of individuals to set up rival establishments depend in any degree upon its authorization.”
Dangers from Democracy and the Need to Limit the Franchise
In his famous essay “On Liberty,” Mill had warned about both the political tyranny of the minority and, now, in his “democratic” age the growing danger of a tyranny of the majority. (See my article, “John Stuart Mill and the Dangers to Liberty.”)
In the Principles, he emphasized the same point, arguing that, “Experience, however, proves that the depositories of power who are mere delegates of the people, that is of a majority, are quite as ready (when they think they can count on popular support) as any organs of oligarchy to assume arbitrary power, and encroach unduly on the liberty of private life.”
Indeed, Mill suggested that a tyranny of the majority was potentially more dangerous than the monarchies or oligarchies of the past, since when “the people” assert their sovereignty there remain few if any of the intermediary institutions of society to protect and support the threatened individual from the abuse of the “masses.”
This danger of an unbridled voting majority taking advantage of their numbers to plunder others in society was an especial problem in democratic society, Mill warned. Therefore, in his 1861 book, Reflections on Representative Government, Mill argued that those who received “public assistance” (government welfare) should be denied the voting franchise for as long as they receive such tax-based financial support and livelihood.
Simply put, Mill reasoned that this creates an inescapable conflict of interest, in the ability of some to vote for the very government funds that are taxed away from others for their own benefit. Or as Mill expressed it:
“It is important, that the assembly which votes the taxes, either general or local, should be elected exclusively by those who pay something towards the taxes imposed. Those who pay no taxes, disposing by their votes of other people’s money, have every motive to be lavish and none to economize.
“As far as money matters are concerned, any power of voting possessed by them is a violation of the fundamental principle of free government . . . It amounts to allowing them to put their hands into other people’s pockets for any purpose which they think fit to call a public one.”
Mill went on to explain why he considered this to be especially true for those relying upon tax-based, redistributed welfare dependency, which in nineteenth century Great Britain was dispersed by the local parishes of the Church of England. Said Mill:
“I regard it as required by first principles, that the receipt of parish relief should be a peremptory disqualification for the [voting] franchise. He who cannot by his labor suffice for his own support has no claim to the privilege of helping himself to the money of others . . .
“Those to whom he is indebted for the continuance of his very existence may justly claim the exclusive management of those common concerns, to which he now brings nothing, or less than he takes away.
“As a condition of the franchise, a term should be fixed, say five years previous to the registry, during which the applicant’s name has not been on the parish books as a recipient of relief.”
I would suggest that the same argument could be extended, today, to all those who work for the government, for as long as they are employed by the government they are directly living off the taxed income and wealth of others.
If it is said that government employees pay taxes, too, the reply should be that if you receive a $100 salary from the government and pay in taxes, say, $30, you remain the net recipient of $70 of other people’s money and are not a contributor to the costs of government.
Extending Mill’s logic a little further, I think that the same case could be made that all those who live off government expenditures in the form of government contracts or subsidies, should likewise be excluded from voting for the same conflict of interest reasons.
Such individuals and their private enterprises may not be totally dependent upon government expenditures for their livelihood. A rule might be implemented that to be eligible for the right to vote: no individual or the private enterprise from which he draws an income should receive (just for purpose of example), say, more than 10 percent of his or her gross income from government spending of any sort.
If a form of Mill’s voting restriction rule had been in affect 100 year ago, it is difficult to see how the government could ever have grown to the size and cost that it now has in society.
In turn, if there were any way to implement such a vote-restricting rule, it is equally hard to see how the current, gigantic interventionist-welfare state could long remain in existence. Government, no doubt, would soon be cut down to a far more limited and less intrusive size.
Mill’s Illusion of Calculating “Social Utility”
Finally, what was the source of how someone like John Stuart Mill could, on the one hand, argue so persuasively on the dangers of unlimited government, especially in its modern democratic form, speak so eloquently on behave of the liberty of the individual against the tyrannies of minorities or majorities, yet, make the case that the “laws of distribution” were a matter of “society’s” choice, and government should intrude in various and sundry ways into the market and related aspects of people’s lives for the “good of all”?
The basic reason is the philosophical premise from which John Stuart Mill grounded his arguments concerning freedom, society and the government. Though he changed his views over the years, he fundamentally remained a “utilitarian.” The goal of public (that is, government) policy is to maximize the happiness of “society,” and therefore “goodness” of every social arrangement – the “rights” of individuals to any liberty, the ownership of property, and the distribution of any material wealth produced – was a matter of estimating whether they generated more collective “pleasure” than “pain,” more “happiness” than “harm” to the society as a whole.
The individual was allowed to keep or have redistributed to him from others what the “social collective” decided was to be his out of the total of “society’s” material wealth. The individual, in other words, is made a material slave to the community of which he is a member.
One of Mill’s contemporaries, the social philosopher, Herbert Spencer, pointed out, in Social Statics (1851), the insolubility of this train of reasoning saying that if we argue, “a man is not at liberty . . . to do what may give unhappiness [negative social utility] to his neighbors, we find ourselves involved in complicated estimates of pleasures and pains, to the obvious peril of our conclusions.”
Such notions as “pleasure” and “pain,” or “happiness” and “unhappiness” are certainly real feelings that individuals experience and which influence and guide both the goals they set for themselves looking to the future and their judgments after the fact as to they evaluate how things have turned out.
But there is no way to quantify, measure, or sum up such inner feelings that an individual experiences, and there is certainly no way to, then, add them up over a community of individuals to determine whether one set of social institutions or government policies can be “objectively” said to make “society” as a whole better or worse off, more “happy” or “unhappy.”
Such a purely utilitarian approach to governmental decision-making is a swamp of subjective judgments, pseudo- scientific calculations based upon arbitrary assumptions assigned by the policy-maker, and a battlefield of competing conceptions of the “social good” that easily plays into the hands of those desiring political power and those wishing to rationalize the use of that power to coercively manipulate markets and wealth redistributions to benefit some at the expense of others.
“Natural Rights” and the Purpose of Government
What John Stuart Mill rejected in attempting to redesign society according to this shaky premise of “social utility” was the older tradition upon which the great achievements of winning liberty was based in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the tradition of “natural rights.”
It had taken on its early “modern” form in the writings the British philosopher, John Locke, in his Second Treatise on Government (1689), had said that individual rights did not come from government, but were derivable from reasoned reflection on the nature of man, the requirements for his survival and betterment, and the social arrangements most likely to be conducive to the improvement of each individual’s life while assuring the exclusion of force or fraud from human relationships.
Government, in this tradition, has a rationale for its existence in the need and usefulness of an enforcement institution to secure each individual in his right to his life, liberty and peacefully produced or acquired property from the plundering and murdering hands of others.
In the tradition of a reasoned conception of individual rights prior to and independent of government, the delineation of “just” associative relationships between human beings is their basis in mutual agreement and voluntary exchange.
In such a social setting, the role and delimitation of the duties and functions of government is to use coercive power to protect each individual’s liberty and not to apply its authorized use of force to, itself, abridge one person’s life, liberty or property to benefit another – and most certainly not on the basis of some arbitrary measure of people’s “pleasures” and “pains” to maximize some imaginary “total” of “happiness” for the entire society.
It is this natural rights tradition that was the basis for the principles expressed in the American Declaration of Independence, and it is the political philosophical tradition that needs to be restated, refined and persuasively articulated in our own times if liberty is to be restored and real social peace and mutual prosperity are to be effectively assured.
In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, H. Sterling Burnett, managing editor of Environment & Climate News speaks with Dan Kish. Kish is the vice-president of policy at the Institute for Energy Research (IER). Kish joins Burnett to discuss the high economic costs and the unmeasurable environmental benefits of President Obama’s new Clean Power Plan.
The plan, an effort to cut carbon emissions by 32% of 2005 levels by 2030, will have very burdensome regulations. Kish points out that the poor, and small businesses will be hit hardest under the plan since they can least afford the higher energy costs that will result from the plan.
The Environmental Protection Agency often justifies its own existence by noting that corporations, who see profit as their goal rather than environmental protection, are ill-equipped (or at least, ill-prioritized) to care for America’s natural resources.
It turns out that, perhaps, the EPA might also be ill-equipped to handle toxic waste when it comes to preventing large-scale pollution of our nation’s waterways. In fact, they may have caused, on its own, one of our nation’s greatest environmental disasters. EPA crews trying to collect and contain waste water in the Gold King mine in Durango, Colorado, loosed 1.1 million gallons of “acidic, yellowish” discharge, causing the pollution – which includes levels of arsenic, lead, cadmium, aluminum and copper – to flow into the Animas River (an early tributary of the Colorado) at a rate of 1200 gallons per minute.
From the Denver Post:
EPA chiefs flew in Friday and acknowledged an inappropriate initial response Wednesday in which they downplayed the severity and failed to anticipate the downstream impacts.
Durango identifies itself as the “River City,” and residents’ lives revolve around fishing, swimming, tubing and entertaining tourists along the Animas River.
Most longtime residents know too well the problem of old mines that leak heavy metals into headwaters — an issue around Colorado and the western United States — but never expected a ruinous onslaught like this.
Holly Jobson, 62, walking at noon along banks where yellow sediment was glomming onto rocks, said Silverton ought to push for a proper federal cleanup around mines. Silverton officials in the past have resisted, fearing the stigma of a federal Superfund cleanup designation and the impact on tourism.
By this morning, the waterflow had decreased to around 580 gallons per minute. Lab testing has not yet begun on site, and the EPA is apologizing for their slow response rate, particularly considering the magnitude of the incident. Durango gets most of its water from the Aminas River and relies on the river’s beauty to bring tourists to the town. The city has already lost $150,000 in revenue this month. 1,000 water wells are presumed contaminated.
The EPA has not only claimed responsibility for the spill, but is claiming responsibility for a slow response as well. The EPA says now that the spill was far faster, and far larger than they initially assumed.
The EPA did not have to be on site, to begin with, it seems. The region has a coalition of local organizations called the Animas River Stakeholders Group who have worked together since 1994 to address pollution coming out of nearby mines. The Gold King mine is widely known to be one of the most polluted, leaking around 50 to 250 gallons of waste water per minute. While the group had pushed to find the source of the leak and stem it from there, the EPA went ahead with the project apart from the group, and seemingly without local expertise.