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[VIDEO] Capitalism & Neoliberalism Have Made the World Better: Q&A with Johan Norberg 

Johan Norberg of the Cato Institute speaks with Reason’s Nick Gillespie at ISFLC 2017.

“People think the world is in chaos. People think that the world is on fire right now for all the wrong reasons,” says author and Cato Institute senior fellow Johan Norberg. “There is a segment of politicians who try to scare us to death, because then we clamber for safety we need the strong man in a way.”

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But despite the political situation in Europe and America, Norberg remains optimistic. His new book, Progress: Ten Reasons to Look Forward to the Future, shows what humans are capable of when given freedom and the ability to exchange new ideas. “In the 25 years that have been considered neo-liberalism and capitalism run amok what has happened? Well, we’ve reduced chronic undernourishment around the world by 40 percent, child mortality and illiteracy by half, and extreme poverty from 37 to 10 percent,” explains Norberg. Read the rest of this entry »

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Socialism Kills More Babies than War 

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Chelsea Follett writes: Recent reports that infants now die at a higher rate in Venezuela than in war-torn Syria were, sadly, unsurprising – the results of socialist economics are predictable. Venezuela’s infant mortality rate has actually been above Syria’s since 2008.

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The big picture, fortunately, is happier. The global infant mortality rate has plummeted. Even Syria and Venezuela, despite the impact of war and failed policies, saw improvements up to as recently as last year. From 1960 to 2015, Syria’s infant mortality rate fell by 91% and Venezuela’s by 78%.

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[Read the full story here, at Foundation for Economic Education]

This year (not reflected in the graph above or below), Syria’s rate rose from 11.1 per 1,000 live births to 15.4, while Venezuela’s shot up from 12.9 to 18.6. Meanwhile, infant mortality rates have continued to fall practically everywhere else, and have declined even faster in countries that enjoy more freedom and stability. Consider Chile.

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Chile’s infant mortality rate in 1960 was actually above that of both Venezuela and Syria. It managed to outperform Syria by the mid-1960s, but was still woefully behind its richer northern cousin, Venezuela. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Freedom in the 50 States 2015-2016 

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How free is your state? Find out! The Freedom in the 50 States 2015-2016 index from the Cato Institute measures freedom across a range of over 200 policies and across personal, regulatory and fiscal dimensions.

Source: Cato Institute


Happy Birthday, Adam Smith: Prince of the Enlightenment, 1723-1790

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Smith was a hugely influential Scottish political economist and philosopher, best known for his book ‘The Wealth of Nations’.

Adam Smith’s exact date of birth is unknown, but he was baptised on 5 June 1723. His father, a customs officer in Kirkcaldy, died before he was born. He studied at Glasgow and Oxford Universities. He returned to Kircaldy f13d38520a837e7a409a32e558c8d801ac40c880in 1746 and two years later he was asked to give a series of public lectures in Edinburgh, which established his reputation.

In 1751, Smith was appointed professor of logic at Glasgow University and a year later professor of moral philosophy. He became part of a brilliant intellectual circle that included David Hume, John Home, Lord Hailes and William Robertson.

In 1764, Smith left Glasgow to travel on the Continent as a tutor to Henry, the future Duke of Buccleuch. While travelling, Smith met a number of leading European intellectuals including Voltaire, Rousseau and Quesnay.

In 1776, Smith moved to London. He published a volume which he intended to be the first part of a complete
theory of society, covering theology, ethics, politics and law. This volume, ‘Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations‘, was the first major work of political economy. Smith argued forcefully against the regulation of commerce and trade, and wrote that if people were set free to better themselves, it would produce economic prosperity for all. Read the rest of this entry »


Gallup: Confidence in Government’s Handling of Terror Hits All Time Low

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Rasmussen: Belief that Terrorists are Winning the War Hits All Time High

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Read more…

Source: Ace of Spades HQ


Gene Healy: ‘Early American Political Culture Held that Anyone who Seemed to Relish the Idea of Wielding Power Couldn’t Be Trusted with it. No Longer’

George W. Bush Library Dedication

It Doesn’t Matter If Campaigning For President Is Fun

healyGene Healy writes:

….There was a time, however, when we approached presidential selection with the sobriety a serious choice demands. In a penetrating 2003 article, The Joy of Power: Changing Conceptions of the Presidential Office, political scientist Richard J. Ellis explains that Americans used to look for a very different demeanor when assessing potential presidents.

“You’d never catch that guy grinning, nor, prior to the twentieth century, any of the others.”

‘My God: what is there in this office that any man should want to get into it?’

“In the beginning,” Ellis writes, “the presidency was envisioned not as an office to be enjoyed, but as a place of stern duty.” In fact, “one would be hard-pressed to find a single president between George Washington and Grover Cleveland of whom it could be said that he appeared to have fun in the exercise of presidential power.”

[Read the full text here, at thefederalist.com]

Early American political culture took it as self-evident that anyone who seemed to relish the idea of wielding power over others couldn’t be trusted with it. Our first president set the standard for presidential bearing: “dutiful and reluctant.”

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“Over the course of the twentieth century, thanks in part to the two Roosevelts, cultural norms shifted, even as the executive branch grew radically in size and power.”

As Washington put it: “I can truly say I had rather be at Mount Vernon with a friend or two about me than to be attended at the Seat of Government by the Officers of State and the Representatives of every Power in Europe.” Or, as Cleveland once moaned, “My God: what is there in this office that any man should want to get into it?”

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“Presidents today are supposed to take pleasure in the job. Those who dislike or at least complain about it are assumed to be psychologically suspect.”

— political scientist Richard J. Ellis

Throughout the nineteenth century, the public norms surrounding political power mandated a “low-energy” campaign, in which the candidates “stayed home in dignified silence, ready to serve if called by the people.” Even Andrew Jackson, the first candidate to style 51BZC+zfo3L._SL250_himself the champion of the popular will, refused to hit the hustings: “I meddle not with elections; I leave the people to make their own president,” he said.

[Order Gene Healy’s book “The Cult of the Presidency: America’s Dangerous Devotion to Executive Power” from Amazon.com]

You’d never catch that guy grinning, nor, prior to the twentieth century, any of the others. In the popular images of nineteenth-century presidents, Ellis writes, “it is difficult if not impossible to find an exuberant or smiling president.”

Enter the Self-Styled Larger than Life

Over the course of the twentieth century, thanks in part to the two Roosevelts, cultural norms shifted, even as the executive branch grew radically in size and power. “Presidents today are supposed to take pleasure in the job,” Ellis writes, and be happy warriors on the campaign trail. “Those who dislike or at least complain about it are assumed to be psychologically suspect.”

Read the rest of this entry »


Angus Deaton Wins Nobel Prize in Economics


U.S. to Deploy Special Operations Forces in Syria

US President Barack Obama attends a military briefing with US Ambassador to Afghanistan James Cunningham (L) at Bagram Air Field, north of Kabul, in Afghanistan, May 25, 2014. Photo: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Sending U.S. troops to intervene in Syria is a poorly thought out strategy that is likely to backfire. 

In Senate testimony on October 27th, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter indicated that the U.S. might be taking on a more direct combat role in Syria’s civil war. Later today, President Obama is expected to announce the deployment of U.S. troops to northern Syria.

“It is time for the president to forcefully state what everyone knows to be true: the United States has no magic formula for solving the Syrian conflict…Outside involvement has fueled the multisided civil war, but failed to deliver a decisive victory for any one faction.”

— Christopher Preble, Cato’s Vice President for Defense and Foreign Policy Studies

According to Cato Institute experts, this is a terrible idea.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s statement…that the U.S. military ‘won’t hold back’ from engaging in ‘direct action on the ground’ in Syria is a troubling development,“ says Benjamin Friedman, Research Fellow in Defense and Homeland Security Studies at the Cato Institute. “It does not so much indicate mission creep as continuity of flawed policy. Competing objectives burden U.S. policy: helping weak rebels overthrow Assad, which prolongs the war and aids ISIS, and defeating ISIS, which aids Assad. Until we resolve that contradiction, the value of tactical gains against either foe will be limited. We should cease helping rebels and attack ISIS alone.”

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Unfortunately, there is probably little constructive the United States can do at this point to resolve the conflict in Syria and establish a stable new government. The Obama administration, therefore, should take care not to make a bad situation worse.”

— Visiting Research Fellow Brad Stapleton

Even without U.S. ground troops, the Obama administration’s policy of continuing to fund and arm Syrian rebel groups is problematic enough, especially now that Russia is more deeply involved in backing the Assad regime militarily. According to Visiting Research Fellow Brad Stapleton, this risks getting into a messy proxy war that won’t end well for Washington. “Unfortunately, there is probably little constructive the United States can do at this point to resolve the conflict in Syria and establish a stable new government,” Stapleton writes. “The Obama administration, therefore, should take care not to make a bad situation worse.”

Many commentators have proposed imposing no-fly zones or safe zones in Syria to ease the humanitarian crisis. But, as Emma Ashford, Visiting Research Fellow, explains, this is likely to backfire. “U.S. involvement in Syria displays no strategy, no boundaries and no clear goals,” Ashford writes. “The only viable long-term solution to Syria’s problems is diplomacy. But that has been pushed to the side in favor of airstrikes and limited, ad hoc rebel training programs.” Read the rest of this entry »


On Soda Taxes and Purported Health Benefits


Cato Book Found on Elon Musk’s Desk

musk-cato

Today, a Cato fan tweeted a photo of Elon Musk’s desk with a copy of the Cato book, The Dirty Dozen by Cato Institute’s Robert A. Levy and Institute for Justice’s William Mellor.

Have you read it yet? Get your copy here!


UNBRIDLED GREED: Government Workers Make 78 Percent More Than Private Sector

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 reports: Employees for the federal government earn far more than their counterparts in the private sector, according to a new study by the Cato Institute.

“Since the 1990s, federal workers have enjoyed faster compensation growth than private-sector workers…The federal government has become an elite island of secure and high-paid employment, separated from the ocean of average Americans competing in the economy.”

Federal workers’ pay and benefits were 78 percent higher than private employees, who earned an average of $52,688 less than public sector workers last year.

The study found that federal government workers earned an average of $84,153 in 2014, compared to the private sector’s average of $56,350. Cato based its findings on figures from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA).

Ask AP

But when adding in benefits pay for federal workers, the difference becomes more dramatic. Federal employees made $119,934 in total compensation last year, while private sector workers earned $67,246, a difference of over $52,000, or 78 percent.

[Read the full story here, at Washington Free Beacon]

“Since the 1990s, federal workers have enjoyed faster compensation growth than private-sector workers,” according to the study, written by Chris Edwards, the director of tax policy studies at Cato. “In 2014 federal workers earned 78 percent more, on average, than private-sector workers. Federal workers earned 43 percent more, on average, than state and local government workers. Read the rest of this entry »


Mission Accomplished: U.S. Drops to 16th on ‘Economic Freedom’ List, Behind Canada, Chile

Obama Change Not

The top 10: Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, Mauritius, Jordan, Ireland, Canada, with the United Kingdom and Chile tied at 10.

“The United States, once considered a bastion of economic freedom, now ranks 16th in the world after being as high as second in 2000.”

Paul Bedard reports: The United States, ranked second in worldwide economic freedom as recently as 2000, has plummeted to 16th, according to a new report of world economies.

“A weakened rule of law, the so-called wars on terrorism and drugs, and a confused regulatory environment have helped erode economic freedom in the United States, which remains behind Canada and other more economically free countries such as Qatar, Jordan and the U.A.E.”

— Fred McMahon, Fraser Institute

The Fraser Institute’s annual report, Economic Freedom of the World, showed that the country’s drop started in 2010, the second year of the Obama administration.

“Economic freedom breeds prosperity and economically free countries like Canada offer the highest quality of life while the lowest-ranked countries are usually burdened by oppressive regimes that limit the freedom and opportunity of their citizens.”

— Fred McMahon, Fraser Institute

The world-recognized report showed that the U.S. fell in several areas, including legal and property rights and regulation.

“The United States, once considered a bastion of economic freedom, now ranks 16th in the world after being as high as second in 2000,” said the report issued Monday morning. Read the rest of this entry »


Live from the Cato Institute: Magna Carta and Modern Controversies from Multiculturalism to Political Correctness

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Go here for live broadcast

Featuring the author David Starkey, Author, Magna Carta: The Medieval Roots of Modern Politics, and BBC Radio and Television Presenter; with comments by Jonah Goldberg, Senior Editor, National Review and author of The Tyranny of Clichés; moderated by Marian L. Tupy, Senior Policy Analyst, Center for Liberty and Prosperity, Cato Institute.

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The Magna Carta was a milestone that circumscribed the power of the sovereign for the first time in human history. In his new book, distinguished British historian and television personality David Starkey looks at the origins of the david-starky-coverGreat Charter in the 13th century, its significant early revisions, and the ways in which it has been interpreted and reinterpreted by subsequent generations.

[Order David Starkey’s bookMagna Carta: The Medieval Roots of Modern Politics” from Amazon.com]

Starkey explains how core principles of this quintessentially English document migrated to the North American colonies and eventually became the cornerstone of the U.S. Constitution. He also explores how the Magna Carta indirectly led to the enshrinement of human rights in such documents as the Bill of Rights. Please join us for a discussion of the past and current state of constitutional politics in the western world—including the assault on our freedoms by the proponents of multiculturalism and political correctness.

This event is happening now. Watch it on video live from the Cato Institute and join the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #CatoEvents. Also follow @CatoEvents on Twitter to get future event updates, live streams, and videos from the Cato Institute.

Source: Cato Institute


[VIDEO] Why We’re Losing Liberty

Was the Constitution written in a way that was designed to protect freedom and limit the government’s size? Has it been effective in doing that? And what’s the Supreme Court’s record when it comes to protecting our rights? Robert George, Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University, answers these questions and more.


The Anniversary of the First U.S. Patent Issued

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Calling all inventors! On this date in 1790, the first U.S. patent was granted. The patent was  signed by George Washington and granted to Samuel Hopkins for the process of making potash, an element used for making fertilizer.

Since 1790 many, many, many more patents have been granted, and some say that patents are being abused.

Should we reform the U.S. patent system? Check out Cato research on the topic and decide for yourself:


Remembering Milton Friedman

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Today is the birthday of prominent free-market economist Milton Friedman, recipient of the 1976 Nobel Prize for Economic Science.

Friedman, who passed away in 2006 at the age of 94, was widely regarded as the leader of the Chicago School of monetary economics.

Friedman also wrote extensively on public policy, always with primary emphasis on the preservation and extension of individual freedom.

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Friedman’s ideas on economic freedom hugely influenced both the Reagan administration and the Thatcher government in the early 1980s, revolutionized establishment economic thinking across the globe, and have been employed extensively by emerging economies for decades.

In the picture above,  Friedman is all smiles with Cato Institute founder, Ed Crane and Vice President for Monetary Studies, Jim Dorn.

Learn more about Milton Friedman and his ties to Cato

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Federal Government Fails At So Much, So Often

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Most Americans think that the federal government is incompetent and wasteful. What causes all the failures? A new study from Cato scholar Chris Edwards examines views on government failure, and outlines five key sources of federal failure. Edwards concludes that the only way to substantially reduce failure is to downsize the federal government: “Political and bureaucratic incentives and the huge size of the federal government are causing endemic failure. The causes of federal failure are deeply structural, and they will not be solved by appointing more competent officials or putting a different party in charge.”

Why the Federal Government Fails,” by Chris Edwards


#CatoEvents Book Forum with Author Ronald Bailey: ‘The End of Doom: Environmental Renewal in the Twenty-First Century’

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Next Thursday July 23rd at the Cato Institute, Ronald Bailey will be discussing his new book The End of Doom: Environmental Renewal in the Twenty-First CenturyRegister here to attend! 

Throughout the past five decades there have been many forecasts of impending environmental doom. These projections have universally been proven wrong. Those who have bet on human resourcefulness, however„ have almost always been correct.

In his book, Bailey provides a detailed examination of the theories, studies, and assumptions currently spurring forecasts of calamity and shaping environmental policy. Breaking down the numbers, he finds that — thanks to human ingenuity and economic progress — many current ecological trends are in fact positive. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] The Conservatarian Manifesto: Should Libertarians and Conservatives Unite?

“I think the ‘conservatarian’ term is not a linguistic trick, it is a substantive attempt to describe a certain coterie on the right,” explains Charles C. W. Cooke, a writer for National Review and author of The Conservatarian Manifesto: Libertarians, Conservatives, and the Fight for the Right’s Future. “These are the people who say when they are around libertarians they feel conservative, and when they are around conservatarianconservatives they feel libertarian…(read more)

[Check out Charles C. W. Cooke‘s new book: “The Conservatarian Manifesto: Libertarians, Conservatives, and the Fight for the Right’s Futureat Amazon.com]

Reason TV‘s Nick Gillespie sat down with Cooke to discuss his book…(read more)

Reason.com


CATO Institute: Cuba Libre? An End to the Counterproductive Cuban Embargo

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President Obama’s announcement to overhaul U.S. policy toward Cuba is historic. And, according to Cato scholar Juan Carlos Hidalgo, president’s move should be uncontroversial.

“U.S. policy toward Cuba has been a blatant failure,” says Hidalgo. “It has not brought about democracy to the island and instead provided Havana with an excuse to portray itself as the victim of U.S. aggression…The 114th Congress should pick up where the president left off and move to fully end the trade embargo and lift the travel ban on Cuba.”

Cato scholars comment on the unexpected policy change:


The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA): Floods, Failures, and Federalism

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Federalism is supposed to undergird America’s system of handling disasters, particularly natural disasters. State, local, and private organizations should play the dominant role. Today, however, growing federal intervention is undermining the role of private institutions and the states in handling disasters.

In a new paper, Cato’s Director of Tax Policy Studies, Chris Edwards looks at the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA)’s response to major disasters, and argues that policymakers should reverse course and begin cutting FEMA.

In The Federal Emergency Management Agency: Floods, Failures, and Federalism,  Edwards argues that Congress should cut FEMA’s multi-billion dollar budget to end the agency’s long-running record of disorganized and wasteful spending. Edwards determines the agency’s large and growing budget consists mainly of counterproductive and inefficient aid programs that should be eliminated. Instead, he argues that state and local governments, and the private sector, should fund disaster preparedness and relief.

“Ultimately,” says Edwards, “the agency should be closed down by ending aid programs for disaster preparedness and relief and privatizing flood insurance.”

FEMA’s performance in disaster response is historically plagued by poor decision-making, wasteful spending, and excessive bureaucracy. FEMA spends roughly $2.5 billion a year on grants to state and local governments for disaster preparedness but these funds are often wasted on low-value activities. Cities have used preparedness grants to buy hovercrafts, underwater robots, and other fancy equipment that are rarely used. Read the rest of this entry »


Judge Strikes Down Ohio Law Criminalizing False Political Speech: Amicus Curiae Brief Filed on Behalf of the Plaintiff by P.J. O’Rourke

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Over at The CornerIan Tuttle has two items concerning an Ohio free speech court ruling:

An Ohio federal judge landed a blow for free-speech advocates on Thursday, striking down a law that gave the state government the right to regulate political speech it deemed false.

New Hampshire Voters Head To The Polls For State's Primary

Under the law, it was illegal to “post, publish, circulate, distribute, or otherwise disseminate a false statement concerning a candidate, either knowing the same to be false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not, if the statement is designed to promote the election, nomination, or defeat of the candidate.” According to U.S. District Court judge Timothy Black’s decision: “We do not want the government (i.e., the Ohio Elections Commission) deciding what is political truth – for fear that the government might persecute those who criticize it. Instead, in a democracy, the voters should decide.”

Politico reports the details of the suit here.Lunch with PJ O'Rourke

National Review Online

Then there’s this:

P. J. O’Rourke’s Defense of Truthiness – O’Rourke’s brief here

noted [above] U.S. District Court judge Timothy Black’s ruling yesterday striking down an Ohio law that allowed the state election commission to censor “false” political speech.

The judge’s decision is a good one, but the best reading in the case is an amicus curiae brief filed on behalf of the plaintiff — by none other than right-wing humorist P.J. O’Rourke. “The case concerns amici,” he writes, “because the law at issue undermines the First Amendment’s protection of the serious business of making politics funny.” Read the rest of this entry »


The Welfare State’s 110 Million

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How long can a shrinking number of taxpayers support a growing number of beneficiaries? 

For NROMichael Tanner writes: One hundred ten million! That’s how many Americans now live in households that receive some form of means-tested welfare benefit from the federal government. According to a report from the Census Bureau released last week, that’s the highest absolute number inzombiehand American history, and it represents 35.4 percent of the American population.

[Check out Michael Tanner’s book Leviathan on the Right: How Big-Government Conservativism Brought Down the Republican Revolution”]

Think about it — more than one out of every three Americans live in households that are now on welfare. Looked at another way, America’s welfare state now has nearly three times the population of the largest actual state.

“According to calculations by Harvard’s Greg Mankiw, based on data from the Office of Management and Budget, roughly 60 percent of Americans receive more in government benefits than they pay in federal taxes.”

Because many of these households include more than one person, the number of individual households is smaller, but still a record – roughly 33.5 million, more than a quarter of the country’s households. Worse, 10.5 million households receive benefits from three or more separate programs.

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1943, Department of Health, Education and Welfare, Washington, D.C

 “A Tax Foundation study suggests that as many as 70 percent of Americans are net recipients of government largesse. Those numbers will only grow worse…”

While liberals would undoubtedly like to blame this on the bad economy, the welfare rolls have actually grown by nearly 4 million households since the end of the recession. Welfare is rising even as unemployment declines. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Suspending the Law: Constitutional Scholar Jonathan Turley on Obama Administration’s Selective Enforcement

The president has a constitutional duty to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.” Previous administrations have been criticized for overreaching — that is, going beyond what the law expressly authorizes. But the Obama administration has pioneered a new way to shirk this duty: suspension of the law. In numerous areas — including Obamacare implementation, immigration law, education funding, and environmental regulation — the administration has carried out its policy objectives not by exceeding the law’s limits but by picking and choosing which provisions to enforce.

Featuring Andrew M. Grossman, Adjunct Scholar, Cato Institute; Nicholas Quinn Rosenkranz, Professor of Law, Georgetown University Law Center; and Jonathan Turley, Professor of Law, George Washington University Law School; moderated by Ilya Shapiro, Senior Fellow in Constitutional Studies, Cato Institute.

In some cases it has relaxed legal requirements as an inducement for states to carry out its preferred policies, without any legal basis. In other cases, like immigration, it has established entirely new programs never authorized by Congress. And in every instance this approach has allowed the administration to avoid legal challenge by ensuring that no party suffers an injury sufficient to confer the legal “standing” necessary to bring suit. At least that’s been the working assumption — but it may not hold true in every instance. 


Scientists: White House Climate Report ‘Pseudoscience’ to ‘Provide Cover’

JohnHoldren

“History tells us that when scientists willingly endorse sweeping governmental agendas fueled by dodgy science, bad things soon happen.”

— Michaels and Knappenberger of the Cato Institute in their comments submitted to the Obama administration

For The Daily CallerMichael Bastasch writes:

GoldCalf-False-God

Religious ritual: Natives worshipping the god of climate change

Climate scientists have said the White House’s National Climate Assessment (NCA) resembles pseudoscience more than actual science.

The National Climate Data Center released its third NCA on Tuesday, which warns of an ever-worsening environment and extreme temperature rises due to man-made carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels. But it has been panned in some quarters.

“This National Assessment is much closer to pseudoscience than it is to science,” wrote scientists Patrick Michaels and Paul Knappenberger of the libertarian Cato Institute in their comments submitted to the Obama administration.

“It clearly believes that virtually everything in our society is tremendously dependent on the surface temperature, and, because of that, we are headed towards certain and inescapable destruction, unless we take its advice and decarbonize our economy, pronto,” Michaels and Knappenberger added… Read the rest of this entry »


Fighting Incumbent Protectionism: Campaign Finance Reform is an Assault on Free Speech

See my radioactive pointing finger? This is how I win arguments.

See my radioactive pointing finger? This is how I win arguments.

Ted Cruz stands up for citizens’ right to spend money on politics.

For National Review OnlineDustin Siggins writes: What is the right amount of speech to give to citizens in politics? Both major parties are debating this question as the 2014 midterm elections approach.

“…I would ask you, why does a corporation like The New York Times or CBS, or any other media corporation, in Congress’ view, enjoy greater First Amendment rights than individual citizens.”

According to former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, who told a Senate panel Wednesday that campaign money is not the same as speech, the answer seems to be “a limited amount.” Stevens, who has been critical of his former colleagues on the Court for overturning a number of campaign finance reform measures, was joined by Democrats who went after the Koch brothers for their involvement in the political system.

51VFhbgZcDL._SY300_Enter Senator Ted Cruz (R., Texas), who in about five-and-a-half minutes shattered the entire argument for what Washington considers “campaign finance reform.” His comments turned campaign-finance pieties on their head and made clear why free speech needs to be paramount in the United States.

[Amazon.com has pre-order info on Dustin Siggins‘ upcoming book: America’s Bankrupt Legacy: The Future of the Debt-Paying Generation]

Cruz pointed out how campaign finance reform protects incumbents. Instead of allowing as much speech as possible for the American people, elected officials have engaged in self-preservation at the cost of the First Amendment. To quote the Cato Institute’s Ilya Shapiro from a 2012 appearance in front of a Senate subcommittee, “Let the voters weigh what a donation from this or that plutocrat means to them, rather than — and I say this with all due respect — allowing incumbent politicians to write the rules to benefit themselves.”

“…there are 300 million Americans who have the right to criticize you all day long and twice on Sundays.”

Similarly, Cruz noted that incumbents have “lobbyists and entrenched interests” doing fundraising for them. This is in stark contrast to challengers, who Cruz says “[have] to raise the money.” Read the rest of this entry »


Reality Check: Education Spending Skyrockets Year after Year, but Student Achievement Stays Stagnant

Cato

Andrew J. Coulson writes:  Since the early 1970s, the federal government has tracked the academic achievement of American 17-year-olds.

Presented with this dismal national picture, many pundits and elected officials protest that their own states have done better.

“Overall, the correlation between spending and achievement is among the lowest I have ever seen in social-science research: 0.08 on a scale from 0 to 1.”

The trouble is, there’s been no way to verify their claims. State-level test score averages don’t reach back that far, or, as with the SAT, they aren’t taken by a representative sample of all students.

[Check out Glen Reynolds book “The New School: How the Information Age Will Save American Education from Itself” from Amazon]

But there’s a way over this hurdle: State-level academic trends can be estimated all the way back to 1972, and the results aren’t pretty. (See the charts that accompany this post).

The average state has seen a three-percent decline in math and verbal test scores, and a 120-percent increase in real spending per pupil. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] “We Used Up All The Weird”: Author P.J. ORourke Talks About ‘The Baby Boom’

Featuring the author P. J. O’Rourke, H. L. Mencken Research Fellow, Cato Institute; with introductory remarks by David Boaz, Executive Vice President, Cato Institute.

“We’re often silly, and we’re spoiled by any measure of history…At the same time we made the world a better place — just not necessarily in the ways we set out to.”

— Author P. J. O’Rourke

In his first book of all new, previously unpublished material since 2007, best-selling humorist P. J. O’Rourke bab-boom-imgturns his lens on his fellow post-war babies. In “The Baby Boom: How It Got That Way” O’Rourke draws on his own experiences and leads readers on a candid, laugh-out-loud journey through the circumstances and events that shaped a generation.

[Get P.J.’s book The Baby Boom: How It Got That Way” (And It Wasn’t My Fault) (And I’ll Never Do It Again) at Amazon]

At this Cato Book Forum, he will tackle the big, broad problems stemming from the generation that, for better or worse, changed everything.

Read the rest of this entry »


While Obama Pushes to Put More People on the Dole, Many Older Welfare States Now Stress Work

Welfare-Here-and-Abroad

Welfare, Here and Abroad

Michael Tanner writes:  How bad have things become? The British newspaper the Telegraph recentlylooked at the growth in welfare spending in industrialized nations and found that such spending (including health-care and pension programs) had grown faster in the United States since 2000 than in any country in Europe except Ireland, Spain, and Portugal.

Of course, European welfare states were larger to begin with, but the Telegraph’s report is reflective of an important trend. While the Obama administration presses forward with efforts to combat “income inequality” by expanding the American welfare state, the European nations and other industrialized welfare states are moving in the other direction.

[Order Michael Tanner’s book: Leviathan on the Right: How the Rise of Big Government Conservatism Threatens Our Freedom and Our Future from Amazon]

The Netherlands: Just 42 percent of U.S. welfare recipients are engaged in even broadly defined work activities (including job training, college, or job searches), and Republican attempts to restore work requirements to the food-stamp program have been met with a storm of resistance. Meanwhile, the Obama administration touts the idea that Obamacare will enable people to quit their jobs while having their health care subsidized by taxpayers.

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New Rules: California Chefs, Bartenders Now Forced To Wear Gloves

In a related ruling, California Surgeons now required to get tattoos, wear aprons, and smoke cigarettes in the alley during breaks

  writes:  Chefs and bartenders in California are aghast over a new law that prevents them from touching the food they will serve to customers. The new law, which took effect on January 1, is part of the California Retail Food Code.

State food handling regulations previouslyrequired foodservice employees to “minimize bare hand and arm contact with non-prepackaged food that is in a ready-to-eat-form[.]”

The new law “instead requires food employees to minimize bard hand and arm contact with exposed food that is not in a ready-to-eat form.” The “ready-to-eat” terminology means “food that is edible without additional preparation to achieve food safety.”

That sounds complex.

“Every California lawmaker who voted for this should be asked to cook food this way at home,” says Walter Olson of Overlawyered and the Cato Institute, by email.

So which California lawmakers voted for this law? All of them, it turns out.  Read the rest of this entry »


Experts slam DOJ letter telling schools to implement race-based punishments

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The Daily Caller‘s Robby Soave reports:  Education experts decried a new memo from the Departments of Justice and Education that instructs public schools throughout the country to cease punishing disruptive students if they fall into certain racial categories, such as black or Hispanic.

“It’s ridiculous to assign quotas for discipline based on race…If we did that, for one thing, we’d have to believe that Asian students are severely under-disciplined.”

The letter, released on Wednesday, states that it is a violation of federal law for schools to punish certain races more than others, even if those punishments stem from completely neutral rules. For example, equal numbers of black students and white students should be punished for tardiness, even if black students are more often tardy than white students. 

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Obama’s 2014 War on the Poor

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More unemployment benefits and a higher minimum wage? Couldn’t be worse for struggling Americans

Michael Tanner  writes:  To put it in today’s standard D.C. terms, Democrats sure must hate poor people.

That’s silly, of course. But there’s no doubt that Democrats are preparing to push policies that are likely to hurt struggling low- and middle-income Americans.

Both the Obama administration and the Democratic leadership in Congress have announced that their top priority when Congress returns later this month will be extending unemployment benefits and raising the minimum wage. Both policies are likely to leave more Americans jobless — especially low-income workers with few skills, the very people Democrats claim they want to help most.

Take the extension of unemployment insurance. Labor economists may disagree on the extent to which unemployment benefits increase or extend spells of unemployment, but the fact that they increase the duration of unemployment and/or unemployment levels is not especially controversial. As Martin Feldstein and Daniel Altman have pointed out, “the most obvious and most thoroughly researched effect of the existing UI systems on unemployment is the increase in the duration of the unemployment spells.”

In fact, even Paul Krugman, in the days when he was an actual economist rather than a partisan polemicist, wrote in his economics textbook:

Public policy designed to help workers who lose their jobs can lead to structural unemployment as an unintended side effect. . . . In other countries, particularly in Europe, benefits are more generous and last longer. The drawback to this generosity is that it reduces a worker’s incentive to quickly find a new job. Generous unemployment benefits in some European countries are widely believed to be one of the main causes of “Eurosclerosis,” the persistent high unemployment that affects a number of European countries.

President Obama’s former Treasury secretary Larry Summers estimated in The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics that “the existence of unemployment insurance almost doubles the number of unemployment spells lasting more than three months.”

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[VIDEO] Are the Poor Getting Poorer?

People often say that “the rich are getting richer while the poor are getting poorer.” Economics professor Steve Horwitz explains why in the United States, this characterization is largely a myth.

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Survey: How Libertarians Fit In the GOP

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Kevin Glass  reports:  The Brookings Institution‘s Public Religion Research Institute conducts what they call the “American Values Survey,” and this year have focused particularly on how libertarians fit into the American political fabric. Libertarians are traditionally thought of as being “on the right” and presumed to be most accurately represented, of the two major parties, by the Republican Party.

But is that really true?

PRRI finds that libertarians constitute a very small segment of the GOP and have difficulty making common cause with the other ideological strains of the Republican Party. Specifically, libertarians are repelled by the religious right, which still makes up a significan portion of the conservative movement.

As Brookings’ Ross Tilchin writes:

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As Predicted, ObamaCare Plunges Into ‘Utter Chaos’

Cato senior fellow Jagadeesh Gokhale predicts ObamaCare’s rollout will cause “utter chaos” at a Kansas Policy Institute forum in February 2013. Photo credit: Kansas Policy Institute.

Cato senior fellow Jagadeesh Gokhale predicts ObamaCare’s rollout will cause “utter chaos” at a Kansas Policy Institute forum in February 2013. Photo credit: Kansas Policy Institute.

Michael F. Cannon writes:

 “HHS maintains they’ll have these [Exchanges] up and running by October 2013. I don’t know anyone who is confident about that and I’m ready to predict that they will not.” — Michael F. Cannon, December 2012

“In my opinion, what’s going to happen is utter chaos.”Cato Institute senior fellow Jagadeesh Gokhale, February 2013

“With no clarity as to when people should sign up and who they should pay and when, it’s a virtual certainty that many consumers will find themselves uncovered for a period of time through no fault of their own.” — Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), December 2013

My December 2012 prediction that ObamaCare’s health insurance “exchanges” would not be ready on time proved true by July 2013, when President Obama unilaterally delayed the law’s employer mandate for a year. It proved painfully, obviously true when the Exchanges crashed upon takeoff on October 1, just as ObamaCare was throwing millions out of their current health plans.

My colleague Jagadeesh Gokhale‘s February 2013 prediction of “utter chaos” (audio here, at 48: 25) arguably proved true in October, and is now evident in President Obama’s decision to exempt from the individual mandate those millions whose plans Obama himself cancelled.

This categorical exemption is a bigger deal than it seems. With it, President Obama has admitted ObamaCare will strip many people of their health insurance and leave them with gaps in coverage, or no affordable coverage options at all. It is an implicit admission that ObamaCare has created economic peril for millions of Americans and political peril for Democrats.

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One Cheer for Our Unproductive Congress

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When so much of what government does makes matters worse, inactivity is a blessing

Michael Tanner writes:  As this session of the 113th Congress draws to a merciful close, much of the punditry has picked up on the refrain that this is the “most unproductive Congress in history.” Indeed, this Congress has passed just 28 bills, easily eclipsing the previous record for inactivity set by Congress in 2012, when it passed just 68 new laws. But why, we might ask, is this such a bad thing?

Sure, there are things we might have wished Congress had accomplished. Something to address immigration or entitlement reform springs to mind. And it certainly would have produced less chaos if Congress had actually managed to pass annual appropriations bills instead of cramming all spending into the usual last-minute continuing resolution.

But there is a presumption behind such handwringing that we really need Congress to be even more involved in our lives than it is. Consider the laundry list of new programs that President Obama introduced in his State of the Union address back in January: early-childhood education, green energy, more economic stimulus, a higher minimum wage, and so on. Would we really have been better off if those things had passed?

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Expert Warns Congress: Obama’s Unrestrained Legal Behavior ‘Could Lead to Overthrow of Government’

CannonNoah Rothman reports:  During a congressional committee hearing about the constitutional limits imposed on the presidency and the implications of President Barack Obama’s disregard for implementing the Affordable Care Act as written, one expert testified that the consequences of the president’s behavior were potentially grave. He said that the precedent set by Obama could eventually lead to an armed revolt against the federal government.

 “If the people come to believe that the government is no longer constrained by the laws then they will conclude that neither are they.”

On Tuesday, Michael Cannon, Cato Institute’s Director of Health Policy Studies, testified before a congressional committee about the dangers of the president’s legal behavior.

“There is one last thing to which the people can resort if the government does not respect the restrains that the constitution places on the government,” Cannon said. “Abraham Lincoln talked about our right to alter our government or our revolutionary right to overthrow it.”

“That is certainly something that no one wants to contemplate,” he continued. “If the people come to believe that the government is no longer constrained by the laws then they will conclude that neither are they.” Read the rest of this entry »


‘More Care Costs More Money’ [VIDEO] The ACA and the Labor Market

ObamaSebeliusPaul Mulshine writes: A wise man once said the following about the proposal to mandate that every American buy health insurance:

“If mandates were the solution, we could try that to solve homelessness, by mandating that everybody buy a house. The reason they don’t have a house is they don’t have the money.”

Shortly after the wise man made that statement, something horrible happened to him: He got elected president. Ever since, Barack Obama has said a whole lot of really unwise things, such as “If you like your health care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health care plan, period.”

That boast turned out to be untrue. More than a million Americans are learning to their shock that the Affordable Care Act is making their care less affordable. The reason is obvious, and Obama put his finger on it when he made that comparison to the cost of housing during his 2008 Democratic primary campaign. Just as building more houses costs more money, providing more health care costs more money.

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[VIDEO] Professor of Economics Walter Williams talks about the Encroachment of Government

Walter E. Williams is the John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics at George Mason University and an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute. He is an expert on discrimination, labor policy, regulation, and South Africa as well as a well-known columnist and the author of South Africa’s War Against Capitalism (1989), The State Against Blacks (1982), and More Liberty Means Less Government (1999).

In this lecture given at a Libertarian Party of Georgia event in 1991, Williams talks about libertarianism generally and relates his own moral arguments against state coercion. Williams also briefly suggests a few things he thinks libertarians should be doing if they want the libertarian movement to grow.

 


On Labor Day 2013, Welfare Pays More Than Minimum-Wage Work In 35 States

Charles Murray launched the welfare reform movement in 1984 with his landmark book, Losing Ground: American Social Policy 1950-1980. (Photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

Charles Murray (Photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

Since 2009, the Fair Labor Standards Act has dictated that the federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. Some people think that’s too low; others think it’s too high. But it turns out that, in 35 states, it’s a better deal not to work—and instead, to take advantage of federal welfare programs—than to take a minimum-wage job. That’s the takeaway from a new study published by Michael Tanner and Charles Hughes of the Cato Institute.

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