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The Policy and Commentary Blog of The Heartland Institute
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Debate on the Merits, Anyone?

April 25, 2015, 4:24 PM

Co-authored by: Nick Dranias and Justin Haskins

Marching under the banner of “transparency,” there is a growing movement in the U.S. to limit truly free speech. The movement claims to be attacking “dark money,” but the reality is that its adherents want to shut up its ideological opponents. Independent expressions of support or opposition for candidates or political issues are marginalized by irrelevant questions about funding sources. Honest research and well-formulated arguments are denounced as “biased” or “untrustworthy” because of who the donors are rather than based on the merits of the arguments presented.

One doesn’t need to look further than the tragic case of Harvard-Smithsonian astrophysicist Dr. Willie Soon to see how calls for transparency can unjustly harm others and deter future quality research. Soon was recently smeared by the New York Times and organizations like Greenpeace for his allegedly biased scientific research into the theory of catastrophic man-caused climate change.

The Times and others attacked Soon because he did not openly and immediately disclose that he received funding for his research from organizations that have a financial interest in the energy sector. It didn’t matter that Soon’s research was of the highest quality, that Smithsonian received much of the funding itself, or that numerous organizations and individuals who support the theory of manmade climate change also receive funding from parties who have financial interests in the climate debate.

Another attack last week on the Smithsonian was launched last week by MoveOn.org, the activist group founded in the wake of the Clinton impeachment scandals. Activists want to see David Koch – the philanthropist – removed from the boards of the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of Natural History and the American Museum of Natural History for being a “denier” of climate change. Koch has donated tens of millions of dollars to these museums for research and exhibits.

Regardless of what you may believe about global warming, it’s undeniable that these attacks and related calls for “transparency” are simply tools used by one side of the debate in an attempt to silence the other.

Rather than debate those who disagree with them, these progressive activists have learned it is far easier to bully, to retaliate, and to destroy. But to blackball people effectively, they need to know donor names so they can isolate and disrupt funding networks. You can only get so far with smears of the messenger and innuendo about disclosed funders. That’s why this transparently intolerant movement has transitioned from ad hominem attacks and boycotts to enlisting the coercive power of the state.

For a while, the campaign operated below the radar, using the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to conduct inquisitions against Tea Party and conservative groups about their funding sources and affiliations in the course of applying for tax exempt status. Around the same time, Wisconsin prosecutors quietly launched secret “John Doe” investigations exclusively targeting subpoenas and surveillance to legions of center-right political groups and interests who were aligned with the policies of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

But then, far from being shamed by public revelations about Lois Lerner’s coordination of the IRS campaign against conservative nonprofits, the aggressive transparency movement targeting the center-right upped the ante.

Like the opening shot of a starter pistol, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) deployed his official letterhead during the summer of 2013 to demand that dozens of conservative think tanks confess that they had supported the American Legislative Exchange Council’s “Stand Your Ground” laws.

In late 2013, the Center for Media & Democracy and ProgressNow repackaged public form 990 information into lazily crafted so-called exposés to launch ad hominem assaults on private donors and successful advocates of conservative causes, labeling center-right public interest groups “stink tanks.”

By the summer of 2014, Arshad Hasan, executive director of ProgressNow, was openly declaring, “The next step for us is to take down this network of [conservative non-profit] institutions that are state-based in each and every one of our states.”

Supporters of this manifestly totalitarian transparency movement insist the public has the right to know who is financially responsible for various social, cultural, and political movements, because if they don’t know, greedy corporations, manipulative religious zealots, or some other allegedly biased group of people will use their deep pockets and political connections to push oppressive policies regular working Janes and Joes don’t actually want. Transparency, they say, is the only way to hold people accountable.

In reality, as the escalation of ad hominem into coercive state action demonstrates, this campaign is really nothing more than an attempt to silence political opponents. Fear of political or social retribution is used to prevent particular causes from being funded. That’s why legal protections for private civic engagement are necessary to ensure that individuals feel safe donating and advocating for causes they believe in without worrying about being personally attacked as a result. Towards that end, the Heartland Institute recently published a Policy Study, titled “In Defense of Private Civic Engagement: Why the Assault on ‘Dark Money’ Threatens Free Speech–and How to Stop the Assault.” 

The study advocates several methods for protecting the right to private civic engagement, but the passage of two pieces of model legislation are particularly important to protect the First Amendment rights of Americans on all sides of the political spectrum.

The first proposed law is called the “Free Speech Privacy Act,” and it would act as a “federalism shield” for free speech, “prohibiting the enforcement [by the states] of any law directly or indirectly conditioning the exercise of the rights of free speech and association on the disclosure of the identity of a person or entity who fears a reasonable probability of social, political, or economic retaliation from such disclosure.”

The second important reform proposal is the “Publius Confidentiality Act.” Publius would empower individuals by allowing them to register for an official pseudonym that could be used in political and cultural debates of all sorts, thereby forcing opponents to focus attacks on ideas rather than on individuals, their families, or their businesses.

Increasing privacy protections for individuals is an essential part of ensuring the marketplace of ideas is free from coercive fear tactics designed to silence honest debate. Without these protections, politics will continue to devolve into a political war of all against all, rather than focusing on whose ideas are more likely to improve the nation and promote liberty.

[Originally published at the American Spectator]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – H. Sterling Burnett: Reducing Poverty with Cheap Energy

April 24, 2015, 4:10 PM

In Today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, Director of Communications Jim Lakely speaks with the Managing Editor of Environment and Climate News H. Sterling Burnett. Burnett and Lakely discuss a variety of environmental topics.

The topics discussed by Burnett and Lakely include China’s destruction of the coral reef in their attempts to build an island military base and the upcoming climate conference hosted by Pope Francis. They discuss the messages that will most likely come out of the conference. According to Burnett, reducing CO2 in the atmosphere will do nothing to help the poor and malnourished around the world. He says that supplying abundant and inexpensive energy is the best way to improve the lives of those who live in poverty.

[Subscribe to the Heartland Daily Podcast for free at this link.]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Weekly: Heartland Heads to Rome to Tell Pope Francis: Global Warming is Not a Crisis!

April 24, 2015, 3:34 PM

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 everyFridaywith a highlight show.

Subscribe to the email today, and read this week’s edition below.

Why the Assault on ‘Dark Money’ Threatens Free Speech Nick Dranias, Heartland Policy Study Our right to free speech is under attack by groups on the Left using Alinskyite tactics and campaign finance laws to silence and intimidate anyone who disagrees with them. Constitutional scholar and Heartland Institute Research Fellow Nick Dranias explores this topic in a new Heartland Policy Study titled “In Defense of Private Civic Engagement: Why the Assault on ‘Dark Money’ Threatens Free Speech – and How to Stop the Assault.” Dranias explains how private civic engagement “serves a critically important purpose in keeping the marketplace of ideas focused on the message, not the messenger. It also protects the messenger from retaliation when speaking truth to power.” READ MORE New Jersey Parents, Activists Raise Student Privacy Concerns Heather Kays, The Heartlander “Parents are upset across the spectrum,” said Julia Rubin, a volunteer for Save Our Schools NJ. “Nobody knew what was going on. Not just that they were monitoring. I think it’s the idea that they are monitoring in coordination with the [New Jersey Department of Education].” READ MORE   Heartland Heads to Rome to Tell Pope Francis: Global Warming Is Not a Crisis! We’re flying a team of scientists and climate policy experts to Rome to challenge the alarmism on tap at a global warming workshop at the Vatican on April 28. Stay tuned to Heartland.org all next week for updates on our effort to bring a measure of truth to the conference and debunk the faith-based climate alarmism of the United Nations. READ MORE   Featured Podcast: Jonathan Williams: Rich States, Poor States Budget & Tax News Managing Editor Jesse Hathaway speaks with Jonathan Williams, director of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force. Williams and Hathaway discuss the findings in this year’s edition of ALEC’s annual “Rich States, Poor States” report. LISTEN TO MORE  

 

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Do you believe in smaller government and more individual liberty? Do you believe free markets solve social and economic problems better than government planning? The Heartland Institute might have just the job for you! We’re looking for eager self-starters to manage several important projects that will have a real impact on policy in this country. READ MORE

  Heartland Institute Experts Comment on Earth Day “As the public comes to understand how immature the science of climate change actually is, their support for the impossible goal of ‘stopping climate change’ will diminish still further. It’s time for Earth Day Network, and indeed all sensible environmentalists, to divorce themselves from the climate scare albatross and focus instead on real environmental concerns over which we have influence.” READ MORE Net Neutrality Is Just as Stupid Internationally as It Is Here Seton Motley, Human Events “Imagine Fuel Neutrality – where the government mandates that 18-wheel tractor trailers (whose owners just so happen to donate huge to Democrats) not be charged to fill up at the pump. That necessarily skyrockets gas prices for the rest of us in our little cars – because the stations have to make up that huge money somewhere.”READ MORE

Americans Have a ‘Right’ to Receive Health Care, Humana CEO Claims Gene Koprowski, Somewhat Reasonable “[Humana CEO Bruce D.] Broussard’s statement that health care is a ‘right’ is an odd one,” said [Justin] Danhof, [an attorney at National Center for Public Policy Research]. “It certainly isn’t provided for in the Constitution. And millions of Americans make rational decisions to either self-insure, or refuse to purchase health insurance.” READ MORE Bonus Podcast: Peter Ferrara – Power to the People, Entitlement Reform Senior Fellow Peter Ferrara joins The Joyce Kaufman Show to talk about his upcoming book,Power to the People: The New Road to Freedom and Prosperity for the Poor, Seniors, and Those Most in Need of the World’s Best Health Care.LISTEN TO MORE Defending the Ethical Enterpriser in an Anti-Business Climate Richard Ebeling for Somewhat Reasonable “Wherever the forces of free market capitalism have been set freest, along with a modicum of acceptance and even respect for business enterprise, that the most dramatic strides have been made in abolishing the worst and most squalid material conditions of mankind.” READ MORE The Whitehouse-White House Inquisition Paul Driessen, Somewhat Reasonable “These senators are abusing their power of office to threaten and silence honest scientists, and destroy their funding, reputations and careers. It’s pure Saul Alinsky, as practiced by Greenpeace, Harry Reid and the other White House: ‘In a fight almost anything goes. Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.’ And the vilified scientists and their friends are just supposed to take it, the senators seem to think.” 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 gcarver@heartland.org.  

Categories: On the Blog

What Is It About Global Warming

April 24, 2015, 2:35 PM

I may never understand what it is about the global warming debate that causes people I presume are perfectly reasonable and civil in many aspects of their daily lives to write such inaccurate, foul-mouthed, irrational emails.

There’s no reasoning with such people … but I do think there may be value in exposing them. I cannot imagine how proud his neighbors in Bend, Oregon must be of him. I find it especially interesting that someone would use this sort of language in apparent defense of the Pope.

Oh, and yes we’re going to Rome — with real climate scientists and a positive message for the Pope. You can follow our efforts here.

 

From: Bill Howell & Jeanne Wadsworth [mailto:zbskier@gmail.com] Sent: Friday, April 24, 2015 2:14 PM
To: Diane Bast
Subject: The POPE…

To Whom it Concerns:

So, you’re sending your goons to twist the Pope’s arm that the bible says it’s “our duty” to pollute the earth?

It’s no wonder you have guys like James Inhoff doing your phony science.  I’d bet he got his medical degree out of the cracker jacks box.

Also, is it really that satisfying sucking the Koch Brother’s cocks?

You all are the most despicable bunch of numb nutted, limp dicked jackasses in and otherwise great country.

Rot in hell ass holes…Most Sincerely, Bill Howell

Categories: On the Blog

Considerations for the Pope on Climate and the Poor

April 24, 2015, 2:11 PM

I was honored, deeply honored, to be invited to participate in the first papal conference on climate change back in the spring of 2007, the Pontifical Council on Climate Change and Development. It is to my great and lasting regret that I was unable to participate in the conference which I believed would set the tone for future Papal explorations of the issue of climate change.

Mind you, though I’m Christian, I’m not a Catholic, still, the Pope is the leader of the largest Christian denomination on earth and for two thousand years those holding his office have spoken with authority on matters of morals and faith. I have great respect for the office and those holding the title.

Though the issue of climate change is usually thought of as a matter of science, in fact, though science is critical to understanding why and how our climate changes — contrary to popular belief still a matter of open debate — it provides no insight concerning how individuals or governments ought to respond to any threats or benefits that could arise from climate change. These are normative matters. As a moral philosopher by training, I have always argued that while facts may constrain or limit our ethical reach, after all ought does imply can, they rarely dictate our choices. Rather the natural world provides the resources with which and the backdrop against which humans interact with each other and nature and, depending upon the choices we make, the realm in which our actions can be judged as good or bad, right or wrong, which sometimes but not always can track what is efficient or inefficient.

In other words, religious leaders and moral philosophers do have special insight because of their training and study, concerning how we ought to respond to what scientist tell us about climate change, or at least what normative matters we ought to consider.

As I wrote earlier this year regarding Pope Francis’ decision to make battling climate change an important papal cause,

As the leader of the largest Christian denomination in the world, he is charged not just with saving souls but also with alleviating the suffering of the world’s least fortunate, and with leading the Catholic Church in efforts to make the world a better place.

Having said this, I also know moral imperatives and public policies should be grounded in the best-available science, in the reality of the human condition, and in the state of both the planet and the people.

In regard to the latter point, when I have heard Pope Francis speak on the dangers of climate change, I believe he has been badly misinformed and led astray.

First, the Pope should understand the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, is just that, a governmental panel with leaders chosen by, the course of research directed by, and what gets reported to the media determined and edited by (or in conjunction with) politicians, not scientists. From the outset, the deck was stacked, since the IPCC was not charged by the politicians establishing it with determining what causes climate change per se, but rather limited to studying the human causes of climate change. Unsurprisingly the very direction of the enterprise, despite the IPCC’s own admissions that it has little or even poor understanding of a majority of factors that affect the climate (see the graphic), dictated the outcome: human greenhouse gas emissions, not nature, was causing global warming. The IPCC has fallen into the instrument trap, “When one only has a hammer, one tends to see every problem as a nail.”

 

Leaving the political nature of the climate science endeavor behind, the Pope should note, a number of factors that should raise question about the dominant meme that human activities, primarily fossil fuel use, are causing dangerous climate change, so government’s must enact greenhouse gas emission restrictions to prevent future disaster.

As pointed out in a recent essay by Max Borders, “Models are not evidence.” Models present simulations of complex processes and when model projections diverge from the evidence, they, not the evidence, are not to be trusted. That is where we stand today, models offer scary projections of melting polar ice caps, species going extinct, more frequent and intense hurricanes and droughts, diminishing winters, crop failures and continuously rising temperatures – yet the actually data say that none of these predictions has come true. Indeed, in many instances, just the opposite is occurring. Crops are setting record yield as is Antarctica’s sea ice extent. Winter temperatures and snowfall show no sign of abating and global temperatures have stalled for 18 years despite rising greenhouse gas emissions. Once again, I hope the Pope recognizes, when model predictions diverge from reality, have faith in the evidence of our senses and instruments of measurement, not model projections.

Borders also two under-appreciated points about the models I believe are inexorably linked. Climate is complex, thus climate models simulating it are also invariably complex as well. However the more complex the model, the easier it is to introduce errors and model outputs are only as good as the inputs. “Garbage in, garbage out (GIGO)” must always be guarded against. The problem is, as climate modelers admit, there are many climate factors climate models are unable to account, for instance: cloud cover, persistent, periodic climate patterns like El Nino, volcanic eruptions, solar activity and long-term ocean circulation patterns. GIGO enters the modelling process from the get-go. This doesn’t mean modelling is a useless exercise, rather we should take model outputs with extreme caution. As Borders writes, “…the lower ‘res’ [resolution or scale] the model, the less it conforms to reality’s details. The higher ‘res’ the model, the more likely it is to be infected with errors. This is one of the great paradoxes of modeling.”

More importantly, the Pope should recognize that those pushing climate fears, and bans or strict limits on fossil fuel use, think people, God’s one creation endowed with a soul, are the problem. Many of them (if they are religious at all) worship the creation not the Creator. Whereas, according to the Bible, God said to mankind in blessing them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground,” climate alarmists believe the earth is overpopulated and it is peoples’ desires for decent standards of living, longer, materially comfortable lives that is driving global warming. Many of the same people pushing the Pope to join the fight against climate change, support forceful population control programs like those operating in China. Hardly a Christian position.

The Pope clearly cares about the poor, and well he should as should we all. Having said that, the climate policies pushed in the West are absolutely the worst possible policies for alleviating poverty around the world. Any policy that denies people access to relatively inexpensive, abundant and reliable fossil fuels as sources for energy is a death sentence for millions around the world. The Pope should recognize, as written in a New York Times article recently, neither the environment nor people are helped when the West tries to suppress the use of fossil fuels for energy:

A typical American consumes, on average, about 13,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity a year. The citizens of poor countries — including Nepalis, Cambodians and Bangladeshis — may not aspire to that level of use, … . But they would appreciate assistance from developed nations, and the financial institutions they control, to build up the kind of energy infrastructure that could deliver the comfort and abundance that Americans and Europeans enjoy.

Too often, the United States and its allies have said no.

“It is about pragmatism, about trade-offs,” said Barry Brook, professor of environmental sustainability at the University of Tasmania in Australia. “Most societies will not follow low-energy, low-development paths, regardless of whether they work or not to protect the environment.”

If billions of impoverished humans are not offered a shot at genuine development, the environment will not be saved. And that requires not just help in financing low-carbon energy sources, but also a lot of new energy, period. Offering a solar panel for every thatched roof is not going to cut it.

Caring for the poor, truly promoting their needs, requires more not less energy use.

In closing, if the Pope could read just one book about climate and energy to inform his ongoing efforts, I wish he would read Alex Epstein’s, clear, cogent, wonderful, The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels. Epstein takes human life, well-being, and flourishing as the standard of value public policy should maximize and examines fossil fuels strictly in relation to their ability to enhance or constrain human well-being. I quote at length from Epstein’s book the most important point I would have the Pope understand concerning climate change and humans:

Climate is no longer a major cause of deaths, thanks in large part to fossil fuels.… Not only are we ignoring the big picture by making the fight against climate danger the fixation of our culture, we are ‘fighting’ climate change by opposing the weapon that has made it dozens of times less dangerous. The popular climate discussion has the issue backward. It looks at man as a destructive force for climate livability, one who makes the climate dangerous because we use fossil fuels. In fact, the truth is the exact opposite; we don’t take a safe climate and make it dangerous; we take a dangerous climate and make it safe. High-energy civilization, not climate, is the driver of climate livability.

To sum up: Restricting or ending fossil fuel use, not climate change, is the real recipe for disaster. It would set human civilization back centuries, ringing a true death knell for present and future generations. If the Pope wants to help the world’s poor, this is the message he should deliver.

Categories: On the Blog

Gwyneth Paltrow, THIS Is What Living on Food Stamps Really Looks Like

April 24, 2015, 12:33 PM

Actress Gwyneth Paltrow, one of Hollywood’s more prominent lifestyle gurus, made headlines last week for taking celebrity chef Mario Batali’s “Food Stamp Challenge” (and failing) sponsored by the Food Bank for New York City.

Participants are asked to buy groceries for a week as if they were on food stamps in an effort to show Washington, D.C. how tough it is for impoverished Americans to live on government services.

Paltrow tweeted to her more than 2.1 million followers a picture of “what $29 gets you at the grocery store—what families on SNAP (i.e. food stamps) have to live on for a week.”

This is what $29 gets you at the grocery store—what families on SNAP (i.e. food stamps) have to live on for a week. pic.twitter.com/OZMPA3nxij

— Gwyneth Paltrow (@GwynethPaltrow) April 9, 2015

Paltrow’s tweet was shared more than 2,000 times and was featured by countless news, opinion, and celebrity sites, most of which applauded her for her efforts.

This would all be a fantastic story of the power celebrities can have to create change, but there’s a big problem standing in the way: Paltrow’s message is completely and utterly untrue.

For starters, food stamp recipients are not asked to live on $29 per week; the maximum benefits allotted for a single person alone is about $45 per seven days, according to New York’s own Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance.

Paltrow’s $29 per week figure is based on what the Food Bank for New York City says is the “average” amount a food stamp recipient receives. The reason the average is lower than the maximum allowable benefit, however, isn’t due to some absurd policy by the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The difference is the result of the fact that recipients with some income, including income from other social programs, receive slightly less than those who are not receiving any income at all.

Second, Paltrow’s food choices are completely ridiculous. Based on the picture she posted on Twitter, Paltrow bought a carton of eggs, an onion, a tomato, green onions, lettuce, one avocado, a jalapeno pepper, one yam, one ear of corn, kale, black beans, brown rice, dried peas, fresh garlic, cilantro, tortillas, and seven limes. Yup, SEVEN limes.

With those food choices, Paltrow is right the average American would have trouble living comfortably. But what fool would actually purchase the items Paltrow bought if all he or she had was $29, which again, isn’t even an accurate figure. All Paltrow’s stunt proves is that she is completely and totally out of touch with what it’s like to live like 99 percent of the country.

So, in an effort to find out what it’s truly like to live on food stamps, I went to my local Chicago-area grocery store with a strict $45 budget, and here’s what I came up with:

Hey @GwynethPaltrow THIS is what eating on a food stamps budget really looks like. Not nearly as bad as you said. pic.twitter.com/YYtwJRrGiX

— Justin Haskins (@TheNewRevere) April 16, 2015

As you can see, with just $45 I was able to purchase two containers of blackberries, whole wheat English muffins, yogurt, veggie pasta, pasta sauce, milk, eggs, cereal, four avocados, hot dogs, hot dog buns, a block of cheddar cheese, Kashi breakfast bars, a very large container of chicken, and celery. While this may not be as much food as I would have liked, it is certainly enough to get by comfortably for one week.

Don’t get me wrong, Ms. Paltrow’s good-hearted intentions are admirable. She clearly wants to help people, and no one should be insulted for trying to help the impoverished. But if you’re going to take a political stance, Gwyneth, you should probably look into the facts first.

It’s simply not true food stamps only provide $29 for “families on SNAP.” A family of four is actually eligible to receive as much as $150.00 per seven days for purchasing food. While this means a family relying on SNAP will probably not be eating steak and lobster every night, it’s more than enough for a family to get by until parents or guardians can find employment.

Study after study shows, including the newly published 2015 Welfare Reform Report Card released in March by The Heartland Institute, that if lawmakers are actually interested in reducing poverty, reforming welfare is one of the best ways to do it—and it doesn’t involve spending more money on increased benefits.

By establishing cash diversion programs, decreasing the time limits for receiving welfare, putting firm sanctions in place, creating work requirements for recipients, and integrating government services, millions of people could be rescued from poverty and the grips of government services.

The goal of programs like welfare and SNAP should be to move people out of poverty, not make them more comfortable in it. Let’s stop with all the Hollywood-induced rhetoric and start focusing on real solutions.

[Originally Published on Breitbart]

Categories: On the Blog

Private Sector Health Exchanges Flourishing

April 24, 2015, 9:48 AM

Private sector health insurance exchanges, being offered as an alternative to the public exchanges created under Obamacare, are flourishing, according to recent reports in the print editions of  both Barron’s and Forbes magazines.

Earlier this month, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide enrolled its 26,000 full-time employees into a private health exchange run by the consultancy Towers Watson. Other companies that are in the process of making the same move are brand names like DuPont and IBM.

Towers Watson, a benefits consultant, based in suburban Washington D.C., projects that it will have 1.2 million employees on the private exchanges it operates by the end of this year. That’s up from 800,000 last year. There are a number of other private consultancies too on the market.

How does a private exchange work? Using an e-commerce model, rather than a government-bureaucrat-mandated formula, the private exchanges provide information about a number of health care insurance plans supported by a workers’ employer. This is furnished to the clients in a secure, online environment, accessed through the Web. The workers than choose among the options provided by health insurance firms, and brokered by insurance brokers like Aon Corp. The competition for the business of each employee keeps prices down, though many different kinds of health insurance packages are available with different deductibles, etc., for workers to choose from. Xerox and Marsh and McClennan also run private exchanges in competition with Towers Watson. Employers still pay a share of each workers’ health insurance tab, so the employer-linked health care system that uniquely developed in the U.S. continues to be utilized.

The financial press reckons that earnings growth in these private exchanges will continue to “accelerate” in the coming years.

The private exchanges, moreover, have not been plagued by the incredible technical glitches that have prevented many Americans from signing up for Obamacare online.

 

Photo courtesy of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Categories: On the Blog

FCC-ville’s Kangaroo Court

April 24, 2015, 9:18 AM

If you are guilty until proven innocent of charges that can be made up after the fact, you may be in FCC-ville.

Think of the FCC, unilaterally self-armed with the “strongest possible rules” of Title II 1934 monopoly telephone regulation, as a Washington backwater “kangaroo court,” where innocent communicators can be hauled before a mock court system where normal due process, rule of law, and justice may not apply.

Think that can’t happen in America?

Consider the evidence.

Reflect on how the FCC grabbed its Internet packet policing power.

Normally the FCC has operated on a very bipartisan basis. Not now.

The FCC’s assertion of Depression Era Title II regulatory authority to regulate the Internet as a utility has been the most partisan, major FCC policy decision in the eight-decade history of the FCC.

This FCC’s hyper-partisan Title II decision has zero Republican support, because it is considered unlawful, unconstitutional, unnecessary, unjustified, and unfair.

The FCC’s Title II Open Internet Order unilaterally repudiated the overwhelmingly bipartisan Internet policy of the 1996 Telecommunications Act “to preserve… the free market that presently exists for the Internet… unfettered by Federal or State regulation.”

The FCC’s Orwellian defense of its preemptive regulatory internment of ISPs was that it was “democracy in action” claiming that four million comments to the FCC, many incited by a literal John Oliver online mob, justify the FCC’s actions.

Reflect on how the FCC proactively has dismissed legislative and judicial checks and balances on its actions.

The FCC has summarily rejected repeated public offers from the House and Senate Chairmen of the FCC’s authorizing committees to craft a bipartisan legislative compromise for net neutrality.

The FCC has summarily rejected repeated calls for the FCC to operate more transparently while selectively forcing entities with alleged market power to be maximally transparent in how they manage their networks or operations.

The FCC has defiantly claimed the unilateral authority to do Congress’s constitutional job, to “modernize Title II for the 21st century.”

The FCC has claimed it is not bound by four decades of FCC legal precedent and is owed almost absolute court deference to interpret ambiguous law, and to change its mind without much need for justification to a court or anyone.

In a companion FCC rulemaking on municipal broadband, the FCC even claimed the power to broadly preempt states’ constitutional rights to decide their own state’s economic and fiscal affairs.

Reflect on how the FCC has asserted almost unlimited power over the Internet economy.

The FCC has re-defined the Internet to grant itself the power to potentially regulate everything that has an Internet address.

The FCC has re-imagined its limited forbearance authority to allow three un-elected bureaucrat judges to unilaterally discriminate at anytime, for most any reason, which similar entities are subjected to what FCC regulations and which are not, based on politics — not law, actual behavior, or market power.

If your name ends in “ISP,” the FCC claims an almost divine right to preemptively incarcerate ISPs in FCC regulatory internment camps for what they might do in the future, not what they have actually done.

[Originally published at the Daily Caller]

 

Categories: On the Blog

The White House is Lying About Climate Change and Health

April 23, 2015, 4:21 PM

Let us begin with the understanding that there is no connection between the climate and health. The climate is something measured in decades and centuries, so what happened in the last century has nothing to do with whether you are sneezing today.

 The weather surely can help generate health problems. For example in the northeastern states, the Lyme disease season is beginning. Between 1992 and 2010 reported cases of Lyme disease doubled to nearly 23,000 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but CDC officials believe the actual number of those infected may have been three times that number.

 Lyme disease is transmitted by deer ticks and since these tiny insects will hitch a ride on birds, squirrels, mice and small animals as well, even if you live in an area without deer, the possibility of being bitten by a deer tick is just as likely. This increases for people who love gardening or outdoor recreational activities such as hiking and camping. Children, too, are particularly susceptible.

 The fact that Lyme disease shows up in the Spring simply tells you that the warm weather facilitates the tick population. The weather has always been tied the mating habits and activities of various species, but that does not mean that is constitutes a massive threat to everyone’s health.

 That’s not the way the White House sees it. On April 7 the administration made it official. It announced that it is “committed to combating the health impacts of climate change and protecting the health of future generations.” 

 Since the climate changes over extended periods of time, not just month to month, one has to wonder what “health impacts” the White House has in mind. The last Little Ice Age lasted from around 1300 to 1850. It was cold all over Europe and North America. Does the White House propose that it can “protect” us from a new one? If so, that’s absurd.

 Let us understand, too, that there has always been what the White House announcement calls “extreme weather events.”  Notice the change from “climate” to “weather”? Among the events identified are “severe droughts and wildfires to more powerful hurricanes and record heat waves…” Has there been a time when such weather-related events have not occurred? In fact, there are times when they don’t. For example, there hasn’t been a single Category 3-5 hurricane hit the U.S. mainland since 2005!

 The White House has launched a massive brainwashing effort using many elements of the federal government to frighten Americans using the “climate” and the “weather.” How deceptive is it?
One example is sufficient. The President has claimed that climate change was the cause of one of his daughter’s asthma. In its announcement, it claimed that “In the past three decades, the percentage of Americans with asthma has more than doubled and climate change is putting these individuals and many other vulnerable populations at greater risk of landing in the hospital.” 

 Here’s what the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America has to say about the various causes of asthma.

 “Since asthma has a genetic origin and is a disease you are born with, passed down from generation to generation, the question isn’t really ‘what causes asthma’, but rather ‘what causes asthma symptoms to appear?’ People with asthma have inflamed airways which are super-sensitive to things which do not bother other people.”

 What the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America is telling us is that there is no direct connection between either the climate or the weather and the illness called asthma.

 Those who suffer this disease however can be affected by a range of triggers such as irritants in the air, pollens, molds, and even cockroach droppings. Infections such as colds, flu, and sore throats are among the leading triggers for asthma attacks in children.

 The facts, the truth, were no deterrent to the April 7 White House twelve-page announcement of all the things it intends to do to brainwash Americans into believing that there is a connection between the “climate” and health.

 Here’s just a few of the dozens of events and programs it will initiate so that the media will report on them and thus convey the message that climate change is the greatest threat to Americans today:

 “The Administration is expanding its Climate Data Initiative to include more than 150 health-relevant datasets…this is intended to help communities and businesses reduce the health impacts of climate change.”  Only there are no such impacts.

The Administration is announcing a coalition of Deans from 30 medical, public health, and nursing schools around the country, who are committing to ensure that the next generation of health professionals is trained to address the health impacts of climate change.” Only there are no such impacts.

“Announcing the White House Climate Change and Health Summit.” It will feature the Surgeon General who will lead discussions to “the public health impacts of climate change and identify opportunities to minimize these impacts.” Only there are no impacts and nothing that could be done if there were.

 From the Department of Homeland Security to the Department of the Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency, many elements of the federal government will be integrated into this massive brainwashing effort.

 What can be done to ignore a government determined to lie to everyone about a “threat” that does not exist? Not much.

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Berin Szoka: Defending Zero-Rating Data Plans

April 23, 2015, 3:36 PM

In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, Managing Editor of Budget & Tax News Jesse Hathaway talks with TechFreedom president and founder Berin Szoka. Hathaway and Szoka discuss activists’ next target: your cell phone data plan.

Some mobile providers offer customers free, “zero-rated” access to selected websites or services, like Spotify or ESPN, in addition to customers’ regular paid data usage. In under-served areas like the inner city or developing countries, zero-rating agreements like Facebook Zero or Wikipedia Zero encourage people to get online and enrich their lives with access to educational materials and social media. 

However, Szoka says, activists are carrying out the tenets of what he terms a “religion” of anti-capitalism against zero-rating, preventing cell phone companies from experimenting with new business models and access plan packages.

[Subscribe to the Heartland Daily Podcast for free at this link.]

Categories: On the Blog

Decline of Doctors, Rise of Bureaucrats, Hastened by Obamacare?

April 23, 2015, 1:25 PM

The number of health care administrators employed by hospitals and large medical practices in the U.S. has soared by approximately 500 percent since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, colloquially known as Obamacare, in 2009. During the last 30 years, moreover, health care administrator positions have climbed by an astounding total of 3000 percent, new research shows.

But, during these same time periods, the number of new physicians coming into the workforce has stayed flat, relatively, according to an analysis of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics by two public health research professors at The New York University.

Thus, administrators dominate the healthcare landscape today and their high, six-figure salaries may be a key reason for the rise in the price of medical procedures.

Entitlements like Obamacare increase the number of “insured” Americans. But perversely, many specialist procedures are not reimbursed by insurers, or require paperwork and documentation of treatment plans and proposed treatment plans that creates more work for healthcare administrators, and even more hassle for physicians.

Some specialists, like cardiologists, are selling their private practices and joining the staff of hospitals as employees, as a strategy designed to lessen the impact of these regulation-inspired trends on their own income, according to medical trade publications. No longer entrepreneurs, some doctors are unionizing to lock in their salary and benefits, collectively, rather than individually, joining, for example, the Union of American Physicians and Dentists (UAPD), an affiliate of the liberal American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).

Doctors expect the practice environment to become “increasingly hostile” in the coming years, writes Dr. Kevin Campbell, M.D., in his blog post, entitled, The Rise of the Machine: How Hospital/Practice Administrators Have Assumed Control Over Healthcare (posted on April 16, 2015).

Photo provided courtesy of U.S. Navy Medicine.

Categories: On the Blog

The White House is Lying About Climate Change and Health

April 23, 2015, 8:15 AM

Let us begin with the understanding that there is no connection between the climate and health. The climate is something measured in decades and centuries, so what happened in the last century has nothing to do with whether you are sneezing today.

The weather surely can help generate health problems. For example in the northeastern states, the Lyme disease season is beginning. Between 1992 and 2010 reported cases of Lyme disease doubled to nearly 23,000 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but CDC officials believe the actual number of those infected may have been three times that number.

Lyme disease is transmitted by deer ticks and since these tiny insects will hitch a ride on birds, squirrels, mice and small animals as well, even if you live in an area without deer, the possibility of being bitten by a deer tick is just as likely. This increases for people who love gardening or outdoor recreational activities such as hiking and camping. Children, too, are particularly susceptible.

The fact that Lyme disease shows up in the Spring simply tells you that the warm weather facilitates the tick population. The weather has always been tied the mating habits and activities of various species, but that does not mean that is constitutes a massive threat to everyone’s health.

That’s not the way the White House sees it. On April 7 the administration made it official. It announced that it is “committed to combating the health impacts of climate change and protecting the health of future generations.”

Since the climate changes over extended periods of time, not just month to month, one has to wonder what “health impacts” the White House has in mind. The last Little Ice Age lasted from around 1300 to 1850. It was cold all over Europe and North America. Does the White House propose that it can “protect” us from a new one? If so, that’s absurd.

Let us understand, too, that there has always been what the White House announcement calls “extreme weather events.”  Notice the change from “climate” to “weather”? Among the events identified are “severe droughts and wildfires to more powerful hurricanes and record heat waves…” Has there been a time when such weather-related events have not occurred? In fact, there are times when they don’t. For example, there hasn’t been a single Category 3-5 hurricane hit the U.S. mainland since 2005!

The White House has launched a massive brainwashing effort using many elements of the federal government to frighten Americans using the “climate” and the “weather.” How deceptive is it? One example is sufficient. The President has claimed that climate change was the cause of one of his daughter’s asthma. In its announcement, it claimed that “In the past three decades, the percentage of Americans with asthma has more than doubled and climate change is putting these individuals and many other vulnerable populations at greater risk of landing in the hospital.”

Here’s what the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America has to say about the various causes of asthma.

“Since asthma has a genetic origin and is a disease you are born with, passed down from generation to generation, the question isn’t really ‘what causes asthma’, but rather ‘what causes asthma symptoms to appear?’ People with asthma have inflamed airways which are super-sensitive to things which do not bother other people.”

What the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America is telling us is that there is no direct connection between either the climate or the weather and the illness called asthma.

Those who suffer this disease however can be affected by a range of triggers such as irritants in the air, pollens, molds, and even cockroach droppings. Infections such as colds, flu, and sore throats are among the leading triggers for asthma attacks in children.

The facts, the truth, were no deterrent to the April 7 White House twelve-page announcement of all the things it intends to do to brainwash Americans into believing that there is a connection between the “climate” and health.

Here’s just a few of the dozens of events and programs it will initiate so that the media will report on them and thus convey the message that climate change is the greatest threat to Americans today:

“The Administration is expanding its Climate Data Initiative to include more than 150 health-relevant datasets…this is intended to help communities and businesses reduce the health impacts of climate change.”  Only there are no such impacts.

The Administration is announcing a coalition of Deans from 30 medical, public health, and nursing schools around the country, who are committing to ensure that the next generation of health professionals is trained to address the health impacts of climate change.” Only there are no such impacts.

“Announcing the White House Climate Change and Health Summit.” It will feature the Surgeon General who will lead discussions to “the public health impacts of climate change and identify opportunities to minimize these impacts.” Only there are no impacts and nothing that could be done if there were.

From the Department of Homeland Security to the Department of the Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency, many elements of the federal government will be integrated into this massive brainwashing effort.

What can be done to ignore a government determined to lie to everyone about a “threat” that does not exist? Not much.

Categories: On the Blog

“Buy locally”: Horse and Buggy Advice From the Green Movement

April 22, 2015, 12:29 PM

“Buy locally” is among the most foolish edicts in the long list of commandments from today’s environmental movement. Local sourcing is proposed by our universities as the solution for saving the rain forests, reducing pollution and halting global warming. We’d expect such advice from an out-of-touch grandparent, but not from our intellectual leaders.

The website of the Sierra Club tells us, “We need to start producing and using products, from our food to our energy, closer to home. Sadly, the current trend is to produce goods wherever labor is cheapest and environmental protections are lowest and ship them across the world.” The global explosion in world trade has been bad for the buy-locally movement.

Earlier this month I attended climate change lectures at the University of Chicago and Wheaton College. Local sourcing was a touted solution to environmental ills. At Wheaton, a visiting professor from Scotland proposed that global warming could be stopped if people sourced food, energy and other life essentials locally. He failed to offer advice on the sustainability of airplane flights from Scotland to Chicago.

The state of Michigan imports most of its oil, coal, and natural gas. Should Michigan citizens revert to burning locally sourced wood for their energy needs as Americans did in the 1800s? In December, New York banned hydraulic fracturing to recover natural gas, despite the fact that the state produces 47 percent of its electricity from natural gas and imports most of its gas from other states.

Illinois imports all of its coffee. Should citizens of Illinois switch to growing coffee locally in greenhouses? Coffee farming in Illinois might be better than mango farming in Minnesota, but neither makes economic sense. Foods are sourced from distant locations where production costs are lower. Lower production costs generally mean higher yields and reduced land, fertilizer and pesticide usage. Cultivation of less land saves more land for nature.

Why do decrees from environmentalists always seem to come from the Dark Ages? Buy locally, eat organically grown food, avoid genetically modified organism (GMO) hybrids from modern biotechnology, use renewable energy, get off the electrical grid and ride bicycles to save the planet. Two hundred years ago, most people grew their own food or made their own clothes. Every farm spread animal manure and practiced organic farming. Prior to modern fertilizers, pesticides, and genetically modified hybrids, agricultural yields were poor. Today’s environmental movement pushes for a return to the good old days of poor-yield pre-industrial agriculture.

At the University of Chicago lecture, I sat next to a pair of environmentally minded attendees. They were concerned that today’s forestry companies plant only a single type of tree over huge areas, spoiling the ecological diversity of the forest. But foresters specialize in the production of a few types of trees to maximize wood harvest per acre, thereby reducing the number of acres that need to be harvested.

We live in an age of specialization of labor. An engineer writes software and sells his service so that he doesn’t need to grow his own food and make his own clothes. As author Matt Ridley points out, the magic of modern society is that everybody is working for everybody else. We each have thousands of people across the world making goods and services for us. Buying locally and producing your own goods are relics of the past.

Environmental groups promote windmills for large-scale electricity production, a technology used in the 1800s for pumping water and grinding grain. In 2013, the 46,000 wind turbines operating in the U.S. covered an area larger than the state of Maryland, but provided only 4.5 percent of the nation’s electricity. Wind energy is competitive only with large-scale subsidies from local or national governments. When the federal Production Tax Credit was cancelled in 2014, U.S. wind installations dropped 90 percent from 2013.

Today it’s fashionably green to go “off-grid” for your electricity needs. But electricity is the foundation of modern society and separates developed and developing nations. Today’s environmental movement demands that everyone reduce electricity consumption to reduce global warming and save the climate. In March we enjoyed Earth Hour, when citizens were urged to turn off their lights around the world. Last week was Dark Sky Week, an effort to make citizens aware of “light pollution.” It’s always Dark Sky Week in Africa, where the majority of a billion people don’t have access to electricity.

Ethanol and biodiesel vehicle fuels are “renewable” and promoted by the European Union and the Environmental Protection Agency to reduce petroleum-based vehicle fuel and fight global warming. But in 2013, more than 40 percent of the U.S. corn crop produced ethanol for only 7 percent of U.S. vehicle fuel. Nine bushels of corn are needed to provide ethanol for one 25-gallon tank of E85 fuel for a sport utility vehicle. Biofuels require huge amounts of land for little energy output.

Environmental groups have it exactly wrong. The best way to protect the environment is to use modern high-density fuels and to practice high-yield agriculture in the lowest cost location rather than forced local sourcing. Suppose we embrace modern solutions to world problems and avoid horse and buggy remedies from the past?

[Originally published at Communities Digital News]

Categories: On the Blog

No Free Market Reform for Military Health Care in 2015

April 22, 2015, 8:15 AM

A proposal to reform military health care benefits, with free market insurance options for spouses of servicemen and women, has been scrapped by the House Armed Services Committee. Contending with soaring costs since 9-11, but also facing $1 trillion in Pentagon budget cuts by President Obama during the next decade, the U.S. Congress is seeking major changes in military health care and retirement programs. The House military affairs panel is set to start marking-up the defense policy bill this week, or next week.

The reform proposals left off-the-table by lawmakers for now may be taken up by the Congress next year, however. Reforms could include provisions to transition spouses and children of servicemen and women to private health insurance. Reformers may also revise military pensions, making them somewhat similar to private sector 401 (k) retirement plans.

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter (D) said reforms will be most beneficial to those who leave the service before reaching 20 years of active duty.

Presently, the officers and enlisted personnel who leave before their 20th anniversary receive no retirement benefits, and no health benefits in retirement, unless they have served in combat while on active duty.

Photo courtesy of U.S. Navy Medicine.

Categories: On the Blog

The Environmental Insane Asylum

April 22, 2015, 5:00 AM

I want YOU to believe my alarmist hype about the climate.

Earth Day was declared in 1970 and for the past 45 years we have all been living in the Environmental Insane Asylum, being told over and over again to believe things that are the equivalent of Green hallucinations. Now the entire month of April has been declared Earth Month, but in truth not a day goes by when we are not assailed with the bold-faced lies that comprise environmentalism.

Around the globe, the worst part of this is that we are being victimized by people we are told to respect from the President of the United States to the Pope of the Catholic Church. Their environmentalism is pure socialism.

Organizations whom we expect to tell the truth keep telling us that “climate change is one of the biggest global security threats of the 21st century.”  This was a recent statement by “world leaders” like the G7, a group of finance ministers and central bank governors of seven advanced economies, the International Monetary Fund, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United States. On April 17 they adopted a report about the “threat” put together by think tanks that included the European Union Institute for Security Studies and the Wilson Center in Washington, D.C.

When I speak of “climate” I am referring to data gathered not just about decades, but centuries of the Earth’s cycles of warming and cooling. When I speak of “weather”, the closest any of us get to it other than today’s, are local predictions no longer than a few days’ time at best. The weather is in a constant state of flux.

Climate change is not a threat and most certainly there is no global warming. As Prof. Bob Carter, a geologist at James Cook College in Queensland, Australia, has written, “For many years now, human-caused climate change has been viewed as a large and urgent problem. In truth, however, the biggest part of the problem is neither environmental nor scientific, but a self-created political fiasco.”

The fact that the Earth is now into the nineteenth year of a natural planetary cooling cycle seems to never be acknowledged or reported. “The problem here,” says Prof. Carter, “is not that of climate change per se, but rather that of the sophisticated scientific brainwashing that has been inflicted on the public, bureaucrats and politicians alike.”

In a book I recommend to everyone, “Climate for the Layman” by Anthony Bright-Paul, he draws on the best well-known science about the Earth noting that “Since there is no such thing as a temperature of the whole Earth all talk of global warming is simply illogical, ill thought out, and needs to be discarded for the sake of clarity. The globe is warming and cooling in different locations concurrently every minute of the day and night.”

“Since it is abundantly clear that there is no one temperature of the atmosphere all talk of Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) is simply an exercise in futility.” A look at the globe from either of its two poles to its equator and everything in between tells us with simple logic that being able to determine its “temperature” is impossible. The Earth, however, has gone through numerous warming and cooling cycles, all of which were the result of more or less solar radiation.

The Sun was and is the determining factor. The assertion that humans have any influence or impact that can determine whether the Earth is warmer or cooler is absurd.

The Earth had passed through warming and cooling cycles for billions of years before humans even existed, yet we are told that the generation of carbon dioxide through the use of machinery in manufacturing, transportation or any other use is causing the build-up of “greenhouse gases” in the atmosphere. We are told to give up the use of coal, oil and natural gas. That is a definition of insanity!

Here’s the simple truth that most people are not told: The Sun warms the Earth and the Earth warms the atmosphere.

As for carbon dioxide, the amount generated by human activity represents a miniscule percentage of the 0.04% in the Earth’s atmosphere. There has been more carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere—well before humans existed—contributing to the growth of all manner of vegetation which in turn generated oxygen.

Without carbon dioxide there would be no life on Earth. It feeds the vegetation on which animal life depends directly and indirectly. As Anthony Bright-Paul says, “A slight increase in atmosphere of carbon dioxide will not and cannot produce any warming, but can be hugely beneficial to a green planet.”

The Earth’s atmosphere is approximately 78% Nitrogen, 21% Oxygen, 0.9% Argon, 0.04% Carbon Dioxide, and the rest is water vapor and trace gases in very small amounts. They interact to provide an environment in which life, animal and vegetable, exists on Earth.

When you live in a Global Environmental Insane Asylum, you are not likely to hear or read the truth, but you can arrive at it using simple logic. We know instinctively that humans do not control the waves of our huge oceans, nor the vast tectonic plates beneath our feet, the eruptions of volcanoes, the Jetstream, cloud formation, or any of the elements of the weather we experience, such as thunder, lightning, and other acts of Nature.

Why would we blindly assume or agree to the torrent of lies that humans are “causing” climate change? The answer is that on Earth Day, Wednesday, April 22, we will be deluged with the propaganda of countless organizations worldwide that we are, in fact, endangering a “fragile” planet Earth.  We hear and read that every other day of the year as well.

The achievement of the human race and the last 5,000 years of so-called civilization is the way we have learned to adapt to Nature by creating habitats from villages to cities in which to survive and because we have devised a vast global agricultural and ranching system to feed seven billion of us.

As for the weather, John Christy, the director of the Earth System Science Center at the University of Alabama, says he cringes “when I hear overstated confidence from those who describe the projected evolution of global weather patterns over the next one hundred years, especially when I consider how difficult it is to accurately predict that system’s behavior over the next five days.”

“Mother Nature,” says Christy, “simply operates at a level of complexity that is, at this point, behind the mastery of mere mortals—such as scientists—and the tools available to us.”

Whether it is the President or the Pope, or the countless politicians and bureaucrats, along with multitudes of “environmental” organizations, as well as self-serving “scientists”, all aided by the media, a virtual Green Army has been deliberately deceiving and misleading the citizens of planet Earth for four and a half decades. It won’t stop any time soon, but it must before the charade of environmentalism leaves us all enslaved by the quest for political control over our lives that hides behind it.

We must escape the Environmental Insane Asylum in which they want us to live.

 

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Peter Ferrara: Power to the People, Entitlement Reform

April 21, 2015, 2:41 PM

In Today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, we listen in as Senior Fellow Peter Ferrara joins The Joyce Kaufman Show to talk about his upcoming book, Power to the People: The New Road to Freedom and Prosperity for the Poor, Seniors, and Those Most in Need of the World’s Best Health Care.

America is quickly accelerating toward a spending crisis due to ever growing entitlement programs; Ferrara addresses this problem with a host of free-market solutions. In this book, Ferrara tackles social security, medicare, medicaid and other entitlement programs that are straining the U.S. budget and the taxpayers that are on the hook.

[Subscribe to the Heartland Daily Podcast for free at this link.]

 

Categories: On the Blog

The Whitehouse-White House Inquisition

April 21, 2015, 12:37 PM

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse recently had a Huff-Po tantrum. The Rhode Island Democrat was miffed that people criticized him and equally liberal Senate colleagues Barbara Boxer (CA) and Ed Markey (MA) for attacking skeptics of dangerous manmade climate change like Spanish Inquisition tormentors.

He says the skeptic community’s “overheated” response mischaracterized their motives and muddled their important messages: Global warming is the most serious threat we face today.  Financial incentives can affect behavior, which is why the public and Congress need to know who funded the skeptics’ research. And companies that produce harmful products want to foment uncertainty about well-established health and safety risks: fossil fuel interests and climate chaos skeptics are just like the tobacco industry.

These senators are abusing their power of office to threaten and silence honest scientists, and destroy their funding, reputations and careers. It’s pure Saul Alinsky, as practiced by Greenpeace, Harry Reid and the other White House: “In a fight almost anything goes. Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” And the vilified scientists and their friends are just supposed to take it, the senators seem to think.

In reality, the only thing overheated is Mr. Whitehouse’s temper – and the increasingly preposterous rhetoric about an overheating planet. Climate change is altering our music. A 0.1 degree Celsius change in ocean temperatures has caused whales to migrate a month earlier than 30 years ago. Warming oceans will mean the end of fish and chips! Lord knows what other “disasters” await – all because of fossil fuels.

The absurdity of this fraudulent fear mongering and its total irrelevance to our daily lives explains why Americans consistently put climate change at the bottom of every list of concerns. The very idea that governments can decree an idyllic climate is equally crazy; that has happened only once in human history.

No wonder Mr. Obama is repackaging the climate issue under the equally false and ridiculous mantras of “ocean acidification,” and “carbon pollution” causing allergies and asthma. Our oceans are not becoming acidic. It’s not “carbon” – it’s carbon dioxide, the miracle molecule that makes all life on Earth possible. And neither CO2 nor planetary warming has anything to do with allergies or asthma.

Climate science was supposed to examine the effects that humans might be having on Earth’s climate. But anti-fossil fuel activists turned it into the notion that only humans affect the climate – and that the powerful natural forces that caused countless, sometimes devastating climate fluctuations in the past no longer play a role. Climatology was also supposed to be about the scientific method:

Pose a hypothesis to explain how nature works. Test the hypothesis and its predictions against real-world evidence and observations. If the premise is valid, the evidence will back it up. If the data and evidence are out of synch with the carbon dioxide/greenhouse gas thesis, come up with another hypothesis.

By now, it’s obvious that the “dangerous manmade global warming” thesis, and computer models based on it, do not explain what is happening in the real world. The planet stopped warming 18 years ago, despite rising fossil fuel use and CO2 emissions. The models don’t work; their predictions are completely out of whack with reality. Instead of more hurricanes, no Category 3-5 has hit the USA since late 2005.

So the alarmists changed their mantra to “climate change” and “weather disruption.” But this is bogus: it tries to blame every change and event on fossil fuels. The thesis can never be proven or disproven, which means it’s a religious tract, not a scientific analysis. Alarmists don’t have a leg to stand on scientifically.

That’s why they refuse to debate the science; why they vilify climate crisis skeptics. It’s why Democrats became so frustrated with Dr. Judith Curry’s expert testimony at a recent House Science Committee hearing that they left the room. They couldn’t stand it when she said the “central issue” is the extent to which recent (and future) planetary warming or other climate changes are driven bymanmade greenhouse gas emissions, “versus natural climate variability caused by variations from the sun, volcanic eruptions, and large-scale ocean circulations.” And they really couldn’t tolerate her noting that President Obama’s pledge to slash U.S. emissions by 28% will reduce warming by just0.03 degrees Celsius by 2100.

Climate change and extreme weather risks are real, but carbon dioxide doesn’t cause them today any more than throughout history. Aside from Pleistocene-style ice ages, we can adapt or respond to events – including storms, droughts, heat waves and extreme cold – if we have affordable, reliable energy, strong economies and modern technologies. The real threats to jobs, health, welfare and lives come from anti-fossil fuel policies imposed on the pretense that they will stabilize weather and climate. Forecasting future climate changes will be equally impossible if we remain fixated on carbon dioxide, and ignore the solar, ocean circulation, cosmic ray and other powerful natural forces that actually affect Earth’s climate.

Senator Whitehouse’s suggestion that climate chaos skeptics should be tarred and feathered with tobacco industry apologists is despicable demagoguery. So are his comments about funding realist research.

The skeptics’ funding was never secret. It was always an open book, available to anyone who cared to look. But since he brought up the money issue, let’s look at a few aspects that he studiously ignores.

Alarmist research is all about carbon dioxide, greenhouse gases and fossil fuels – precisely because financial incentives can and do affect behavior. Alarmists get a thousand times more money than skeptics. Climate Crisis, Inc. received hundreds of billions of dollars in government, industry, foundation and other money during the past couple decades. The US government alone spent over$186 billion in tax dollars on climate, “clean energy” and renewable energy projects from 2009 through 2014. Applicants know they won’t get grants if their theses and conclusions do not support climate alarmism and regulatory agendas.

Billions more went to government agencies that coordinate these programs and develop anti-hydrocarbon regulations. These bureaucrats don’t merely search health and scientific files to cherry-pick papers that support their agenda. They deliberately hunt only for supportive documents (many of which they pay for) and actively ignore, suppress and vilify research that focuses on (or even just discusses) natural forces.

Then the EPA and other agencies pay the American Lung Association, scientific advisory committees and other activists millions of dollars a year to rubberstamp their regulatory decisions. Even more destructive of our scientific method and political process, countless millions are also being funneled to climate chaos researchers and Big Green pressure groups via secretive foundations, laundered through front groups from Russian oil interests, and employed to further enrich billionaires like Warren Buffett.

The scandalous system has turned hardcore environmentalism into a $13.4-billion-per-year operation and represents an unbelievable abuse of our hard-earned tax dollars and the tax-exempt status of numerous foundations and activist groups. Cooperate and get rich; resist, and get the Whitehouse inquisition.

As a result, instead of science, we get opinion, propaganda, spin, pseudo-science and outright fraud – all designed to advance a anti-fossil fuel, pro-renewable energy agenda, that kills jobs and economic growth, endangers human health and welfare, and puts radical regulators and pressure groups in control of our lives, livelihoods and living standards. It also further corrupts our political system.

These Big Green companies, foundations, pressure groups and government unions give our politicians millions of dollars in campaign cash and in-kind help, to keep them in office and the gravy train on track.

The League of Conservation Voters collected $90 million in foundation grants 2000-2013; the LCV Education Fund pocketed $71 million more. The LCV, Sierra Club, NRDC, SEIU, AFSCME, Kleiner Perkins and allied groups are all big Whitehouse (and Obama White House) campaign donors.

Do Senators Whitehouse, Boxer and Markey plan to investigate those financial incentives and abuses?

Concerned citizens should ponder all of this on Earth Day, April 22 – and the next time they vote.

Categories: On the Blog

Net Neutrality Is Just As Stupid Internationally As It Is Here

April 21, 2015, 11:39 AM

Net Neutrality remains an omni-directional terrible idea.

Here in the United States, Net Neutrality exponentially increases the government’s ability to tax the Internet. Starting with the 17.4% Universal Service Fund (USF) tax. Which goes up automatically every calendar quarter. And goes up each and every time three unelected Federal Communications Commission (FCC) bureaucrats decide they want more of our coin. Which they just did in December –with a 17.1% rate increase.

Net Neutrality exponentially increases the government’s regulatory role –creating a Government-May-I approach to all things innovation. If you’re an Internet Service Provider (ISP) and want to try something new – the Overlord must first wave his scepter and deem it allowed.

(If you’re a Democrat-funding, bandwidth-hogging company like Google,NetflixFacebook,…- you remain free to create free from government interference.)

Unfortunately, this stupidity isn’t limited to just us.

Over the last couple of weeks, the net neutrality debate has picked up pace thanks to…Airtel Zero which will let app developers pay data charges of customers, so long as they are using the developers app.

There is so much Economics 101 in that one sentence. Net Neutrality denies all of it.

How is preventing consumers from getting free stuff pro-consumer? And why should it be outlawed on the Net – when it’s a ceaselessly recurring staple in every other sector of the economy?

800 numbers are free for the consumer – paid for by the companies consumers reach by dialing them. How is that any different on the Net – where bandwidth hog companies should absolutely be able to pick up the tab for their customers? Answer – it’s not. It’s exactly the same.

The pro-Net Neutrality argument is “You’ve already paid for Internet service – the ISP shouldn’t ‘double-dip’ by charging the bandwidth hogs.”

Well, you’ve already paid for your phone service – yet the phone company is allowed to “double-dip”by charging the 800-number-providing companies.

In fact, government-mandated-“Neutrality”is exponentially dumber on the Internet – because the bandwidth-volume is exponentially greater and more expensive than is the phone-call-volume.

800 numbers make things cheaper for the consumer – thus they are pro-consumer. Mandating that consumers pick up the entire tab for Web Goliaths like Google, Netflix and Facebook – even if they don’t use Google, Netflix and/or Facebook – is decidedly anti-consumer.

There are only two sets of people ISPs can charge for the incredibly-expensive-costs of building bandwidth ($1.3 trillion domestically since 1996) – bandwidth hog companies, and us.

Net Neutrality mandates that bandwidth hog companies never be charged anything ever – no matter how much bandwidth they use.

Imagine Fuel Neutrality. Where the government mandates that 18-wheel tractor trailers (whose owners just so happen to donate huge to Democrats) not be charged to fill up at the pump. That necessarily skyrockets gas prices for the rest of us in our little cars – because the stations have to make up that huge money somewhere.

Bandwidth-wise, the likes of Google, Netflix and Facebook drive fleets and fleets and FLEETS of Web 18-wheelers. Netflix and Google’s YouTube – all by their lonesomes – are more than half of all U.S. Internet traffic.

Net Neutrality says they can’t be charged for it – no matter what. Which allows them to pour more money into their businesses. Growing further still their bandwidth footprint – and thus their crony price-free advantage. Lather, rinse, repeat….

So the prices we pay will necessarily skyrocket – to augment the profits of these Democrat donors.

How stupid is that?

Seven companies have already sued to undo our domestic Net Neutrality heinousness. Even more may follow suit (see what I did there?).

Here’s hoping India can kill it before it gets anywhere near that far.

[Originally published at Human Events]

 

Categories: On the Blog

Defending the Ethical Enterpriser in an Anti-Business Climate

April 21, 2015, 11:03 AM

In spite of the great advances in reducing poverty and increasing the freedom and dignity of hundreds of millions of people around the world, the political and cultural climate virtually everywhere around the world is one of anti-business and anti-capitalism.

Yet, it is wherever the forces of free market capitalism have been set freest, along with a modicum of acceptance and even respect for business enterprise, that the most dramatic strides have been made in abolishing the worst and most squalid material conditions of mankind.

Businessmen Deliver the Goods, But are Morally Condemned

Profitable mass production has come from satisfying the needs, wants, and desires of the mass of humanity. If in past times the mass of people bond to the land were compelled to serve the wants of the few who through conquest and plunder lived as the lords of the manor, under free market capitalism those who take on the role of entrepreneur and enterpriser have no source of personal wealth other than their successful catering to the wants of the many – the large consuming general public.

One would have thought that an economic system that generates a situation in which the creative, industrious and innovative members of society would have incentives to apply their talents and abilities to improve the conditions of others, rather than to use their superior qualities to rob what they neighbors have produced, would be hailed as one of the greatest institutional arrangements ever come across by man.

Instead, the more that the creative and the industrious succeed in this peaceful and productive way, the more they are condemned and accused of some form of economic “crime against humanity” due to the profits they earn in improving the circumstances of all the others in society.

In such an environment, those who pursue leadership positions in business, who demonstrate entrepreneurial excellence in designing, directing and marketing better products, new products, and less expensive products, find themselves the targets of condemnation, ridicule, and even hatred from the ranks of those whose lives are made better due to their enterprising actions.

The intellectuals, the news pundits, and self-appointed “critics” of the existing human condition are always pointing the finger at the businessman as the source and cause of all of man’s miseries, frustrations, disappointments and dissatisfactions.

The intellectual and social elites among them dream dreams of “better worlds,” if only they were in charge of mankind’s social arrangements. Businessmen are, in their eyes, the “stumbling block” to societal reconstruction because the institutions of private property and private accumulation of wealth stand in the way of their having full access to using the material and other means of the earth to implement their conceptions of “utopia,” if only they were in charge of the desired social engineering projects.

Businessmen Fear Bad Publicity If They Defend Themselves

Rarely do members of the business community speak up in defense of their position and place in society. There are several reasons for this. First, it is considered “bad for business.” Taking political stances on public policy issues can place private enterprises in the crosshairs of the media and ideological interest groups who will proceed to vilify them. You don’t maintain or improve your “bottom line” by alienating your customers by publically defending people or positions with which the majority of opinion-makers may disagree or condemn.

And if public policy positions are explicitly or implicitly endorsed or advocated by businessmen, it’s considered better and safer to do so in ways that demonstrate your “social awareness” on those issues. This boils down to taking sides with the fashionable fads and fashions that the media and the “beautiful people” in the celebrity world have adopted as “consciousness raising” good causes.

Arouse the ire of these groups and financial ruin and governmental regulatory attention may come your way. Going along to get along is considered the path of least resistance in the business world no less than in other aspects of everyday social life.

Businessmen Lack Knowledge to Morally Defend Themselves

Second, those in the business world are no different than most of the rest of us, in that they have been educated and acculturated in the same social environment as everyone else. They have gone to the same public or private schools; they read or listen to the same mass media news outlets; they watch the same movies and are influenced by the same political, economic, social and cultural ideas and attitudes as all others in society.

In other words, they may work in business, they may be entrepreneurs and enterprisers who startup, guide and management businesses, but they live in the same social milieu as us all and they, too, have absorbed and accepted many of the same prejudices and biases about “capitalism” as the rest.

As a consequence, they may pursue profits and entrepreneurial excellence, but if challenged or questioned about the justification or morality of how and what they do, they might say, “Well, that’s how business operates, that’s how I make a living.” However, few such individuals can articulate and demonstrate the “rightness” and goodness of their role as businessman in the division of labor.

Guilt, uncomfortableness, and embarrassment are likely to surround any attempted defense of their place in the economic system. “Well, of course, we need environmental regulations to prevent destruction of the planet.” “Certainly, its government’s role to reduce ‘excessive’ inequality.” “Its only ‘fair’ that the government gives a ‘helping hand’ to those who cannot make it in the ‘system’.”

The Sanction of the Victim

Long ago the individualist philosopher and novelist, Ayn Rand, referred to this type of stance and response by businessmen to such criticisms and attacks on them as, “The sanction of the victim.”

The victim whose only “crime” is working honestly and creatively, and whose actions help generate the wealth, ease and comfortable that modern market society offers to the vast majority of its members is expected to apologize and ask forgiveness for the very qualities that centrally assist in the improvement in the circumstances of mankind.

The problem is, precisely, that many in the business community do not know how to defend their own actions and their outcomes because they accept the indictment made against capitalism, due to the fact that they have never been offered an alternative moral justification of how and what they do. They presume that the way they have chosen to earn a living inescapably is a “mortal sin” from which they cannot be saved other than to stop being who and what they are.

Few businessmen can articulate how and why it is a lack of defined and securely enforced property rights that cause virtually all of the negative spillover effects of pollution and wastage of scarce resources. Or why it is an equality of individual rights before the law that is essential for freedom and justice in society, not government attempts at politically manipulated equalities of income and social outcomes. And why it is that both humane and moral forms of benevolence to assist those who may be less fortunate can only come through voluntarism and competitive incentives among charitable organizations to use funds freely given in wise and effective ways.

Some Businessmen Turn to the State for Plunder and Privilege

There is a third reason for the failure of some businessmen to defend the market system and principles that underlay any successful ethics of entrepreneurship and enterprise. They often not only do not understand such an ethics of economic liberty. They do not believe in them. That is, there is a significant segment of the business community – frequently though certainly not exclusively in “big business” – that implicitly has the view that the state is to be used as a tool for plunder and privilege.

There are certainly some, who like common crooks and thieves, simply see the political process as the avenue to more greatly assure wealth and success. Just as one criminal when asked why he robbed banks replied that that is where the money is, there are those in private enterprise who run to the government to get what they want because that’s from where the privileges and plunder can come at taxpayers’ and others’ expense.

They are the entrepreneurial immoralists, since they may well know or understand that their economic gain through the political process is based on using government to pick other peoples’ pockets.

There are others whom I would suggest might be labeled the entrepreneurial amoralists because they have always lived under a political system in which it is taken for granted that one of the ways to obtain larger revenues and increased market share is using the tools of special interest lobbying to get government to act in ways favorable to your firm or industry. In other words, they don’t really see the difference between money made through voluntary exchange and government compulsory transfer.

A good number of years ago, I was invited to deliver a series of keynote addresses at several annual state-level Farm Bureau conventions. I found that when speaking to those who were, say, over 55 or 60 years of age, many of them felt uncomfortable about government agricultural subsidy programs and said that, in principle, if it were possible to get government out of the farming business they would be for it.

On the other hand, those in their 20s, 30s, or 40s, often could not understand why I was even asking about government’s role in farming. They had no living memory of a time when government was not paying farmers subsidies for various crops or even paying them to not grow anything at all.

For this younger group, making sales to consumers on the market was the same as being paid by the government. They frequently gave the impression of seeing no difference between a free market transaction and government redistribution of wealth. The latter was not seen or considered as “plunder.” They were not consciously immoral in taking a government handout; they just did not think it was a moral issue at all, anymore than deciding whether to have coffee in the morning instead of a cup of tea.

Intervention Draws Businessmen into Political Corruption

Finally, there are those who may be called the ethically pragmatic private enterprisers. They might think government should not be in the business of interfering with business, and they might dislike having to distract themselves and their investable funds into lobbying government. But they do so as a “defensive” strategy, since in the winner-take-all of governmental manipulation, if they don’t fend off the politicking of other special interest groups more “offensively” trying to use the state for their benefit, their own market position and financial viability might be undermined or destroyed.

As a result, far too many in the world of business are sucked into the maelstrom of governmental interventionist intrigue, corruption, and abuse. Like Odysseus in ancient Greek literature, some businessmen may try to tie themselves to the mast of market morality to not be tempted by the Siren’s call to political immorality, but too few understand know enough to try and fewer still are able to successfully resist being drawn into and drowned in the government’s sea of corruption.

Businessmen will not be able to escape from these traps and temptations on their own. Their primary attention and focus, if they are to be successful enterprisers and entrepreneurs, will be in pursuing their specialize market purposes in the context of the ideas and institutions in which they live and operate their businesses.

Defenders of Freedom in the Battle of Ideas

Changing the climate of opinion and the social and political surroundings in which businesses function falls upon free market-oriented economists and liberty-oriented philosophers and opinion-makers, I would suggest. First, in the division of labor that is part of their job. They are the handlers of ideas and ideologies. They are the ones who step back and ask young and old to think about the social system as a whole.

What is the nature of man and the natural and social circumstances in which he lives, works, and survives? Why is there no escaping from self-interested conduct, and therefore what are the outcomes from alternative institutional settings in which individuals attempt to better their personal situations? Why is it that voluntary market exchange under secure property rights not only delivers the goods, but also can be reasoned to foster and create a moral and good society with its abolition of force and violence from human relationships within a legal order based on individual rights?

Why is it, then, that the businessman who earns his living in such a free and ethical system is not a villain and a destroyer but a central partner in the shared human endeavor for the creation of a peaceful, prosperous, and polite society?

Ending Anti-Business Attitudes Requires Educating for Liberty

Both the general public and the community of business enterprisers need to be taught such things. Without it, the public conception of the always potential “dirtiness” of business will not be defeated as part of the drive to undermine and counter-act the collectivists’ portrayal of “capitalism” as the enemy of mankind.

Without this change in the climate of opinion, businessmen, themselves, will never have the understanding and through it the courage and motive to defend themselves and the honest rewards they earn from competitive, free market success.

Equally important, those in the business community who I suggested labeling the immoral or amoral private enterprises, who for either “offensive” or “defensive” reasons turn to the State for the political booty of government privilege and plunder, must be criticized and, indeed, shamed into rethinking their own conduct and behavior in the current interventionist welfare state.

How can the wider society be made to rethink their suspicions concerning the businessman’s motives, actions and outcomes, when too many of those who free marketers and classical liberals wish to defend commit many of the unethical acts of which the critics of capitalism accuse them?

Defending the Modern-Day “Smugglers” Who Serve the Market

At the same time, there are shackled and harassed businessmen who do attempt to operate outside of the spider’s web of regulations, controls and restrictions by trying to find ways to get around the interventionist state to earn their livings by better serving the consuming public. The economist and classical liberal opinion molders need to show the benefits and ethics of these acts as well.

The friends of free trade and competitive enterprise in the nineteenth century unhesitatingly defended smuggling – the “black market” – as the market’s method to get around socially harmful government controls that benefit some but harm many others.

The British free market liberal economist, Nassau Senior, for example, argued in the 1820s: “The smuggler is a radical and judicious reformer. The smuggler is essential to the well being of the whole nation. All external commerce depends on him.”

And the French economist, Jerome-Adolph Blanqui, in the 1840s, explained:

“It is in the nature of bad institutions never to be respected, and to give birth to protests that end in bringing about reform; smuggling was to the [mercantilist system of government controls] the constant and the most expressive of these protests . . .

“It is as exact in its deliveries as the most scrupulous merchant; it braves the seasons and defies the best-guarded lines of customhouses, to such a degree that assurance companies, which protect it, count upon fewer losses than any other.

“Smuggling is, in fact, the only means that remains to the various industries to procure for themselves the prohibited products whose use is indispensable for them . . .

“While savants discuss and commerce entreats, contrabandage acts and decides on the frontier; it presents itself with the irresistible power of actual facts, and freedom of trade has never won a victory for which smuggling has not prepared the way.”

Many Americans think of “black markets” as primarily concerned with the production, selling and buying of “sinful” or “immoral” goods and services: narcotics, sex transactions, gambling, etc.

Throughout large stretches of Asia, Africa, and Latin America, however, black markets are those arenas of trade in which many of the everyday items of daily life are bought and sold; everything from food and toilet paper, to clothes, shoes, and household items.

Government regulations, controls, restrictions, and prohibitions are so extensive and pervasive, that doing business honestly and openly is either impossible because it runs up against the monopoly friends of those in political power or the bribes, graft and corruption is so costly that it makes business survivability a tenuous and uncertain enterprise if attempted completely above board in the formal and legal market.

Businesses would not be opened and sustained, jobs would not created generating incomes for those who might otherwise starve or be forced into a real life of crime, and the mundane needs of the ordinary consumer in these societies would not be fulfilled, if not for a profit-motivated, risk-taking, entrepreneurial drive of multitudes of ordinary people who take on the mantle of illegal enterpriser and businessman.

The Free Enterprise Businessman as “Hero”

I recently talked to such an illegal entrepreneur who lives and works in Venezuela. Describing the financial difficulties and personal dangers he faces in his role of black marketeer in the manufacture and marketing of one of those ordinary consumer products of every life, I asked he why he did not just leave.

Given his business skills, why did he not move to even some other nearby Latin American country where, at least, he would not face the degree of danger from bribe-hungry government bureaucrats and violence-threatening agents of socialist Venezuela’s murderous secret police?

He said that as a Venezuelan and an advocate of liberty, he believed it was his duty to stay in his own country to do whatever he could to oppose the collectivist regime under which he and his fellow countrymen were living, working, and dying.

But equally, he said that he employed about a dozen women in his underground enterprise, who are the sole financial support for their respective families. If he were to give up, shut down his business, and leave the country, he had no idea how these families would make ends meet. He could not abandon those who loyally and hard-workingly did everything they could to help him stay in business and make a marketable product from which they all earned their means of livelihood.

Free market economists and classical liberals should hail these instances not only as examples of businessmen serving as “radical and judicious reformers” attempting to better serve the needs of the public in the face of economic protectionism for the anti-competitive and anti-market interests of some in society. But as heroes of liberty, integrity and benevolent loyalty to those whose incomes are dependent upon his success and ingenuity as an entrepreneur under hazardous and even life-threatening circumstances.

It should be praised as examples of what the market could have in store if all trade, commerce and industry were freed from the dead hand of government control. The businessman would be shown to be the heroic free enterpriser, innovator and champion of fulfilled freedom of choice for all in society.

Businessmen, themselves, would be educated to see how they should earn their living – through market-based production and not political-manipulated plunder – that would demonstrate the morality of all that they do, and would help provide the internal moral compasses to think twice before they give into the temptations of government largess.

This is the ethical avenue for defending ethical enterprisers in an anti-business world.

(The text is based upon a talk given at the Association for Private Enterprise Education conference, Cancun, Mexico, April 14, 2015)

[Originally published at Epic Times]

 

Categories: On the Blog

Ohio Gov. John Kasich Proposes Tax on E-Cigarettes

April 20, 2015, 4:57 PM

Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) is enacting a new excise tax on e-cigarettes in his 2016-2017 state budget, according to the latest Research & Commentary brief produced by The Heartland Institute.

If the budget proposal passes the legislature, Ohio will join Minnesota and North Carolina in taxing electronic cigarettes. Twelve other states put forth proposals for e-cigarette taxes last year, but none of them passed.

Kasich calls for a new excise tax on e-cigarettes, and an increase in taxes on regular cigarettes from $1.25 per pack to $2.25 per pack, notes the report, Research & Commentary: Ohio Tax Reform, or Tax Shift?

E-cigarettes have been considered “less harmful to individual and public health than traditional cigarettes,” the report states. Furthermore, the report indicated “sin taxes are problematic because they are unreliable and encourage unsustainable increases in government spending while placing an unnecessary burden on lower-income taxpayers.”

Research by the National Conference of State Legislatures suggests that with fewer Americans today smoking traditional cigarettes, a revenue stream that states have depended upon is rapidly decreasing.

E-cigarette products come in a number of styles.

One popular style is a cigarette-like tube, which is sold for $10 in convenience stores, and has self-contained batteries, chargers and liquid tanks.

Another style is a device about the size of a traditional cigarette pack, which allows a user to change liquid flavors, and is often sold in specialty vapor shops. The devices rely on bottles of liquid nicotine which vary in size and strength.

Categories: On the Blog